Aspen’s Abounding!

Aspens AboundingThere are now 12 Aspen Dental offices in our state, one in North Dakota, a couple in Wisconsin and one in Iowa (there are over 500 nationally). They’re actively seeking Dentists in almost all of their Minnesota locations.

An Aspen Dental opened up in Bemidji in 2015. My clients there say that it’s been closed for some months now presumably because their previous Doctor(s) departed. They are searching for another one now. For a little schadenfreude, Google “Aspen Dental Reviews.” As far as I know, they are the most maligned dental entity on the Web. Even so, they must have lots of money behind them because they keep adding clinics.

I just heard of a recent case in which a young Minnesota Doctor bought a practice and then found, probably to his chagrin, that a brand new Aspen Dental was being built across the street. He’s not a client of mine but if he was, I’d tell him, “Fear not!”

I like to use Aspen Dental as an example of what the independent private practice doesn’t want to be. Yes, they’re shiny on the outside. They cover lots of hours and carry lots of PPO’s. They can’t be ignored. They are a competitive force. However, the lawsuit cited by the ADA last year in New York, where they were sued for $450,000, says what the core of their problems is. The company was run by the “Suits” not the Doctors.

Now I’m a “Suit” myself but I like the idea that the Doctors get the final decision on what clinical treatment happens with their patients. Doctors do too and that’s one of the reasons why the larger group practice models (“Corporate Dentistry” or “DSOs”) tend to have greater turnover of both Doctors and staff than the private practitioner.

An obvious point here is if you have good staff you want to take good care of them! After the great recession, many practices did not award wage increases for a year or two – some longer. That’s changed now as the market heats up for assistants, front desk people and hygienists. Don’t take your staff for granted!

Of course, you don’t take your patients for granted either. People repeat experiences that either feel good or make them feel good. Since most dental visits don’t actually feel good, you want to make sure the patient feels good about themselves when they leave your office. That means really listening to them. Sincere compliments. Sure, you have to tell them if they need to floss more or get this or that done, but you can have them leaving feeling good about the stuff they are doing right and, most of all, that they were smart to get on in and get their checkup (or whatever). Of course, I don’t mean this in a patronizing way. For example, patients that commit to perio treatment are going through some inconvenience and expense and should be really congratulated for their efforts.

“Joe, I know getting here for these treatments can be a hassle, but you’re doing the smart thing. We see many people that wish they had done what you’re doing years ago—saving a lot of trouble. So, good for you for taking good care of your smile.”

Show Off Your Quality a Little: Ask your staff to constantly deliver the message that, “Dr. Goodguy does dentistry that looks good, feels good and lasts long.” Or phrases like, “Dr. Goodguy only uses the finest materials and your fillings (crowns or whatever) will last a long time if you take good care of them…” “Dr. Goodguy really stands behind his work. If there is anything more we can do for you, be sure to let me know. Here’s my card, just call…”

Of course, you already know that this should be getting done, but is it? If having a bright shiny Aspen Dental across the way stimulates you and your staff to take these extra steps to reinforce the value of what you do, the kind of practice you are, well then,
Aspen Dental might actually do some good!