Dr. Robert DiPilla joined the PAC in 2015 as a Program Director in Detroit, Michigan teaching at the PAC’s Live Patient Hands-on Programs and Over the Shoulder Programs. In the article below he shares a brief history of his practice as well as nuggets of information valuable to today’s modern dentist.
Can you briefly talk about the history of your dental practice?
I lived and worked in New York City for fifteen years prior to moving back home to Michigan in 2002 when I established my current Birmingham practice. The initial concept was a boutique aesthetic office, but I quickly realized these patients wanted their entire family to be seen under my care. Today I have a healthy mix of long-standing patients and new patients coming in for aesthetic treatments. I always strive to be ahead of the times, so our office has also evolved into a multi-specialty office – periodontics, oral surgery, orthodontics – which patients appreciate the convenience of a single location for all treatment needs.
What is the best method you use to market your brand?
I believe internal marketing is still the gold standard for marketing your brand. Social media certainly has a place in the dental profession, but nothing beats a patient referring their friends and family. Those patients have a personal connection to your office, and if treated well, they will more than likely be tied to your office for the long haul. There are a lot of dentists in my area that use magazine advertisements and SEO to promise the world to patients in these marketing ventures. It is essential to need to deliver what you preach. To be honest, about a third of my practice is actually replacing the work done by these offices. Social media and marketing is a great vehicle to get patients in the door, but it is our responsibility to provide patients with such a remarkable product these new patients feel compelled to tell everyone they know… and therein lies the gold standard of internal marketing.
Can you talk about the leading-edge technologies you use in your practice?
There is no doubt technology has advanced the dental profession leaps and bounds, but you really need to be careful. It is easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest equipment, and a few years later it is in the back corner of your office collecting dust. I focus on equipment that is tried and true in the industry and enhances the overall patient experience. Our office is paperless and features a Hard Tissue Laser (Waterlase), digital impressions, intraoral cameras, digital radiographs, and an oral cancer screening light. We also have a CEREC machine, but I still believe in a strong laboratory relationship. Not only does my laboratory provide me with high quality restorations, they are an important source of relevant dental trends and business information which helps me professionally in my business.
Can you outline your recent efforts to raise awareness on the issue of oral cancer and how you’ve been active regarding it?
Although we focus on creating beautiful smiles, our attention to oral cancer is of the utmost importance. As dentists, we have the unique position of seeing patients two to three times a year, which is typically not the case with other medical providers. We just recently purchased an oral cancer screening light (Oral ID) that allows us to thoroughly scan the mouth for potentially cancerous lesions, particularly those that would go undetected without the fluorescent light. Our hygienists are specifically trained to screen for oral cancer and other health matters, which I then follow up with my exam. This double-check system enables us to carefully screen patients and catches any issues at an early stage. We also had a strong presence at the local Oral Cancer 5k Walk this past August, which had over 400 participants and raised awareness of the growing issue. It was a wonderful event and our staff had a blast.
Are there any other recent endeavors you are working on?
It is important to stay ahead of the times in terms of establishing the next development; I find I am constantly thinking ahead for my next endeavor. As a father of four, I realize the toxic effects of fluoride if ingested by children under the age of 6. If you look at the current market, all the major children’s toothpaste contain fluoride. I was interested in an all-natural toothpaste and floated the idea by my friend who is a chemist. Together we created Tooth Jelly, a certified organic, fluoride-free toothpaste that includes natural ingredients and botanicals. The toothpaste is made in Michigan and designed specifically for children ages 2-10.
I also recently opened an office in downtown Detroit. As a born and raised Detroiter, it feels great to be a part of the city’s recent renaissance. There is a growing population of business people working in the city, which is fantastic but they are having trouble getting out to the suburbs to see their dentist. Our brand new office is located in the heart of the city and is truly an architectural dream. I tried to create an environment that is not your typical dental office, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of the city. We look forward to working with this population and deliver an experience beyond their expectations.
Can you comment on the latest trends and challenges in the dental industry? What are some future trends/challenges that you foresee in the near future?
Unfortunately, the growing influence of insurance companies and the rise in overhead has put a squeeze on the single doctor, “mom and pop” type practices. This is a big deal and has been expressed with frustration from many of my colleagues. As time goes on, I believe the dental industry is moving towards more of a group practice environment. Dental offices will come together as a Dental Service Organization (DSO), which benefits all parties by sharing overhead expenses, delegate management to a more regional system, and involve a wider network of specialists to best cater to patient needs. This is the direction my offices are moving towards and I am excited about the potential as we grow into the new age of the dental industry.
What is some advice you would give to fellow dentists?
The best advice I can offer my fellow dentists, and really anyone for that matter, is to discover a vision for your place in the profession and pursue it with passion and a sense of purpose. I cannot emphasize this enough. Most people do not realize that dentistry is a very difficult profession, and if you do not have the drive, it is very difficult to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way. You must have a direction of where you want to go, and the enthusiasm to work very hard until you reach that goal.
Dentistry gives me the wonderful opportunity to change people’s lives. It sounds incredibly cheesy, but it is that sense of purpose that keeps me going in this profession, and I absolutely love it. It has been a pleasure to be a part of this profession and I am blessed for the opportunity. When I look back at the end of my day I know I made a difference, and for that, I am very grateful.
If you have questions about my article or if you would like to send a case, please contact the Pacific Aesthetic Laboratory Group at www.pacificaestheticdentalstudio.com, Gary Vaughn, CDT, CTO (916) 786-6740, or via email gvaughn@thePAC.org.