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After Dental School

Marketing snapshot: How one practice does it

Somerset, Ky. — It took less than a minute for Dr. Ricky Farmer to post a “selfie” with a smiling child he treated at a free community health clinic this summer on his practice’s Facebook page.

Within a few hours, the photo generated more than 250 “likes” and several comments from patients who wrote and posted positive testimonials on Dr. Farmer’s work.

Dr. Farmer

Dr. Farmer

“I had nearly 400 views of that post within a few hours of posting and it was free,” said Dr. Farmer, who has been practicing for 11 years. “It was a wonderful ‘ad’ if you will.”

Today, Dr. Farmer’s Facebook page for his practice Lake Point Dental Care is part of his overall marketing strategy as he moves to relying more on online and social media efforts to effectively promote his practice.

“Online marketing takes up probably 80 percent of my marketing strategy, and 20 percent everything else,” Dr. Farmer said. “That’s completely flip-flopped from when I started out about 10 years ago.”

After graduating from dental school, Dr. Farmer was 25 years old when he opened his practice in the small Kentucky town where he grew up. To get the word out that he was open to see patients seeking dental care, he had one strategy: mass marketing. He sponsored Little League teams, bought recurrent ads in the regional newspaper and magazines, sent out direct mailers, shot local TV ads, recorded a few radio spots, networked with other local businesses and launched a no-frills, one-page website.

“I pretty much tried everything but billboards,” he said.

Dr. Farmer said each mode of marketing had its success though his practice didn’t do detailed return on investment tracking in the initial stages of practice growth.

“In hindsight, that was perhaps not the wisest business decision,” he said. “But at that point we were just focused on mass marketing across the board.”

As time went by, his dental team began to loosely track how patients found him and started pulling out of certain marketing modes based on effectiveness and the strategy’s relevance. For example, he pulled out of the Yellow Pages and other publications saturated with ads from other dental offices.

“What we found was that online was where it’s at when it comes to advertising, where it was the phone book a decade, two decades ago,” he said.

It wasn’t until 3-4 years in to his practice that Dr. Farmer shifted his focus to online marketing. He hired PBHS, a website and marketing services provider, to handle and direct all of his online marketing outlets, including his website and social media accounts. PBHS, the online marketing and branding company endorsed by ADA Business Resources, can track how often people visit his website and social media accounts. However, return on investment tracking remains his practice’s responsibility during his new patient registration process.

“Our marketing efforts are always evolving because our community, culture, society and our patient base are always evolving,” Dr. Farmer said. “Our mobile devices allow for instant access to information and communication. And as a society, we now expect immediate results and answers.”

Dr. Farmer said more of his patient base is savvier in social networking and new technologies.

Dr. Farmer often interacts with patients or prospective patients through his social network accounts, which includes Twitter and YouTube. He would log on and personally thank people who leave positive testimonials on the comment section of his latest posts.

This fall, he’s set to launch the latest redesign of his practice’s website to optimize his capabilities posting photos and sharing educational videos. His practice also has a blog where he posts information on certain procedures his patients may be interested in.

Along with the focus on online marketing, Dr. Farmer continues to advertise in more traditional media — though more strategically.

Instead of a recurrent ad in the newspaper, he targets specific events, such as back-to-school issues. He also continues his community involvement. Earlier this year, his practice participated in a local initiative that help kids in the local school system by filling backpacks with food and needed items. His practice helped filled the backpacks with toothbrushes and toothpastes.

However, despite all the savvy marketing strategies, Dr. Farmer said, no external marketing alone will ever be able to ultimately grow a practice over time.

“There are a multitude of ways to attract a new patient to your practice, but only a few ways to keep them,” he said. “While my marketing avenues will change, my commitment to delivering the highest quality of contemporary, comprehensive and compassionate care will not. And that is truly my best marketing strategy.”

New dentists sought for UCSD dental fellowship

New dentists with a passion for working with the underserved and is interested in education are encouraged to apply for a one-year stipend dental fellowship with the University of California, San Diego.

Those eligible are new dentists who are General Practice Residency (GPR) or Advance Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) graduates with a California license or is eligible for a California license.

Spanish language skills are a plus, but not required; experience in teaching or working with the underserved is also a plus.  The fellow will work in UCSD’s free dental clinics and learn first-hand about delivering high quality preventive and restorative dental care with the underserved.  This will be a full-time commitment.

UCSD’s free dental clinics have been in existence since 2002. The UCSD-Run Free Dental Clinic Project provides comprehensive dental services to underserved, unemployed, uninsured and the homeless. The clinic functions as part of a transdisciplinary model in partnership with the UCSD School of Medicine and offers medical, dental, pharmacy, social work and law. The patient population is mixed, which includes children, elderly, middle-aged, and some with special needs.

To date, the Free Dental Clinic Project has provided over 5.7 million dollars of free dental care.  Dental services include exams, x-rays, hygiene, restorative care, root canals, crowns, orthodontia, periodontics, dentures, pedodontics and more.

Based on longstanding community partnerships, the dental clinics are located at four sites including the First Lutheran Church in Downtown San Diego, the Pacific Beach United Methodist Church, Baker Elementary School, and Lemon Grove Academy; both schools serve low-income underserved students and their families. The newest clinic is at Lemon Grove Academy, which is a public pre-school through eighth grade where we also provide a one-week elective for 7th and 8th graders about oral health and staying in school, going to college and considering careers in health care, especially dentistry.

Fellows will also participate in a 3-week faculty development course in underserved dentistry and complete a project related to an area of focus. The application will be a multi-step process.  As a first step, send a letter of interest and their CV to dsilverstein22@cox.net and cbloomwhitener@ucsd.edu. UCSD hopes to fill this position and start the fellow in the clinics July 1 or as soon as feasible. For more information about our programs, visit http://fdc-pds.ucsd.edu/.  For any further information, contact Dr. Donna Kritz-Silverstein at 619.838.0822.

Your ADA membership — It’s renewal season

Be on the lookout for your membership renewal, arriving soon from your state dental society.

ADAThe ADA’s strength comes from individual dentists — more than 158,000 — meaning more resources for members and a powerful voice in Washington and state capitols.

The ADA and your state and local dental societies enhance your ability to achieve success and your excellence as a dentist, and ensure a strong future for the profession.

Not yet a member? Get started at ADA.org/belong.

October issue of New Dentist News available online

The latest issue of the New Dentist News is now available online.

The October 2014 issue includes articles to help new dentists with marketing, finances and handling ethical dilemmas.

October 2014 New Dentist NewsInside this issue include:

  • Marketing snapshot — How one practice does it.
  • Marketing the dental practice: Know the rules.
  • Working with a marketing firm.
  • Advice from a lender: Be prepared before seeking a practice loan.
  • Tap the ADA Ethics Hotline for ethical dilemmas.

To read the New Dentist News, click here.

What tips have you learned when it comes to marketing your dental practice or yourself as a dentist?

Over 200 federal dentists welcomed at ADA 2014

Over 200 federal dentists attended the ADA 2014 — America’s Dental Meeting in San Antonio, with many attending the Federal Dental Services reception held Oct. 11 at the Marriott Rivercenter.

Dentists who are in full-time military or federal government service are eligible for direct ADA membership at the national level. In 2013, there were 2,816 FDS members in the ADA.

For more information on the Federal Dental Services, click here.

Take a look at the photos from the Federal Dental Services Reception held during the annual meeting.

Federal Dental Services reception Federal Dental Services reception Federal Dental Services reception

ADA accepting applications for Investigators in Dental Informatics Award

The American Dental Association is accepting applications for the 2015 Robert H. Ahlstrom New Investigator Award, created to encourage interest in dental informatics standards among dental students, new dentists and dentists pursuing post-doctoral studies.

Applications are due Feb. 1, 2015, and a recipient will be selected in May 2015.

The recipient of the 2015 Robert H. Ahlstrom New Investigator Award will receive airfare and accommodations to present the winning project in November 2015 at the ADA Standards Committee on Dental Informatics (SCDI) annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Robert Ahlstrom

Dr. Robert Ahlstrom

Through the Ahlstrom Award, the ADA aims to highlight the crucial role that dental informatics standards play in improving the quality of patient care, assuring patient health and safety and increasing efficiency through use of information technology.

The ADA defines informatics as the health information technology discipline that makes appropriate health information available as needed to authorized users with the assurance of confidentiality safeguards. The goal of the ADA SCDI is to help dentists streamline and empower their practices through the use of information technology. The SCDI develops standards for choosing the hardware, software and digital imaging solutions to create a fully computerized practice.

As the first chairman of the ADA Standards Committee on Dental Informatics, which was formed in 1999, Dr. Ahlstrom brought together dental informatics experts from across the dental profession, representing dentists, government, academia, and industry. He led the group’s successful efforts to develop standards for information exchange, clinical informatics systems and knowledge management. Dr. Ahlstrom served as chairman of the SCDI until 2006.

For application materials for the Robert H. Ahlstrom New Investigator Award, including specific submission requirements for eligibility, and more information about the ADA Standards Programs, please visit ADA.org/dentalstandards.

ADA Council on Scientific Affairs extends application period for John W. Stanford New Investigator Award

The American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs is extending the application deadline for the 2014 John W. Stanford New Investigator Award to Oct. 31.

Applications for the Stanford New Investigator Award are accepted annually from dental students or dentists who have earned their D.D.S. or D.M.D. degrees no more than five years prior to the time of selection.

The Stanford New Investigator Award underscores the crucial role that dental standards play in patient health and safety and in the efficacy of dental products.

The award pays homage to the legacy of Dr. Stanford, a 40-year ADA employee who is credited with establishing the ADA’s current standards program.

Submissions must be original research that addresses some aspect of the use of standards in dental research or clinical application.

To apply for the John W. Stanford New Investigator Award ore learn more about the ADA Standards Programs, please visit ADA.org/dentalstandards.

In Zambia, new dentist volunteers to treat patients in a truck

Dr. Rachel Hymes poses with a group of children from Kafue, Zambia where she treated residents through International Caring Hands.

Dr. Rachel Hymes poses with a group of children from Kafue, Zambia where she treated residents through International Caring Hands.

Dr. Rachel Hymes had all the dental equipment she needed — two dental chairs, an air compressor, anesthesia and tools to perform extractions safely — inside a trailer on the back of a truck.

She’d park the vehicle, the size of a large U-Haul truck, on the grounds of the Riverside Farm Institute in Kafue, Zambia and open the mobile mini-clinic every morning. Each day, for nearly week, she saw about 40 patients seeking relief from their dental problems — ranging from large cavities to years old broken teeth.

“I decided to only do extractions,” Dr. Hymes said. “I had to make a decision. I can either serve one person in an hour, or several for one hour. The need was just tremendous.”

Since graduating from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2010, Dr. Hymes has volunteered her dentistry skills for a mission trip every year. This year, she went to Zambia with the group International Caring Hands.

Dr. Hymes found the organization through the ADA International Volunteer website. She chose the group because the mobile clinics are equipped with necessary materials and tools. All she had to do was pay for her flight.

Dr. Hymes, of Mountain City, Tennessee, and her husband, flew out of Charlotte, North Carolina to New York City on June 7. From there, they flew to Dubai and then to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. There was another two-hour car ride before they arrived in Kafue — 28 hours later.

“It was quite a journey,” she said. They arrived on a Sunday afternoon and began working in the mobile clinic at 8:30 a.m. Monday. Most of the people she saw lived in a village close to the Institute.

Along with a local assistant and a translator, Dr. Hymes opened the clinic until 5:30 p.m. for four days, treating about 150 people of all ages.

Dr. Hymes and her dental assistant Lucas pose with the International Caring Hands' mobile dental clinic.

Dr. Hymes and her dental assistant Lucas pose with the International Caring Hands’ mobile dental clinic.

“Some people were scared. Others didn’t get the idea of being numb,” she said. “But when they were done, they would thank us and give us a hug.”

By the end of my mission, word had started to spread about the clinic and they had to turn a lot of people away.

“That was the hardest part of the trip,” she said. “We had to close even though there was still a line 20 people deep.”

Because of the need, Dr. Hymes said she hopes other dentists, especially new dentists like her, seek out ways to volunteer and use their skills to treat those in need — whether internationally or locally.

“If dentists are available to go, they should do it,” Dr. Hymes said. “(International Caring Hands) had everything a dentist needs to treat patients, all they need are people to do it.”

Dr. Hymes said International Caring Hands provided the food and a place to stay. Meanwhile, their dental equipment was in great condition.

“I enjoy getting to know people and just helping others get some relief from pain,” Dr. Hymes said. “I think as a human being, as a Christian, I feel the responsibility to help those in need. Volunteering is something I hope I can do for the rest of my life.”

At the end of her trip, Dr. Hymes said, they parked the truck in a garage where the mobile clinic will stay until another dentist comes along to volunteer.

For more information on international volunteering, visit the ADA International Volunteer website here.

Get Involved!

Decisions made today may be affecting new dentists and their patients for the next 30 to 40 years.

New dentists everywhere are making their voices heard in the development of policies and programs through involvement in state and local new dentist committees. These committees advocate for the needs, interests and concerns of new dentists. Volunteer leaders help new dentists transition to and succeed in practice as well as develop and offer continuing education, networking opportunities and leadership development.

To get involved with your new dentist committee, contact your state or local dental society, the ADA New Dentist Committee at newdentist@ada.org or 1-312-440-2779.

Institute for Diversity in Leadership project extends dental care to Navajo Nation patients

While working at Tséhootsooi Medical Center, a hospital operated by the Navajo Nation in Fort Defiance, Arizona, Dr. Felicia Frizzell noticed a need: Patients in the Adolescent Care Unit, a psychiatric in-patient area for children ages 13-17, were not receiving basic dental check-up.

“Patients in this unit are given a physical, their eyes and ears are checked, but there is no dental screening,” said Dr. Frizzell, adding that the dental clinic’s only interaction with these patients was in an emergency basis.

Dr. Frizzell

Dr. Frizzell

In addition, as a Mescalero Apache from Mescalero, New Mexico, Dr. Frizzell said she knows all too well that Native Americans often lack dental care.

“I know this population. They’re a very young, vulnerable and a high-risk population for dental problems,” she said.

For those reasons, she chose to work on getting patients from the Adolescent Care Unit access to dental care as her project for the ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership. Dr. Frizzell was among 12 graduates this year.

The Institute provides a diverse group of dentists with education and experience to build a lifetime of relationships and set new leadership paths within the dental profession and their community. As a key part of the experience, each participant designs and completes a personal leadership project for his or her community or the profession.

“Before the Institute, I tended to be more of an observer,” she said. “I want to be a leader. The Institute helped me to step up, learn to negotiate and boost my confidence.”

To accomplish her project, Dr. Frizzell worked with the hospital’s dental director and colleagues to figure out the logistics and process needed in order to see these patients in the Adolescent Care Unit outside of an emergency setting.

The dental clinic began seeing patients in February, providing care ranging from a basic dental check-up and cleanings to extractions and root canals. For irreversible procedures, the clinic must arrange transportation services for the patient’s parents in order to gain parental consent.

Because each patient cycle in the Adolescent Care Unit is about eight weeks long, about 12-14 new patients receive dental screenings and needed treatment after each cycle. This poses a challenge because many of the patients don’t come to their appointments after they’ve long left the ACU.

“The most difficult part right now, which we’re all still trying to find a solution, is following up on these patients,” she said.

Nonetheless, said Dr. Frizzell, it has been a successful first step and has been good way to introduce the patients to the importance of dental care.

“The kids are great and ask a lot of questions,” she said. “Because some have substance abuse issues, we try to educate how these substances can affect their teeth.”

Dr. Frizzell said she has proposed a hospital policy that, if approved, would ensure her program continues even when she’s no longer at the facility.

“As a new dentist, I want to build up my leadership and team building skills in order to benefit my patients,” she said. “Because of the Institute, I know that if I have a good idea, I can get it done.”