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ADA News Convention Daily

Dentists seek BIG ideas for small group practices

October 20, 2016

By David Burger


Seeking inspiration: Drs. Jason Clapp and Jessica Bell, dental practice partners and husband and wife from Highland Village, Texas, listen at the BIG Idea: Small Group Practice conference Wednesday.
Pediatric dentists Drs. Jessica Bell and Jason Clapp are interested in adding more partners and establishing a group practice within their Highland Village, Texas, office.

The partners in practice acted on those ambitions by attending the Wednesday seminar BIG Idea: Small Group Practice, presented by the ADA Council on Dental Practice and sponsored by AXA, Great-West Financial and 3M. The seminar focused on the changing nature of dentistry today and how dental professionals can navigate their way through, whether through small group practices or other models.

"It's been a lot of great information," Dr. Bell said during a break. "It is a lot of food for thought."

Her husband, Dr. Clapp, said he was fascinated by the seminar’s discussion of the evolution of dentistry. “The profession is changing,” he said.

The one-day seminar BIG Idea: Small Group Practice technically took place the day before ADA 2016 – America’s Dental Meeting was officially set to begin, but for some dental professionals, it was the only thing they were attending.

Other members of the audience planning on leaving after the seminar included Colby Crabtree, a third-year dental student at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and his mother, Kristy Crabtree, an office manager from Katy, Texas. Mr. Crabtree is seeking to become a fourth-generation dentist in his family’s practice, and Ms. Crabtree encouraged her son to attend with her because they were interested in emerging trends in dentistry.

“We don’t get this training in dental school,” Mr. Crabtree said. “It was very informational.”

Mr. Crabtree, since he is still in dental school, couldn’t afford to miss more classes, so after the seminar, he was flying back to San Antonio.

For many other audience members, the seminar was a great way to begin their ADA 2016 experience.

ADA President Carol Gomez Summerhays opened the morning with remarks on how the ADA can help dental professionals make the best decisions for their future.

“The ADA has your back,” she said after talking about what she termed “Flossgate,” a reference to summer news reports that questioned whether existing scientific research supported oral health benefits associated with flossing. The ADA, along with other organizations, mounted a large-scale response to the news reports that showed how influential the ADA was in emphasizing flossing as vital to oral health.

“Science and technology are changing the way we treat patients,” she said. “American dentistry is the gold standard in the world.”

The morning was devoted to presentations to the group as a whole, ranging from Evolution of Dental Practice Delivery to Business Boot Camp. Dr. Roger P. Levin, a third-generation general dentist and the founder and CEO of Levin Group, Inc., a dental management consulting firm, led the evolution presentation.

This is the first conference of its kind sponsored by the Council on Dental Practice, he said of the daylong seminar, which in previous annual meetings was limited to several hours-long continuing education forums.

“Dentistry is going through a metamorphosis,” Dr. Levin told the crowd. “Small groups are emerging businesses and must be addressed accordingly. The best approach to developing a small group, when possible, is expert and excellent preplanning or a well-designed strategic plan along the way.”

Strategic planning was critical, Dr. Levin said, because it asks and seeks the answers to three questions: Where are you now? Where are you going? How are you going to get there?

One member of the audience was Dr. Laura Hancock Jones, a faculty member at the University of Kentucky, who is planning on starting a group practice. Dr. Levin’s talk addressed her concerns. “I’m in a rural part of the state, and I’m trying to work on my strategic plan.”

Dr. Heather Willis, a dentist from Fairbanks, Alaska, attended the seminar with her husband Chris Willis, who is her office associate. They are looking into expanding so that they could achieve a more equitable work-life balance.

“We want more time with our families,” she said.

After the morning presentations, the day was broken up into three continuing education tracks: feasibility, development and operations. Audience members could mix and match which classes they could attend. Class topics ranged from Partnership Paradigm: How to Partner Wisely to Creating Targets and Accountability for Growth and from Human Resources in a Group Practice Setting to Best Practices in Marketing.