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Responding to Patient Comments Online

The ADA Practical Guide to Social Media PlanningSocial media provides a way for you to interact with patients, and it also provides patients with an outlet to comment on the services they receive.

The ADA Practical Guide to Social Media Planning recommends that you monitor any conversation online and aim to respond to comments when appropriate, remembering that not every comment requires a response. From the Guide:

To help determine if you should respond, ask yourself questions like:

  • Is there any value in responding?
  • Do I look uncaring if I don’t respond?
  • Is there anything positive I can say?
  • Can one response address several comments posted?
  • Who commented and do they have a large following online?
  • Does the comment or review show up prominently in search results?

The Guide also points out that Federal and state privacy laws, including HIPAA, apply to online conversations. Here’s the Guide again:

If you can only answer a question by disclosing health information, take the conversation off-line by posting something like, “I can help you with that. Is it okay if I look in your file and give you a call?” Or “Please call my office around 2 p.m. today, and I’d be happy to discuss that with you.” Then, after the call has been made, be sure to close the loop online with a post that reads something like, “Good to talk with you this afternoon. If you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.” This illustrates to the rest of your audience that you’ve responded.

Interested in learning more about using social media in a way that makes sense for your practice? Pick up The ADA Practical Guide to Social Media Planning. Learn how to use social media in a way that will engage potential and existing patients; make your practice more visible in a growing sea of online information and protect and further your professional reputation online.

Have a comment about commenting? Be sure to share it in the comments!

Bounce Back after Time off


Am I forgetting anything?

Here’s hoping you had a great long weekend. While we never turn down a day off of work, sometimes extra time away can make it hard to get back into the swing of things.

If that sounds familiar, WikiHow has a list of suggestions for how to overcome the post-vacation blues. One tip involves incorporating some lessons from vacation into everyday life. Here’s one that stuck out for us:

Using the cellphone and the internet a lot less. When you’re traveling, cell phone and internet use soon turn into a case of using it only to keep people informed and to check that nothing untoward has happened. Apart from that, you’re usually not constantly talking or surfing for the sake of it; instead, you’re experiencing the rest of life.

If you are still in the mood for self-improvement, Lifehacker suggests that you use the time after a vacation to evaluate your packing list to reduce the likelihood of over-packing the next time.

Learn How to Spin a Toothbrush on Your Finger

It’s almost time for a three-day weekend and, to be honest, we are having difficulty focusing on anything too demanding.

The folks at Boing Boing have tracked down a video that does just what the title says — it teaches you how to spin a toothbrush on your finger. Be forewarned this video is not in English but that is unlikely to get in the way of your appreciation.

We would say more about this but the toothbrush keeps falling off while we type, so we are just going to leave this here.

Follow the New Dentist Track

Follow the New Dentist Track at Annual Session

Follow the New Dentist Track at Annual Session

Let’s face it—planning your CE courses at ADA Annual Session can be a little daunting with over 300 lectures and interactive learning events to choose from. Where do you start?

May we suggest the New Dentist Track? These 21 courses were selected in consultation with the ADA New Dentist Committee, and they cover both clinical and practice management topics.

One course in the track is Here’s How I Did It: Real Talk from New Dentists in Private Practice (Course Code: 5317), a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Chris Salierno. This open-forum course focuses on practice management for the new dentist. Audience members will submit questions from the floor. The course addresses practice management topics such as operations, financial management, marketing and human resources.

Important All courses – even free ones, like Here’s How I Did It – are ticketed and must be reserved through the registration system. Join the conversation; register today.

Leadership: What they don’t teach you in dental school (Part two)

Dr. Jonathan Ford

Dr. Jonathan Ford

By Dr. Jonathan Ford

I recently attended the ADA New Dentist Conference in Denver. The conference had a great mix of continuing education for the young dentist, including a special emphasis on leadership development. Here is part two of the leadership skills that I learned at the ADA New Dentist Conference—read part one here.

 1.     Have fun! One of my patients is my English high school teacher. During each of our visits, he always asks me if I have fun being a dentist. He always says, “If you have fun doing what you get paid to do, you will never work a day in your life.”

While dentistry isn’t always birthday cake and ice cream, it can be fun most of the time. This theme repeatedly showed itself at the conference. If you can foster a fun environment, you also create a “want-to” instead of a “have-to” environment. This will help you attract and maintain a great staff. If you can make someone laugh during a root canal on #15 or an extraction of #16, it will create a more accepting patient base and attract a dynamic group of patients. People want to be in a fun environment. As one of the speakers stated, “Ultimately, life is about having the most fun possible before you die.”

2.     Recharge your own batteries As a dentist, you are definitely responsible for the margins on the crown you just cemented and how tight the contact is on #14-DO. In addition, you are probably the chief operating officer when the dental chair breaks down in room one. You are the chief technology officer, when the computer in room two doesn’t turn on. You are the chief customer relations officer when a patient complains, believing their co-pay is incorrect.

You are ultimately responsible for everything in your dental office and that includes yourself; therefore, you need to set time aside for you. It can be exercise like running or yoga. It can be meditation or writing in a journal. Do whatever it is that helps you recharge yourself relax.

Additionally, take time off. My wife and I have an agreement that we must plan our next vacation before we take our current vacation. It gives us something to look forward to upon our return and it helps to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I hope this gives you some insight into the ADA New Dentist Conference, and also gives you some ideas on how to better yourself and lead a successful dental practice. Hopefully, I will see you next year at the ADA New Dentist Conference in Kansas City, Missouri July 17-19, 2014.


Dr. Jonathan Ford is a general dentist in Huntington Beach, California. He served as the New Dentist Co-Chair for the Orange County Dental Society in 2011 and 2012. He currently serves on the Council for Endorsed Programs for the California Dental Association. You can reach him by emailing him at drjonathan@fordentalgroup.com.

Use Visualization the Correct Way in order to Build a New Habit


Use visualization to build a new habit

Perhaps you’ve heard the advice that a good way to increase your likelihood of success is to visualize yourself succeeding. Sure it’s fun to fantasize about winning that award or fitting into those skinny jeans, but is that really increasing your effectiveness at meeting those goals?

Over at the 99u blog, Gregory Ciotti wrote about the role of visualization in building habits that stick. Turns out that fantasizing about results is not very helpful, but visualizing the steps necessary to get those results can make a difference:

Researchers found that those participants who engaged in visualizations that included the process of what needed to be done to achieve the goal (ex: fantasizing about learning another language, by visualizing themselves practicing every day after work) were more likely to stay consistent than their peers (that visualized themselves speaking French on a trip to Paris). The visualization process worked for two reasons:

  • Planning: visualizing the process helped focus attention on the steps needed to reach the goal.
  • Emotion: visualization of individual steps led to reduced anxiety.

 We think a lot about developing habits, especially those that can help patients improve their oral health. Have you had success with coaching patients to adopt healthy habits? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Dentistry and (the Dentist’s) Discomfort—Ergonomics

back or neck pain?

Back or neck pain?

According to data collected at the ADA Health Screening Program at the 2012 Annual Session in San Francisco, 70 percent of dentists and dental team members examined reported neck or back pain. That’s not too surprising considering the positions many dentists adopt when working.

Ergonomics is the science of the physical relationship between you and your environment. It means that you adapt tools and procedures to fit you, rather than adapting yourself to fit the environment. The ADA has a number of tip sheets that suggest ergonomic adaptations to help you implement these approaches.

Looking for more ergonomics resources? Check out the Conference on Dentist Health and Well-Being taking place at the ADA Headquarters in Chicago September 19-20. Conference attendees can attend ergonomics workshops and meet one-on-one with physical therapists.

Make the Most out of Your New Orleans Experience

The New Dentist's Guide to the ADA Annual Session Make the most of your experience at the ADA Annual Session October 31-November 3, 2013 in New Orleans. Download this two page PDF that highlights everything you need to get the most from your Annual Session experience:

 Download The New Dentist’s Guide to the ADA Annual Session (PDF)

Haven’t registered yet? Advance registration deadline is Friday, September 20 at 5 p.m. CDT. Register Now.

Not attending this year? Visit ADA 365, the online extension of the Annual Session. Through ADA 365 the ADA will offer live streaming of a variety of Annual Session courses and give you a taste of what attendees experience on-site.

Working with an Attorney—the Time to Negotiate is Before you Start


The time to negotiate is before you start

The August 2013 issue of ADA New Dentist News (ADA new dentist members, look for your copy wrapped around the Aug 19 issue of ADA News) features a story on working with an attorney. Two ADA members who are both licensed dentists and licensed attorneys spoke about how dentists can work effectively with lawyers.

We weren’t able to fit all of the tips into the print piece – here’s something that we are sharing exclusively on the blog. Dr. Lillian Obucina, pointed out that a little advice from an attorney early on can save headaches later. Here’s Dr. Obucina: 

“I see a lot of associates in situations where there is nothing in writing, and there’s a lot of risk with that. I was just talking with an associate-dentist who worked for an owner-dentist for three years. He had said he would let her buy in when he was ready to retire, and now he’s changed his mind. I asked where the contract was and she didn’t have anything—there was no contract.

“At this point there’s no negotiation because the relationship has gone sour. The time to negotiate is before you start. If there is something that is important to you, whether it’s salary or the chance to buy into the practice or a restrictive covenant, don’t assume that you can negotiate those things later on, go ahead and spell that out in writing before you begin. That’s when you have the leverage.

“Sometimes I hear, ‘I can’t bring this up now or I won’t get the position.’ And my response to that is, ‘Maybe that’s for the best. If you can’t be in agreement about this matter that is important to you, then it is probably better to look for a different opportunity.’”

To find more suggestions about working with an attorney, check out the latest edition of ADA New Dentist News.

Leadership: What they don’t teach you in dental school (Part One)

Dr. Jonathan Ford

Dr. Jonathan Ford

by Dr. Jonathan Ford

I recently attended the ADA New Dentist Conference in Denver. The conference had a great mix of continuing education for the young dentist. including a special emphasis on leadership development. Here is part one of the leadership skills that I learned at the ADA New Dentist Conference—I’ll post part two next week.

1.          Always keep learning I had this notion in dental school, that to be successful I needed to put the work in while at school and I could coast once I graduated and had a steady job. Unfortunately, I’ve been sorely mistaken.

To be successful, you have to always be improving yourself and growing. Take classes, listen to lectures, or read books that address and help you improve your weaknesses. But, remember to continue and improve your strengths as well. I recently found a series of blogs and forums that are quick ways to review and refresh my leadership skills (examples: curiousdentist.com and excursives.com)

2.      Mind your words and their impact Do you say thank you to your staff before they leave for the day? I always try and say a quick thanks to close the work day. Do you say “I love you” to your significant other every day? Of course, you do! However, these simple messages might not have the impact as the first time you said them.

One of the speakers talked about the monotony of words. The words may be extremely important (ex. love and thanks), but hearing them over and over again lessens their effect. By changing the words slightly or altering the delivery, the words can have a greater impact and make others feel more appreciated. So, instead of saying thanks on your way out of the office, say thank you to your staff in front of a patient and use specifics. Great job on getting that x-ray!

3.      Have faith in yourself Each of us has core values and principles. As a dentist, you are seen as a leader in your office, whether or not you feel accustomed to that role. Patients definitely look to you as a leader in improving their oral care, or they wouldn’t be coming to you.

It is important to maintain these values and ensure that they don’t waver. Some people call this a mission statement; others call it long term goals. Call it whatever you want, know what your values and principles are, stick to them and other will be drawn to you.


Dr. Jonathan Ford is a general dentist in Huntington Beach, California. He served as the New Dentist Co-Chair for the Orange County Dental Society in 2011 and 2012. He currently serves on the Council for Endorsed Programs for the California Dental Association. You can reach him by emailing him at drjonathan@fordentalgroup.com.