When I met my husband during his second year of dental school, I initially recall thinking that dating a dentist sounded boring. My plans were to be a social worker or psychologist, helping people with their mental health. Instead, I became a school psychologist, consulting with teachers, parents, and other professionals about how to help children succeed best in school. I had no idea that I would also learn to love dentistry, almost as much as my husband! My journey started around 2014 when he came home from the dental practice and reported I would be needed the following week to learn and take over the front office, as two of our employees were quitting. After some tears and problem solving, I reluctantly reported to the office that next Monday morning, ready to learn all things dental. Previously, I had helped with social media, payroll, and other behind the scenes odds and ends, but never running the office or being there regularly. I quickly learned how to navigate our practice management software, schedule patients, and tackle dental insurance. Fast forward six months and I was able to step back from the front desk and let the new hire (who also did not have previous dental experience) run the day to day.
At that point, my husband and I had a heart to heart, which I realized I was actually nervous about because I secretly wanted to stay involved but wasn’t sure how he felt about it. We had always joked prior to this situation that we could never work together, we thought it would cause conflict since we both like to be in charge and take over. But what we had found was that we both benefited from my involvement in the practice and wanted it to continue. I found that I really enjoyed getting to know our patients and be a part of the business that supported our family. My presence in the office gave my husband peace of mind that things were running smoothly and that someone else that cared as much as he did could make important decisions during the day while he was busy with patients. So instead of working IN the office daily, I started working ON the office.
Our practice was not growing in the way we wanted, we didn’t have a large budget for marketing, and weren’t sure how to stand out from the many other established practices in our community. After joining some networking groups to promote the office through word of mouth, I came to realize just how significant dental anxiety was for so many people. I would hear story after story about how people dreaded going to the dentist and decided something could be done. Using my experience as a school psychologist, I discovered that the typical dental visit creates a great deal of negative sensory input. From the scent of the office, visuals of clutter and sharp instruments, temperature of the treatment rooms, sounds of the drills and suction, and the overall vulnerable feeling of being laid back and having someone dig in your face, these perceptions send most people into fight or flight mode. It became my mission to find a way to create a positive sensory experience and help people with dental anxiety to realize a better way to receive dentistry. After two years of trial and error with our team, I developed an approach that nurtures the doctor/team-patient relationship from the first phone call to walk out, and all the details in between. We brand our office as a dental spa that provides a number of complimentary amenities to help the patients to have a positive sensory experience.
The results have been astounding. Our new patient numbers quadrupled, crown acceptance increased by 55%, and we created a way to differentiate the practice so that we were more immune from price increases, insurance network changes, and even distance when patients move away. Because we provide a unique value that makes a difference in how patients FEEL, we have also created a demand that rises above other offices and circumstances. Patients are constantly leaving rave reviews about how fantastic their experiences are at our office and we have loyalty and trust that supersedes so many barriers most dentists face. Case acceptance is easier when people feel cared for, the clinical aspects of dentistry are actually easier because when people are relaxed their bodies (and mouths) are more able and expansive, and patients promote the office organically on our behalf because they enjoy telling people how unique it is. In essence, this concept (along with consistent caring and quality dentistry) has allowed us to create the practice of our dreams. We have added to our team and built a beautiful new office to accommodate our demand and growth.
In 2018, I started sharing my strategies with other dental offices that were inspired to do things better for their patients. Sometimes it involves consulting on small atmospheric changes that can make the office more efficient and beautiful and sometimes it’s training the team on how to create the same doctor/team-patient nurture sequence we have found to be so successful. Whether an office wants to become a full fledged dental spa or not, I thoroughly enjoy being able to help more dental teams help more patients. I believe that if we continue to find ways to help patients have better dental experiences, we can actually change the perception of dentistry from something most people dread to something some may even enjoy. And this is all because a school psychologist fell in love and married a dentist! I am so grateful to have fallen in love with dentistry, a field that has such a huge impact on so many people and am proud of what we have been able to create for our patients. I love connecting with other like-minded individuals who want to join the mission of creating better dental experiences!
Jessica Martin is the owner of Martin Management Consulting and co-owner of Martin Dental, a successful dental spa in Eau Claire, WI. Jessica is a licensed school psychologist and helps medical professionals understand why patients feel anxious or fear at the dentist and other medical appointments. Jessica has created strategies for dental offices to remove some of the most common barriers to dental care. She loves sharing ways to make the experience positive for every patient. Jessica has also been involved in leadership positions for two local networking organizations for the past 7 years. She has assisted 90+ business professionals thrive and be more successful.