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One owner reflects on how dentistry is changing and how other owners can grow their practices in the midst of it.
I recently had the opportunity to interview a very seasoned dentist to find out what is helping his practice see amazing growth. Dr. Jim Bohn is the owner of Wake Dental Care in Cary, North Carolina.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I graduated from Temple University School of Dentistry in 1996 (practicing 22 years). Although I enjoy the diversity of procedures that general dentistry has to offer, I most enjoy doing surgical procedures like third molar extractions and surgical implant placement. Being an extrovert at heart, the favorite part of my job is the interaction with our patients and team members.
I started my first dental practice in 2001 and sold it in 2009 to move to sunny North Carolina with my wife and daughters. Wake Dental Care opened in June of 2010. Our over-arching treatment philosophy is to be as minimally invasive and conservative to tooth structure while involving our valued patients in the best available treatment options that modern dentistry has to offer.
What changes have you seen in dentistry in the time that you have been practicing?
In the past 22 years, a lot has changed within dentistry. The material choices that dentists have available to them have improved dramatically.
For example, tooth colored filling materials are stronger and more esthetic while bonding agents have become more user friendly, less technique sensitive and stronger. We have also seen greatly-increased strength of ceramics (i.e., zirconia) used for making dental crowns and in many cases dental crowns can be made from start to finish in the same visit.
It is much more common to see teeth replaced with dental implants (versus dental bridges) and the technology of implant design and improved integration of implants with bone has also improved longevity.
The biggest and most exciting part of our changing dental field has been the digital revolution! We now frequently do a digital "scan" with an intraoral video camera that captures data and forms 3D images allowing our office to take digital impressions. These impressions are very accurate as there is no distortion unlike traditional dental impressions. The digital files are then emailed to the dental laboratory for fabrication of the dental restoration/prosthetic and they can be overlayed with other 3D Cone Beam x-rays to do virtual simulations for dental implant placement among other uses.
These dental scans are also used to manufacture clear aligners for tooth movement with Invisalign. Printing in 3D will also revolutionize dentistry in the next few years as most dental offices will be printing nightguards, dentures and surgical implant guides in our offices. The future of dentistry is bright and exciting!
In your opinion, have these changes made things easier, or more difficult as far as practice ownership goes?
These advances in dentistry have definitely improved the quality of care that we can provide. As with most things, there is a significant learning curve with each new technology, but once mastered, it will increase the speed and accuracy with which dental offices can provide better care. The cost of the technology can be a barrier to entry as the return on investment can be prohibitive, but just like VCR's (some of you may not even know what a VCR is), the price will eventually make sense as more and more dental offices implement the technology.
Up next: New patient acquisition
What kind of new patient flow are you getting in your office and what are the main sources of new patients for you?
Wake Dental Care is in a relatively competitive market, but it is a rapidly growing area and will be for many years to come. We average about 40-50 new patients per month right now and our primary source is the internet and our website. We've found that new patient referrals by word of mouth and from having outstanding online reviews is also a huge advantage. We would like to see between 60-80 new patients per month and we plan to expand our office in the next year or two if we can reach this target goal.
If you had to start a practice tomorrow and could only use one marketing strategy to grow it, what would that be, who would you use and how would you implement it?
Have a great website with good SEO help. Being found at the top of the list with a relevant search is of the utmost importance. It takes time and effort on a regular basis, and it's pricey, but I feel the ROI has been worth it so far.
What advice would you give a dentist, as far as marketing goes, who is just starting out in dental practice ownership?
If I were to start a practice from scratch with little to no excess money for marketing, I would want to have a good website at a minimum and I would work very hard to build my online reviews by asking patients. People searching for a dental practice will generally trust these reviews, so gaining your patient's trust and obtaining reviews that reflect that trust are of the utmost importance.