Thursday, December 4, 2014

Who is John Galt? How Corporate Dental Offices are Disrupting the Status Quo.

Who is John Galt?
Disruptors in Dentistry
By Brett Kessler, D.D.S., CDA President


"I started my life with a single absolute
That the world was mine to shape in the image of my highest values
And never to be given up to a lesser standard, no matter how long or hard the struggle" Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged


Disruptors are innovators.  They are businesses that shift a mindset of how consumers think, purchase, etc. – thereby challenging established businesses.

Harvard Business School professor and disruption guru Clayton Christensen says that a disruptor displaces an existing market, industry, or technology, and produces something new and more efficient and worthwhile. It is both destructive and creative.

Some examples of disruptors are companies like Apple, Netflix, Amazon, and Uber.

I identify Apple not for the computers that it builds, but for another niche that it took over – music and listening device sales.  iPods, iPhones and iTunes have changed how we buy and listen to music. There are hardly any CD stores remaining other than those that sell used discs.  When I grew up, I would buy records.  The cover art would attract me to give new bands a listen.  I judged the band by entire albums that it recorded.  Today, we buy songs, not albums. They are instantly downloaded onto our computers.  No waiting in lines; no browsing through tedious shelves of records/CD’s.

We create playlists with the drag of a mouse.  We use auto shuffle and the “genius” feature to create our own personal radio stations. They connect to our cars, our phones, our tablets and all are stored on our computers.  CD players are becoming a thing of the past.  Music is stored on hard drives, flash drives, iPods, etc.

Netflix took how we rent movies to a new level.  For a low monthly fee, we can have unlimited movies shipped to our house – hassle free – or immediately available to view on our computer or smart TV’s through an internet connection.  Blockbuster used to charge late fees, “you-didn’t-rewind-the-VHS” fees, etc.  I dreaded having to pay this fine. The buying experience was a hassle and expensive.  Netflix is easy, customized to my preferences and instant. Are there even any Blockbuster stores left?

Amazon capitalized on the fact that a book is still readable after it had been read, music is still listenable after it had been listened to, and anything should be able to be purchased on the internet easily!  They created a personalized buying experience based on your browsing and buying habits.  It greatly affected the big chain bookstores like Borders or Barnes & Noble.  It also helps you find the lowest price for a commodity and they deliver it right to your door.  If it wasn’t exactly what you were looking for, ship it back.  Hassle-free!

Lastly, Uber is putting a huge dent in the taxi business. With Uber, you can press a button on your phone app and a nice clean car will be at your location within 15 minutes. Taxi’s get to you when they get to you and the entire cab experience pretty much stinks!

All of these disruptors have innovated, streamlined and penetrated market share. They have challenged and even ruined wildly successful businesses, while reinventing the delivery of these services.  They have changed the consumer’s mindset and changed the paradigm on how these services should be purchased, used and consumed.  The consumer experience is exactly the way the consumer prefers.  We (the consumers) wouldn’t have it any other way.

Another commonality of these disruptors is that they didn’t just enter the marketplace and were welcomed with opened arms.  The status quo or “established” business model was not happy and tried to stop them.

In reality, the status quo was asleep at the wheel. They were lazy and arrogant. They felt they were too big to fail. Those established business models that survived disruption evolved their business models to better serve their consumers.

The question, “Who is John Galt?” comes to mind from Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged.” John Galt represents creativeness and innovation.  In the book, the status quo was constantly putting up barriers to protect its own interests in how things always have been done.



The status quo must constantly channel its inner John Galt if it wishes to remain relevant to the people it serves.

There are disruptors popping up in every niche of business, and dentistry is definitely not immune. 

Large Group Practices, better known as Dental Support Organizations, are delivering dental services cheaper, quicker and more efficient than the typical private practice. A Dental Support Organization takes care of all of the business aspects for the dentist – the billing, HR, marketing, equipment, materials, etc. 

They are aggressively growing around the country.  They are aggressively hiring new dentists.  They are aggressively advertising their services.  They have created a niche for themselves and continue to attract patients.  Some may say that they haven’t perfected the consistent customer experience yet, but at some point, this too will change.

As in private practice there are good practitioners and those who could use a little nudge to “up their game.”  The reality with the Dental Support Organizations is that they are being judged by the lowest common denominator.  For every bad patient experience, the entire organization’s reputation takes a hit. If these companies are going to take their disruption to the next level, they need to shore up some of the weaker links in their organizations.  Trust me; they are aggressively evolving their internal practices to do just this. 

I recently attended a forum on Dental Support Organizations. DSO’s are growing 15-20% per year with over 7000 dentists employed, it was illustrated that the trend in healthcare is moving toward consolidation.  Consolidation breeds efficiency, in theory.  If you look around, there are very few privately owned pharmacies; there are very few private physician offices.  They have all been engulfed by corporate entities that manage the business side of the practices. Has it improved healthcare? I’ll leave that for the reader to decide. 

Many of us in private practice (the status quo) are complaining.  Of course, it’s only natural.  The realities are, however, if the private practitioners aren’t evolving their games, they will soon be wondering where their patients have gone. Maybe some of us already are!

Graduating dental students are being hired in droves by these practices.  I asked a recent graduate who was working for a Dental Support Organization what his favorite part was about working in this environment?  He answered that he has mentorship and professional networking instantly available to him.  He admitted he gives up some of his autonomy, but implied that no job is 100% perfect.  I would agree with that statement in private practice too.  There are parts of my day that I don’t look forward to doing (usually administrative) as well. 

Most of these dentists are not joining organized dentistry.  Why?  The most common response: they are made to feel “less than” for working for those companies. 

This must stop.  We (organized dentistry) are being judged by this fact, just as some may be judging those who work for entities different than private practice. The Colorado Dental Association is charged with advancing oral health in our state.  The DSO’s in Colorado are helping us achieve this.  They are just doing it differently than the “status quo”.

We need to be much better at welcoming our colleagues.  They are working the best that they can with the opportunities that are presented to them.  I always remind young dentists to keep the patient’s best interest as their main focus.  We have a must maintain our code of ethics as a profession.

The Association of Dental Support Organizations (www.theadso.org) has emerged to help set standards for it’s members and is looking to ensure that ethical practices are in place.

Evolution is the survival of the fittest.  Those who can adapt and create change will evolve into the new paradigm, and address the needs and desires of the consumers.

The status quo does not exist indefinitely.  It will constantly be challenged.

“Who is John Galt?”


Disclaimer: I am not passing judgment on these disruptors mentioned in this article.  I am just sharing my observations and thoughts.  I may or may not subscribe philosophically with various paradigm shifts occurring in the dental marketplace.  Each serves a niche that is attractive to various people.  That is why they are growing/gaining the market share and shifting the perceptions of the consumers. When I mention “organized dentistry” I mean ADA, state associations and its components.



If you like this blog post, I would love to hear about it.  Please comment or share it on Google+, Facebook, Linked in, Twitter, etc.  If you are looking for a dentist in the Denver area, we are always looking for new patients.  Please visit our website http://www.tcdodenver.com/ or like our facebook page,  https://www.facebook.com/TCDOdenver.  Or you can contact us  the old fashion way - call us at 303-321-4445.


Thanks for reading!  BK

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Inalienable Rights


The Statue of Liberty stands proudly in New York Harbor. It stands as the universal symbol of freedom and democracy. This symbol stands for what makes our country great.



I love the practice of dentistry. I love the freedom that it offers us.

We have the freedom to cooperatively treat our patients, helping them achieve their goals in a predictable and satisfying manner. Patients are free to choose to go to any dentist they like. Dentists are free to choose to treat anyone they like and do any procedures that they like and vice- versa. As a result of these freedoms, we are an example of a free-market healthcare system that works.

Our professional autonomy (freedom), however, isn’t free. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.” The values of the profession must be actively upheld by us — the practicing dentists. If we are not diligent and stand for what is best for our patients, our profession will no longer be autonomous.

Author Peter Drucker said in the ’70s, “Those that are content to rise with the rising tide will also fall with it.” And when it falls, if we did nothing to better and preserve our work, we have no right to complain. In other words, if we are passively riding the waves, we will have no choice but to accept our fate when the wave crashes.

We are responsible to serve the needs of our communities. We have an obligation to stand up for the individuality of our practice philosophies. Our uniqueness is what makes our practices special and attractive to our patients. We cannot let outside entities influence our standards, our ethics and our decisions. We do what is best for our patients because it is in their best interest.

This past year, Colorado has introduced an adult Medicaid benefit to our state. They have allocated over $100 million to provide these services to those who are eligible. It is estimated that over 300,000 adults are now eligible for this benefit. The CDA worked closely with legislators and the governor’s office to create this benefit. As dentists, we directly witness the impact that dentistry has on those who need it.

We improve oral and overall health, we restore function, and we provide smiles.

We continue to fight hard to shape the benefits and make sure that our communities have access to our finest care. Our communities need Medic- aid providers to serve this need. We understand that the system is a work in progress, and are working daily on your behalf to address concerns to help the system run much smoother in coming weeks and months.
At the same time, we have the responsibility to provide care to Medicaid patients. Currently, there is extensive discussion among policy- makers and the public regarding gaps in Colorado’s dental health. If we are to make the case to the public that qualified dentists are the answer to access concerns, then it is incumbent on our profession to step up to the plate.

The fate of our profession is in our hands. “With freedom comes responsibility.”
Author Jim Collins wrote, “No matter how much the world changes, people still have a fundamental need for guiding values and sense of purpose that give their life and work meaning. They have a fundamental need for connection to other people, sharing with them the common bond of beliefs and aspirations. They have a desperate need for a guiding philosophy. More than any time in the past, people will demand operating autonomy - freedom plus responsibility - and will simultaneously demand that the organizations of which they are a part of stand for something.” We take this statement seriously.

What does the Colorado Dental Association stand for? The CDA is advancing oral healthcare to our communities — in the best way possible. It is here to support its members so we can provide the best, most appropriate dentistry to our patients.

Recently, the Colorado Dental Political Action Committee (CODPAC) met with 40 state legislators and candidates individually. It was an extensive task that involved hundreds of volunteer hours and immense coordination. The purpose of this endeavor was to further our relationships with key influencers, educate the legislators on our issues, and then strategize our legislative agenda.

We sent them information about key legislative priorities and our objective to make it as easy as possible for dentists to deliver the best possible care to our communities. We dialogued about possible solutions regarding these subjects: increasing Medicaid reimbursements, improving student loan forgiveness programs, dental insurance reform and preventing the introduction of a new mid- level dental provider in our state.

The legislators seemed genuinely impressed with our ideas, our passion and our mission.

The hard work that we have been doing over the past several years resulted in several congratulatory statements of support by the legislators. Respect for our profession has greatly improved. Today legislators look at us as experts to help guide and shape policy around oral health and oral health care delivery. But if we don’t fulfill our obligations, our influence will be gone.

Thank you to our CODPAC colleagues representing us. Thank you to our members for contributing to CODPAC and the American Dental Political Action Committee (ADPAC). These dollars are the best investment that you can make to preserve the freedom that we have. Please tell your communities how important it is to get involved either with monetary or voluntary contributions. Remember, we all must do our part in giving to the profession.
On the west coast there is a proposal to build another statue. This one is being called the statue of responsibility (http://statueofresponsibility.com).



It will symbolize this notion that freedom isn’t free. We are responsible for setting the standard and delivering the finest oral healthcare in this state. We take this seriously and by our actions, we will continue to enjoy our freedoms.

If you would like to make a donation to CODPAC/ADPAC please contact the CDA at info@cdaonline.org or 303-740- 6900 or 800-343-3010.

If you like this blog post, I would love to hear about it.  Please comment or share it on Google+, Facebook, Linked in, Twitter, etc.  If you are looking for a dentist in the Denver area, we are always looking for new patients.  Please visit our website http://www.tcdodenver.com/ or like our facebook page,  https://www.facebook.com/TCDOdenver.  Or you can contact us  the old fashion way - call us at 303-321-4445.

Thanks for reading!  BK


Saturday, September 13, 2014

TEDMED 2014

For the second year in a row, I attended the TEDMED conference.  TEDMED is a corner of the infinite TED universe specifically focused on innovation in health care. 

Innovation is much too small of a word to describe what TEDMED is.

They try to introduce it on their website (www.tedmed.com)"TEDMED is a global community dedicated to unlocking imagination in service of health and medicine. Our goal is to seed the innovations of today, making possible the breakthroughs of tomorrow...for a healthier, more vibrant humanity." 

But even this is incomplete.  One must experience it to understand.

To attend, one must go through an application process.  TEDMED is always searching for the proper mix of delegates that will be allow for stimulating networking and friendships to be made.  This year the event was hosted in two cities, Washington D.C. and San Francisco.  I chose the latter.

There were 80 presenters, 2000+ delegates, 80 start up companies from various sectors of health.  This year's theme was "Unlocking Imagination".

240 page conference program


The presentations were thought provoking and expertly delivered in the classic TED style.  If you have ever seen a TED "talk", you know where I am coming from.

They shared how they were improving the design of hospitals to improve both the health of the patients and the communities they serve by leaving no footprint.  One was looking at diseases in different ways - for example, What role does childhood trauma play in all future diseases?

They challenged our paradigms at every turn. For example, legalization and government compensation for the harvesting of organs to reduce black market activity while saving lives.

They inspired us with virtual reality games to reduce pain in patients.  They gave us a glimpse of a new plastic that amorphically changes shape via electric manipulation to be used in cardiac catheterization.

One speaker was collecting voice samples to "donate" to people (kids and adults) who cannot talk - thereby giving them a voice and a personality.

Several bioethicists asked an uncomfortable audience on how messages to the public about drug use should be altered drastically.  One asked, should doctors be totally transparent? While another shared courageously about physician assisted death or discussed the ethics of genome mapping to tell our future propensity to disease.

My favorite speaker was Abraham Vergehese.  He is the author of several books including NY Times bestseller "Cutting For Stone".  I had the opportunity to meet him afterwards and have him sign a book that I read in 1999 titled, "The Tennis Partner".  I told him how important that book was to me and charged me with the impetus to live each day to the fullest.

After sharing life stories for a bit, he signed my book with the last line from the narrative, "...Get the ball back over the net just one more time."  (never give up!).  He gave me a hug and told me that I made his day (how cool!?!?!?!).  http://abrahamverghese.com/


Abraham Verghese and I at TEDMED 2014
     


The "convention floor" is known as the hive.  The hive is always buzzing with activities.  The start up companies are all there on display with things to play with.  Of course, I had to go to the obligatory brainwave activity detector to verify that the old neurons are still sparking once in while.  And, like last year, contrary to most people's opinion, I do indeed have a brain that is functional....I will leave it at that.


Verifying that I do indeed have a brain.

The hive is where it all happened.  The space was designed very deliberately to maximize our experiences. There were several areas for lounging, networking, working, watching presentations, eating, etc.  There were speaker meet-ups where you can have very in depth conversations with the speaker and other curious fellow delegates.

Another area was called the campfire where they served gourmet smores and had a vast array of topics to talk about about current and future trends in health care.

The attendees were medical students, PhD. students, biomedical engineers, heads of various prominent medical school departments, angel investors, artists, employees of tech, medical devices and marketing firms.  I was "wowed"by practically everyone I met. I was humbled my the creativity and intelligence of my fellow delegates.  I was inspired for their zest and zeal to change the world from their specific niche.  I met people from all over the world - US, Israel, Canada, UK, Australia, South America, Hong Kong, etc.

I WAS THE ONLY DENTIST.....too bad....I would encourage some of my fellow colleagues, (especially the thought leaders) to consider coming in the future.  I wasn't lonely, but I was the only dentist!

The over arching theme:  No matter what new technology is becoming available to better treat the patient's physical maladies, nothing can help a patient's psyche more than a healthcare professional (Physician, Nurse, Dentist, etc) that genuinely cares and connects with his/her patients on a human level.

Thanks to all the TEDMED-er's involved in putting on such an amazing experience and allowing me to attend once again!

Peace.

If you like this blog post, I would love to hear about it.  Please comment or share it on Google+, Facebook, Linked in, Twitter, etc.  If you are looking for a dentist in the Denver area, we are always looking for new patients.  Please visit our website http://www.tcdodenver.com/ or like our facebook page,  https://www.facebook.com/TCDOdenver.  Or you can contact us  the old fashion way - call us at 303-321-4445.

Thanks for reading!  BK

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What will your verse be?

Robin Williams's death is a tragedy that has rocked my world.  I didn't realize how much he affected my life until I look at all the movies/tv shows/appearances that he was in.  

In "Dead Poet's Society", he challenges his students by asking the question,  "What will your verse be?"



A question of epic proportion.  Imagine being in his class posed with this question.  

What would your verse be?  What are you passionate about? How will you impact the world?  

Ironically the character that Professor Keating (Robin Williams) inspires most, Neil, commits suicide too.  He takes a chance and follows his dream, parents are unimpressed and pressures him away form his passionate path and he sees no other option but to die.  

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. More tragic irony spoken by Robin Williams - 



My wife said to me this morning, "It is so unfortunate that people who struggle with addiction and depression cannot see how much their world around them love them"

So true....

I know many dentists and friends that have chosen to quit the fight.  Their demons, like Robin's, finally got the best of them.  Robbing them of the opportunity to see the light in their lives. Robbing their family and friends of what could have been.  

Today I shed a tear for Robin Williams; I am grateful for his verse; his impact on me and the world.  

The court jester is back with his maker; making heaven's souls laugh hysterically as he did for us.

Thomas Crum suggests:

"What would it be like if you lived each day, each breath, as a work of art in progress? Imagine that you are a masterpiece unfolding, every second of every day, a work of art taking form with every breath."

I believe that everyone has gifts that are completely unique.  Our purpose is to explore/grow those gifts and share those gifts with the world.

Everyday is a gift; I choose to treat it accordingly....





If you like this blog post, I would love to hear about it.  Please comment or share it on Google+, Facebook, Linked in, Twitter, etc.  If you are looking for a dentist in the Denver area, we are always looking for new patients.  Please visit our website http://www.tcdodenver.com/ or like our facebook page,  https://www.facebook.com/TCDOdenver.  Or you can contact us  the old fashion way - call us at 303-321-4445.

Thanks for reading!  BK


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Advocacy in Dentistry - ADA Storms Capitol Hill - Washington, DC

United States Capitol at Sunrise


I was honored to be part of a delegation that went to Washington DC to provide dental care advocacy on behalf of the Colorado Dental Association and the American Dental Association.  We had a chance to meet with most of our Colorado legislators in person and if they were unable to meet with us personally, they had their health care staff expert meet with us.

This year we had three issues to bring forth.  The first was a reform on student loans hoping to get a reduction in interest and an increased tax deduction.  This is for everyone with student loans, not just dentists.  An interesting stat - Americans collectively owe $1.1 trillion dollars in student loans, much of it subsidized by the government.  It is quickly approaching the amount of money that we owe China ($1.4 trillion).   Congressman Paul Gozar, DDS (R-AZ) calls this a bandaid, a good start - but not a comprehensive solution.  The cost to go to college/graduate school must evolve as it is unsustainable.  Dentistry is the costliest of the professions to train and it is not unheard of for a dental student to finish with a $500,000 student loan debt.  This is a 30 year mortgage, not a student loan.

The second issue we discussed was an ask for grant money to help start initiatives that will serve those in need.  These grants will help states with initiatives such as "Give Kids a Smile", "Missions of Mercy" and community coordinators that will help people find a dentist via emergency room referrals, nursing homes, schools, etc.  The legislators asked where is the money going to come from.  We call this designated grant money an investment, not a cost.

For example, in Colorado - we have an event called Colorado Mission of Mercy (COMOM). COMOM is a 2 day event where dental professionals set up a temporary dental clinic in a big way.  Over a thousand patients are treated for free over the course of the event.  All of us bring our own dental tools and supplies and treat what is needed.  The cost to put on a COMOM is $160,000.  The amount of dentistry given to the community over a $1,000,000. This is money that won't have to come from government benefits such as medicaid.  The next COMOM is in October in Henderson, CO.

The third issue was a letter initiated by Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS (R-AZ) that we want our legislators to join in and sign.  This letter asked the Center for Medicaid and Medicare services to improve the fairness and transparency of Medicaid recovery auditors and their review process.  We believe that audits of medicaid providers should be done to catch providers trying to beat the system, but not on those that are doing their best to serve those in the community in need.

Currently, in some states, the process is "guilty until proven innocent" with very little opportunity for the provider to have any recourse to defend him/herself. It is difficult for dentists to want to join up to become medicaid providers when these type of audits are in place.

We also had a variety of speakers give us the current state of the political climate in Washington.  There is less than 40 legislative days left in session and due to stalemate political party posturing, they predict that very little legislation of any significance will get done.  Sad that this is the case.....

One of the best speakers was Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL).  He was preaching to the choir when he said that the Affordable Care Act cannot put a price tag on caring for our patients.  He predicts that the "commoditization of health care" is going to drive down the opportunity for us to truly care about our patients.  I am doing everything in my practice to not let this happen.  I hope my colleagues will too.

A big revelation was how important our political action committees (PAC's) are.  Both ADPAC (national) and CODPAC (Colorado) raise funds to advocate to keep dentistry a profession of relevance.  This year alone, these PAC's have allowed us to spend time with our legislators to explain our needs so we can provide the best dentistry and services to our communities that we serve.







Monday, April 21, 2014

"Up in Smoke" - The Marijuana Phenomenon....How is Dentistry Affected?

"Rocky Mountain High" has a new meaning...

As of January 1, 2014, the recreational use of marijuana became legal here in Colorado.  The "medicinal" use has been in place since 2002.  When Barack Obama became president, he openly said that he wouldn't make this a judicial priority. Pot shops started to "bud" up all over Colorado. They grew like "weeds".  It got a little out of hand.  Advertisements, crazy names and street sign shakers everywhere.  All vacant commercial real estate became pot shops.  To really put this into perspective, there are more pot shops in Denver than Starbucks.

video

(A video I took a few years ago of a guy toting a sign advertising $25 1/8th's on Colfax Avenue.  Sign toting has since become illegal for pot shops.)

Imagine, walking into a marijuana store and after perusing the dozens of strains, brands, edibles, etc - pulling out your cash and making a purchase. No need to look over your shoulder. You walk out, you go home and partake.  This is not a hallucination.  It is reality in Colorado.  (Buy stock in Frito-Lay now!)

Before it became legal for recreational use, I had been to many concerts at Red Rocks, an outdoor venue in Morrison, CO. At the start of every show, the rampant outbreak of "glaucoma" commenced and it seemed that the only cure had been to smoke dope.  These poor souls -all those years of suffering - buying tickets to their favorite artist and unable to see the stage due to their glaucoma.  No longer- with the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, they can see clearly!

I say this with my tongue firmly in cheek.  I thought the medical "guise" was a sham as so few people truly had medical conditions that qualified.  If it was truly for medical use, why weren't pharmacists in charge of its distribution?  They are the only profession qualified to dispense legal drugs.

The recreational marijuana experiment is here to stay.  The State of Colorado is expected to generate over $100 million in tax revenues. If you are not from Colorado, take note, I predict that this phenomena is coming to your state soon.

Before I go any further - for full disclosure, my marijuana days are long over. Mind altering substances didn't agree with my preferred future. I voted against the legalization. Obviously, I was in the minority.  It is here to stay.  It is now as normal to smoke dope in Colorado as having a beer with friends.

I am not going to get into the social ramifications or discussions about the signs of the apocalypse.  I would like to open up the "doors of perception" in my profession and start the conversation.  

How does marijuana affect dentistry?

First of all, our patients use it.  Accept this fact.  A significant percentage always have. We need to ask them about their using habits.  This may seem strange and/or uncomfortable.  We need to know, so we can treat our patients appropriately. There are several risks and maybe even some benefits here. 

Potential Risks:

  • Smoking marijuana causes cancer.  I know, this is going to elicit all sorts of responses from the peanut gallery.  Bottom line, it has carcinogens in it that cause cancer.  When we do an oral cancer screening, we need to get over our fear and ask our patients.  We need to council and educate our patients with regards to the risks of use - Just as we do with alcohol.
  • Like tobacco, smoking marijuana is also a risk factor in periodontitis which is the leading cause for tooth loss these days.  I am sure that oral hygiene takes a back seat to vegging out on the couch listening to Pink Floyd. I also predict "higher" caries risk due to xerostomia, poor diet and lapses in oral hygiene. 
  • Very important point - just because it is legal, we dentists must practice dentistry SOBER!  This goes for the dentist and our staffs - all health care professionals included.  It has never been OK to go to lunch and knock back a few drinks then return for our afternoon patients. This is no different.  I know you say, "it helps with concentration" - Zero tolerance here! 
  • Marijuana use can lead to addiction.  We need to be skilled in communicating this fact to our patients as we do with alcohol and other drugs. There is a plethora of resources available to treat the disease of addiction. We need to be well versed in guiding those patients that need help towards recovery.


Potential Benefits:

  • Pot may be a viable pain management alternative to opiates.  This is empirical.  But it does relieve pain. Chronic pain is a criteria to get access to a medical marijuana card.  I haven't seen any studies or if even these sort of studies are possible due to marijuana being a Schedule 1 drug. Opiate abuse/addiction is at an epidemic level.  There were three times more opiate deaths than drunk driving deaths in Colorado last year.  Pot is addictive but probably not as addictive or dangerous as opiates. I am not saying that pot is not dangerous.  I don't think it is as dangerous.
  • Pot may be a viable anti-anxiety alternative to benzodiazepams.  I will bet that our patients have been smoking pot prior to dental appointments for decades.  Again, I'm not sure if any studies have been done (see above). Another criteria for a medical marijuana card is anxiety.  
I do not proclaim myself to be an expert here.  These are just my observations and predictions as a practitioner and a citizen in the State of Colorado.  There is a wide open frontier of possible opportunities and pitfalls with the legalization of marijuana. Hopefully we can stay ahead of the curve and help our patients as always in the best possible manner.

If you like this blog post, I would love to hear about it.  Please comment or share it on Google+, Facebook, Linked in, Twitter, etc.  If you are looking for a dentist in the Denver area, we are always looking for new patients.  Please visit our website http://www.tcdodenver.com/ or like our facebook page,  https://www.facebook.com/TCDOdenver.  Or you can contact us  the old fashion way - call us at 303-321-4445.

Thanks for reading!  BK






Friday, April 11, 2014

Is Dentistry a Commodity?

From 1991 - 1995, I went to dental school to learn my craft.  I found out that early on, that the scientific based classes came very easy for me as I was a biomedical engineer prior to dental school.  What didn't come so easy, was the artistic training that was required to be a dentist.  We had to learn how to create teeth out of wax, plastic, amalgam, composite, gold, porcelain, etc.

Looking back to grade school, I was the kid that got sent to the principle's office from art class for being disruptive.  I would do anything to not do art.  I was quickly slapped with reality when I struggled in these early training exercises in dental school.  I had no artistic skills!

I struggled so much that I was required to go to what I call "wax camp" during the summer after the first year of dental school. (Does the movie"The Breakfast Club" comes to mind?)

The other "campers" and I huddled around bunsen burners flames and honed our skills with one-on-one instruction from some very talented instructors.  One day, I don't know when or why, the switch flipped and my right brain connected with my left brain and I was able to wax up teeth at a proficiently high level.  As time went on, I became better and better at it.   In fact, I taught this very same class at University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine for 7 years.

So back to the question, is dentistry a commodity?

Dentistry is an imperfect blend of art and science.  It is not mass produced on a conveyer belt in a factory.  It is provided uniquely and personally to our patients.

A mentor and master of dentistry, L.D. Pankey once said, "I've never had a tooth walk into my office. It was always attached to someone.  Get to know that person, and I may get the opportunity to treat that person's teeth."  Words which I live by in my practice philosophy.  We treat people holistically - mind, body, spirit. You are not a set of teeth, you are a "whole" person.

So is dentistry a commodity?

Can a person go to a dentist and say that he needs a size 12 upper molar and the dentist picks one off the shelf and glues it in?  NO

Can a person go to a shoe store and ask the salesman to fit him in a size 12 shoe? YES

Can that person buy a size 12 shoe for $30, and a size 12 shoe for $300?  YES

Is that shoe store being chastised by community organizations for "gouging" its clients?  NO 

Why then do dentists get chastised by insurance companies for charging a fair price for their services provided uniquely to an individual?  Usually people (insurance agents) placing unfair judgements on things they have no experience with.

If a dentist charges more for a service than a patient values, the patient will not buy that service. Simple economics - supply and demand.

If a person sees a value in either price point for the shoe, he/she will buy that shoe.

The same thing goes in dentistry.  There are different levels of service and challenges in treating patients.  A more difficult procedure may cost more as the dentist to takes more time, care, judgement and skill to perform that procedure to the level of care that the patient expects.

And any patient has the right to put value on things important to them.

Most third party entities (insurance companies, government agencies, etc.) have been masterful at creating a "dentistry is a commodity" mindset to the consumers.

I am emphatically saying that it is not a commodity.  Dentistry is a blend of art and science executed with proper judgement and skill that only comes from our highly specialized training and experience.

There may come a day that one can choose a size 12 upper molar off the shelf -

Then again, there may not...

All this could be a moot point as clean teeth do not decay - AND - 95% of dental problems are preventable!

If you like this blog post, I would love to hear about it.  Please comment or share it on Google+, Facebook, Linked in, Twitter, etc.  If you are looking for a dentist in the Denver area, we are always looking for new patients.  Please visit our website http://www.tcdodenver.com/ or like our facebook page,  https://www.facebook.com/TCDOdenver.  Or you can contact us  the old fashion way - call us at 303-321-4445.

Thanks for reading!  BK













Tuesday, April 8, 2014

25 Things About Me

As my 46th birthday approaches, I decided to take a different approach to my usual rants here on my blog.

This was a facebook thing several years ago.  I retrieved my list from 2008 and updated it. It was a good reflection exercise for me.


Here are 25 things about me in no particular order -


1. I used to alter my mind with substances but found that it didn’t agree with my present or future plans…

2. I am inspired by positive changes in people, places and things...

3. Someone from my high school told me once that I when I grow up, I wouldn’t listen to heavy metal anymore….”F@%k -you old friend, I still do!”

4. My kids are exactly like my wife and I, and it is scary! We are raising our children Jewish…however, sometimes Sunday school interferes with our ski weekends and my mountain running “problem”…Sorry Rabbi Mo!

5. I love to run, bike, triathlon, snowshoe etc.… my favorite running partners over the years have been Gina, my Dad, my brothers and sisters, Gary Benson, Charlie Perez, Maggie Close, Liza Gualandi, John Stevens, Conrad LaPorte, Steven Griffith, Dave Lindeman, Brian Reick, all my Team-in-Training groups, my dog Kida and now Crosby.  Thinking back, Gary Benson has been sharing adventures with me for close to 25 years.

6. I love to run/play in the mountains. In fact, last fall I ran the Grand Canyon, South Rim to North Rim and back to the South Rim in less than 18 hours.  Other notable athletic accomplishments – Leadville 50 mile mountain bike race, mountain biked from Telluride to Moab, multiple marathons, trail marathons, and snowshoe marathons. (yes you read that right SNOWSHOE marathons)

Which segues nicely into….

7. My life is an adventure, just ask anyone!

8. I am a deeply spiritual person. I try to improve my faith every day. Sometimes I falter and my intentions don't align with my actions. I am human and there are lessons to be learned everyday….There is spirituality in imperfection.

9. I am excited to see so many friends that are on similar paths as I. I am proud to walk this path with all of you! You give me strength and hope when I cannot see it for myself.

10. I have an awesome dental practice, and an amazing team of people that I work with. (employees, patients, consultants, referring doctors, specialists, etc). I am proud of the lives that we impact through our dentistry. . I love being a dentist. I believe that the smile is the window to the soul. I do everything that I can to help my patients’ soul shine through.

11. Progressive music genre: “Complicated music for complicated people” – I think that Geoff Tate of Queensryche was speaking to me when he said that!

12. I would play guitar for a living if I thought it would support my lifestyle.

13. Two friends (Mike Ford and Pat Gibbons) died recently from complications of the flu.  Their lives were cut short, but their impact on the world was huge and their spirits carry on in so many lives that they touched.

14. My wife is a saint to put up with me on a daily basis!

15. I am glad to have reconnected with so many friends from the past on social media.  I am so happy for all of you who choose to share about your lives.  I hope to reconnect in person with you in our various travels.

16. The economy may not have a bright immediate future. However, our attitudes do, if we choose accordingly.

17. In October, 2007, I testified before the United States Congress on behalf of the American Dental Association. I was to explain to them about the ravages of methamphetamines on oral health. My true message was that there is a solution to the disease of addiction. Treatment works. Sometimes it may take a few times but it is the best solution going. And, it saves lives!

18. I am about to become the President of the Colorado Dental Association – I am nervous, excited, and amazed that any group of people would choose me to lead an organization.   I hope to leave the organization better than when I took it over.  I work with an amazing board and CDA staff that keep this train rolling in the right direction!

19. The best thing about being a father is that I get to live my childhood again through them. I am blessed to have a loving family to share their experience on how to do this thing! It is easy to father a child, it is an accomplishment to be a father.

20. Religious people are afraid to go to hell in the afterlife. Spiritual people have been to hell (here on earth) and don’t want to go back!

21. I have had many mentors in my life to which I am most grateful. They saw things in me that I couldn’t see in myself and then encouraged me to grow those gifts.  I try to pay it forward by mentoring others. Thanks to all of you, especially mom and dad....

22. My wife thinks that social media is weird but she is starting to warm up.

23. My dream house is in the mountains near a rolling, open meadow strewn with wildflowers and a stream running through it.

24. I played basketball in high school.  As a rebellious teenager, I began to hate it at the time. Looking back regretfully, I could have played at a higher level if I put the effort in.  Basketball has so many life lessons in it.  I took my son Max to the Coach K basketball camp two of the past three years.  Last spring, I reached out to my old basketball coach from high school (Ken Sartini). Over dinner we caught up on what had been going on in our lives the past 20 plus years.  I thanked him for being a great teacher and mentor to me.  I still talk to him often, what a gift!


25. One more….Chicago Cub’s, next year is now! Come on already!


If you like this blog post, I would love to hear about it.  Please comment or share it on Google+, Facebook, Linked in, Twitter, etc.  If you are looking for a dentist in the Denver area, we are always looking for new patients.  Please visit our website http://www.tcdodenver.com/ or like our facebook page,  https://www.facebook.com/TCDOdenver.  Or you can do it the old fashion way - call us at 303-321-4445.

Thanks for reading!  BK

Monday, March 10, 2014

Who is John Galt? - Disruptors in Dentisty

Disruptors are innovators.  They are businesses that shift a mindset of how consumers think, purchase, etc.  thereby challenging established businesses.

Harvard Business School professor and disruption guru Clayton Christensen says that a disruptor displaces an existing market, industry, or technology and produces something new and more efficient and worthwhile. It is both destructive and creative.

Some examples of disruptors are companies like Apple, Netflix, Amazon, and Uber

I identify Apple - not for the computers that it builds, but another niche that it took over – music and listening device sales.  iPods, iPhones and iTunes has changed how we buy and listen to music.  There are hardly any CD stores anymore other than those that sell used ones.  When I grew up, I would buy records.  The cover art would attract me to give new bands a listen.  I judged the band by entire albums that it recorded.  Today, we buy songs, not albums. They are instantly downloaded onto our computers.  No waiting in lines, no browsing through tedious shelves of records/cd’s.

 We create playlists with the drag of the mouse.  We use auto shuffle and the “genius” feature to create our own personal radio stations.  They connect to our cars, our phones, our tablets and all are stored on our computers.  CD players are becoming a thing of the past.  Music is stored on hard drives, jump drives, iPods, etc;

Netflix took how we rent movies to a new level.  For a low monthly fee we can have unlimited movies shipped to our house  - hassle free; or immediately available to  view on our computer or smart TV’s through an internet connection.  Blockbuster used to charge late fees, “you didn’t rewind the VHS” fees, etc.  I dreaded having to to pay this fine.  The buying experience was a hassle and expensive.  Netflix is easy, customized to my preferences and instant. Are there even any Blockbuster stores left?

Amazon capitalized on the fact that a book is still readable after it had been read, music is still listenable after it had been listened to, and anything should be able to be purchased on the internet easily!  They created a personalized buying experience based on your browsing and buying habits.  It greatly affected the big chain bookstores like Border’s or Barnes&Noble.  It also helps you find the lowest price for a boxed item and they deliver it right to your door.  If it wasn’t exactly what you were looking for, ship it back.  Hassle-free!

Lastly  -Uber is putting a huge dent in the taxi business.  With Uber, you can press a button on your phone app and a nice clean car will be at your location within 15 minutes. Yellow Cab gets to you when it gets to you and the entire cab experience pretty much stinks!

All of these disruptors have innovated, streamlined and penetrated market share, challenged, and even ruined wildly successful businesses while reinventing the delivery of these services.  They have changed the consumer’s mindset and changed the paradigm on how these services should be purchased, used and consumed.  The consumer experience is exactly the way the consumer prefers.  We (the consumers) wouldn’t have it any other way.

Another commonality of these disruptors is that they didn’t just enter the marketplace and were welcomed with opened arms.  The status quo or “established” business model was not happy and tried to stop them. 
In reality, the status quo was asleep at the wheel.  They were lazy, and arrogant.   They felt they were too big to fail. Those established business models that survived disruption evolved their business models to better serve their consumers.

The question “Who is John Galt?” comes to mind from Ayn Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged! John Galt represents creativeness and innovation.  The status quo must constantly channel it's inner John Galt if it wishes to remain relevant to the people it serves.

There are disruptors popping up in every niche and dentistry is definitely not immune.  They are here and they are aggressively working to innovate and change the status quo. 

Disruptor #1 - Large Group Practices are delivering dental services cheaper, quicker and more efficient than the typical private practice.  They are aggressively growing around the country.  They are aggressively hiring up new dentists.  They are aggressively advertising their services.  They have created a niche for themselves and continue to attract patients.  They haven’t perfected the consistent customer experience yet, but at some point that they will figure it out. 

There are some really lousy dentists that practice in this setting.  There are also really good dentists in this arena too.  To be fair - There are also some really lousy dentists in private practice settings.   There are also some really good dentists in this arena too.

The unfortunate reality with the large group practices is that they are being judged by the lowest common denominator.  For every bad patient experience, the entire organization’s reputation takes a hit. If these companies are going to take their disruption to the next level, they need to shore up some of the bad players in their organizations.  They need to do this from within.

A dental organization in the Pacific Northwest is self-regulating through a peer review process similar to the one used in organized dentistry.  I commend them for taking the initiative to self-regulate and get rid of the bad apples from their branches.   


Disruptor #2 – Dental Insurance has been a driving factor in changing consumer perception with respect to the dentist.  There is a mindset that if one doesn’t have insurance they can’t go to the dentist. 

Dentistry is equal parts art and science.  The product that we deliver is a unique service and experience every single time.  The dental insurance industry has been really good at “commoditizing” these services. They view all fillings, crowns, and other procedures as commodities.  They don't take into account level of the level of difficulty it took to achieve a positive result.  Dentists must impart the value of their services to their patients and that dental insurance is a nice benefit but it the cure all to their dental health.

On the flip side - Dental insurance does help with the basic preventative services - cleanings, check ups, xrays etc.  And many people go to the dentist because of the benefits that they receive.  

Disruptor #3 – New Technology is continually changing how we practice.  Film based x-rays are as antique as the horseless carriage.  CAD/CAM, digital impressions, articulations, etc are going to make dentistry more efficient and even more predictable.

Disruptor #4 – This past year, Metropolitan Denver Dental Society (MDDS) built the first and only dental learning center operated and run by and component of organized dentistry.  The new facility has 4 fully operating dental operatories that are being used for hands on learning opportunities.  They have functioning lab benches, auditorium and video streaming from the operatories into the various remote video-viewing stations.

The Metropolitan Denver Dental Society is dedicated to supporting its members, promoting the highest ethical practice of dentistry; providing continuing professional education, including a premier annual dental convention; and oral health education to the public.  This learning center, The Mountain West Dental Institute, will help them fulfill their mission.  Many dental associations around the country are very interested to see how this works.  Some people say they took a big risk....that is what disruptors do.

The Colorado Dental Association recently hosted a presentation in which approximately 100 dentists showed up in person and an equal number viewed the presentation remotely via live streaming technology.  This new use of technology will allow dentists from around the state/country meet, learn, network and communicate.

America is the land of opportunity.  Anything is possible with creativity, hard work, perseverance and a little bit of luck.  Every business must constantly raise the bar if it is to remain relevant and vital.  The business models must evolve to stave off the disruptors and to keep the consumers interested in their product or service.

Evolution is the survival of the fittest.  Those that can adapt and create change will evolve into the new paradigm and address the needs and desires of its consumers.

The status quo does not exist indefinitely.  It will constantly be challenged. 

“Who is John Galt?”

Disclaimer –I am not passing judgment on these disruptors.  I am just sharing my observation and thoughts.  I may or may not subscribe philosophically with various paradigm shifts.  Each serves a niche that is attractive to various people.  That is why they are growing/gaining the market share and shifting the perceptions of the consumers.


If you like this blog post, I would love to hear about it.  Please comment or share it on Google+, Facebook, Linked in, Twitter, etc.  If you are looking for a dentist in the Denver area, we are always looking for new patients.  Please visit our website http://www.tcdodenver.com/ or like our facebook page,  https://www.facebook.com/TCDOdenver.  Or you can do it the old fashion way - call us at 303-321-4445.

Thanks for reading!  BK