Jim Smyros of Affordable Care/Affordable Dentures & Implants shares discoveries from a decade of advising hundreds of clinicians
By now, you might have crossed the first great plateau of implant dentistry — simply adopting the trade. It’s neither easy nor cheap to develop and hone your clinical skills to the point of offering implants in your practice.
But as you’ve probably discovered, more plateaus lie ahead. This is where true “implantologists” find their calling, and discover the thrill of placing large volumes of implants consistently.
Like any business challenge, it’s important to first identify the barriers between you and the implant practice you aspire to build. I have spent more than 10 years in implant manufacturing, distribution, and sales, helping dentists plot their roadmaps — and I still enjoy sharing that moment when a dentist discovers he/she has accomplished implant mastery. It’s a special feeling that should always motivate you.
I am on call for most of the 230 Affordable Dentures & Implants practices across the United States every week in my role at dental support organization Affordable Care. It’s a unique vantage point that has shaped my perspective of how you can take an implant practice “from good to great,” to borrow Jim Collins’ famous quip.
So, as you plot your own roadmap and begin to identify those barriers currently stopping your practice management improvement, you may find some of these anecdotes helpful.
- Pick one path, and pave it in stone.
We’re taught to avoid tunnel vision, but many general practitioners struggle because their portfolio of services lacks focus. When you choose to also offer endodontics, orthodontics, veneers, whitening, and other capabilities, you’re forfeiting resources — and practice time — that might have otherwise been spent on building your implant skills and armamentarium serving this competency.
Great implant practices are invested in making real improvement to the patient experience and delivering cases frequently and predictably.
Great implant dentists consider implantology their core competency. They are laser focused on it, and align all aspects of their business toward implants, from marketing to hiring. You won’t get to play at Yankee Stadium every day unless you’re wearing pinstripes, and good things happen when everyone under your roof is thinking about implants.
This is the first point where your level of passion for implants can truly separate you from your peers. Is this really what you want to do? If so, commit 100% to the improvement of your clinical training and business investments.
2. Streamline the patient experience.
We know implant fees can be exorbitant. Even patients earning high-income levels are apt to object to the high-ticket prices commonly seen with implants.
If it is clinical consensus that implants are becoming the standard of care, then we need to re-evaluate margin and improve access to treatment. At Affordable Dentures & Implants, we talk about “democratizing the smile.” Practices benefit when middle- to low-income patients can enjoy candidacy, too.
Great practices streamline the experience in other ways. Think about the GP who tells a patient her tooth is blown, but then directs her to an oral surgeon, and after multiple trips to the chair, must return to the GP to seat the crown on a single-tooth implant. Why can’t that be done under one roof? This is what patients are asking.
So, too, can the laboratory workflow shift the nature of the implant patient’s journey. It can be exhausting playing the waiting game with an outsourced lab — patients don’t want to hear that they have to wait on the U.S. Postal Service to get their bite correct. If it’s within your means, consider the benefits of folding lab operations into your practice. This has proven incredibly beneficial for patient satisfaction, but also for turnaround times — and margin.
This isn’t easy, and it’s one of the big reasons more implant dentists are choosing to affiliate with organizations like Affordable Dentures & Implants that can easily facilitate full-service labs. The number of removable technicians is dwindling, and so the value of an experienced lab tech is growing. If operating your own lab is simply not feasible, affiliating with a dental support organization or simply partnering with a lab in close proximity to your practice might help.
3. Use edentulous real estate as your yardstick.
I’ll let you in on one of the secrets behind the success our affiliates have enjoyed. They simply have more opportunities to learn thanks to what we call edentulous real estate.
For more than 40 years, a significant percentage of patients who have visited Affordable Dentures & Implants practices are in need of one or both full arches. While single tooth cases can be very lucrative for some, full arch restorations mean accelerated growth in implant unit volume.
What will that do for your practice? For starters, full arches are margin-friendly; one patient electing several units, plus a final overdenture, will boost your average ticket. You also will reap the benefit of getting better through repetition of placing a great number of implants.
Coincidentally, these patients typically report more satisfaction than a single-tooth implant or bridge. It’s simple: With full-arch restorations, you’re influencing function. Think about how motivated you feel when your patients are so happy, they’re moved to tears. That kind of thing happens every single day in our affiliated practices. So, do things that make you feel good!
Our affiliates often place large implant orders with BioHorizons®, one of the more popular implant manufacturers within our network. The Affordable Dentures & Implants business model in implantology creates a very competitive landscape for the manufacturers. This allows an implant business to push cost away from the space and offer the patient a fair and reasonable fee for service while maintaining a healthy margin. It is not uncommon for our affiliates to average 50 or more implants placed on a monthly basis. Serving tooth replacement with implants is what our centers do. Reaching these volumes in implants placed is much more attainable when your primary patients need full-mouth restorations. High volume of these procedures creates highly skilled clinicians.
Great implant practices define a formula and then doggedly pursue it out of a passion for getting better. They’re invested in making real improvement to the patient experience and delivering cases frequently and predictably. Implant dentistry in this form is most enjoyable for all parties involved — patients win by receiving a cost-effective and positive clinical experience that impacts their lives for the better, and dentists and staff thrive in their business while appreciating a service so positively impactful for those they serve.