Dentistry is a business, and ultimately, businesses respond to the marketplace. When given a choice, your patients would rather receive all treatment under one roof whenever possible. You’ve heard that from your patients yourself, haven’t you? So now, it isn’t only control of the case that will reach the top rung of the ladder, it is the business model itself that will reach the top rung.
When I began this direct to patient journey, it was for a very simple reason. I wanted to attract patients directly to me via the vehicle of dental implants. It was a small, relatively inexpensive, business experiment. Whenever one starts something new,  one never knows where it will take you.
I marketed to full denture patients. After all, most full denture patients have very little to do with continuing care dentistry. So I wouldn’t be rocking anyone’s boat, meaning not disturbing the flow to the potential referral sources. I’d do the implants. I would refer the restorative. Everyone would be happy.
It was then that I made this discovery. And that discovery is what I’ve spoken about in this series. And that simple discovery was that there were many who opted out of the dental system and were looking for a way to come back and more importantly, for a doctor who could help them.
My guess is that if this phenomenon has occurred in Melbourne, Florida, that it would happen in your community too. And sure enough, there are several periodontists in different parts of the country, in small and large cities, who are marketing directly to the public and who are experiencing the same phenomenon.
In 2010, I brought a restorative dentist into my practice one day a week.  I had gradually moved to the full practice model. In 2012, when my son,  a general dentist, wanted to come home to practice, he could do so under my roof.  The entire business system was in place.
So now my son and I could work together and having tested these systems on a step by step approach, I knew that I could make a full service practice work. I was then able to practice what I preach,  and that was to be in control of the entire case from start to finish. I still refer complex prosthodontics to a prosthodontist. I refer out all endo and most ortho. We practice just as I always have. The treatment plan comes first, directed by the periodontist. The practice has undergone enormous growth.
For a number of reasons, I decided that I would prefer to reduce the amount of surgical treatment that I do. A bright,  talented, board certified periodontist associate appeared,  one who was willing to let me train him and then expand as his capabilities and enthusiasm directed. So then, I became a full time Director of Dentistry.  I’m able to stay in the profession that I love, work with two great associates, and expand the business model that I have envisioned. My wife and my office manager keep that vision going every single day.
For those in their mid 60’s, as I am,  it’s not a bad way to go. Graduate to Director of Dentistry, teach others what you know,  and grow your practices.
The pressures are a little greater now than in 2004 when I started this direct to patient journey.
New solo practices are still starting, but many more dentists are opting for group practice than did when I started practice in 1980, and that trend is continuing. The opportunities to work with the traditional referral model are diminishing for all of the reasons that we’ve described earlier. So your opportunity to create a team from outside your practice will be more difficult as well from a sheer numbers standpoint.
But does that mean that the need for the periodontist goes away? Far from it.
What I have demonstrated is that the numbers of dentists that you need to support a periodontist are not what we think. After all, we have two periodontists and one general dentist in our practice. I’m primarily doing exams and treatment plans and my associate is doing the clinical treatment,  so let’s say that we are the equivalent of one periodontist and one general dentist working together. We could use another great general dentist, but that’s all we’ll need to keep our particular practice going without keeping our patients waiting for restorative treatment. We have created a team internally, a team that communicates every day, a team that is mutually supportive. We have a case conference on Thursday mornings to discuss complex cases, the best day of the week from my perspective.
Over the past few years, I’ve made my attempts to communicate with you what I have experienced. I never expected the result of this experience to be any more than showing those who choose to read this that there is an answer to what we are striving for, top treatment for our patients. Any outside effort to reduce our effectiveness in thinking about and planning a case needs at the very least an opposite effort, an effort to elevate the patient as we elevate our profession. There must be clear, cogent thought in the dental arena to provide the best that can be offered. “Best for the patient” needs to be the purpose behind what we practice. And elevation of that purpose should always be our goal. Every one of us can elevate that purpose. And the only way that happens is if the doctor who has that purpose and who is trained with that purpose in mind takes the lead role in planning the case.
There is good, better, and best in every job,  every profession. Let us recognize that and dedicate ourselves to being the best, the best thinkers, the best planners, and the best doers.
I hope that you have enjoyed this venture and of course,  I’m happy to address any questions and concerns you may have.
Lee Sheldon