With its December acquisition of Midwest Dental, Smile Brands, Inc., became one of America’s biggest DSOs. CEO Steve Bilt shares what he learned overseeing hundreds of locations across dozens of states—and how it can benefit IDPs.
Success is all about getting the basics right.
Whether you have one practice or 700, there’s no magic bullet. It really comes down to four things: communication with patients; doctor and team engagement; the perceived value you deliver to patients; and cultivating inviting, clean environments. The only difference between Smile Brands and IDPs is that we have a fifth item, comprising our call centers and AI and support staff. Number five becomes meaningless, though, if we don’t get the first four right.
The pandemic represents dentistry’s moment.
For the first time, people need-ed dentists and couldn’t take for granted that one would be there. If a patient is dealing with joblessness, family issues or a mental health crisis, and suddenly needs endo and can’t get it, what then? This is our time to lock in dentists’ role as oral-care doctors. Despite all its incalculable tragedies, the pandemic has nonetheless given us the chance for something positive to come out of this for both patients and doctors.
Despite all its incalculable tragedies, the pandemic has nonetheless given us the chance for something positive to come out of this for both patients and doctors.”
The customer isn’t always right.
That’s an antiquated idea, and the pandemic only further proved it. We try to accommodate people, but for patients who decided not to wear a mask, the accommodation was this: We’ll see you when the pandemic is over and you don’t need a mask anymore. Don’t tolerate abusive or non-compliant patients.
The toughest job in dentistry isn’t mine.
It’s that of the general dentist who grows from one office to two or three: The burden doubles or triples without the benefit of incremental resource gains. Independent dentists don’t give themselves credit. They think that because their job is hard, they’re not doing it well enough. But it just feels hard because it’s a hard job.
Millennials are one of dentistry’s biggest challenges.
Young people question a lot of dental norms. They say, “Two visits a year? Wasn’t that guideline developed before we were fluoridating water?” May-be for those patients, you offer an alternative: one in-person visit per year and, in lieu of a second, you monitor them on an app for a fee or do a virtual visit. They’re not going to con-form to things they consider antiquated. We can either innovate to accommodate them or miss the opportunity entirely.
We’re in this together.
A big portion of the country doesn’t regularly visit a dentist. We want to widen the door so more people get in. Plus, it benefits all dentists when a company like ours has the scale to market and deal with payors at a level IDPs don’t. Our goal is to get people to see a dentist, whether us or someone else.
STEVE BILT is cofounder and CEO of Smile Brands, Inc., encompassing 650 dental offices across 30 states. He is also chair-man of the Smiles for Everyone Foundation, whose work is detailed elsewhere in this section