Article Date: 5/1/2012

No, We Are Not Dentists
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No, We Are Not Dentists

Those who think dentists have it made should re-evaluate their practices.

Gary Gerber, O.D.

“Dentists have it made. They deal with less insurance and managed care and hardly any corporate competition. They don't continually open up new schools. And you can't fill a cavity on the Internet.”

That summarizes my recent discussion with an O.D. who lamented his plight and compared his sparse appointment book to that of his local dentist who was booked months in advance.

If you think similarly, I have news: I agree. We're not dentists. And that's a good thing. Tooth whitening or other popular cosmetic procedures can't hold a serious retail candle to a pair of high index, AR, photochromic progressive glasses. Period.

Further, managed vision care, corporate competition, new schools and the Internet are not the death knell of optometry. Let me explain.

The corporate complaint

After an initial minor dip in patient volume, our clients who practice near a large corporate retailer got busier after a new retail store opened. The reason: A few patients left these practices to see what all the buzz was about at the new optical mega store … and then they returned. This isn't a slam against corporate docs. Rather, it's pointing out that there are defined market segments from which patients rarely extricate themselves.

In fact, if private practices have a mass exodus of patients to a big box retailer, it's not the retailer's fault, it's the practice's fault. Dentists can become complacent because the majority of their competitive pressure comes from other private dentists, yet larger retailers force us to be on our game, and that's a good thing.

ILLUSTRATION BY MARK COLLINS

The Internet threat

At no time has there been as much discussion about something as seemingly mundane as “What do you do when a patient asks for their PD?” as there's been as of late. How is that possibly good? We are finally forced to examine the myriad of tasks that need to be done to avoid the patient even asking that question in the first place. More of us are putting more attention into how our opticals look, feel and perform than ever before. The Internet has turned up the heat, and more of us are finally waking up to this genuine threat — albeit an electronic one.

Getting schooled

What about the complaint, “There are too many schools graduating too many doctors” where dentistry has controlled the supply side of their industry? Simply, there aren't too many doctors. Too many doctors are doing the same things in the same areas. There are probably no major metropolitan areas that desperately need another middle-of-the-bell-curve practice. Yet, literally hundreds could use a pediatric O.D., a vision therapy O.D., a low vision O.D., a concierge service O.D., a specialty contact lens O.D., etc. More doctors will force each of us to find our own unique niches in our communities. That's a good thing for us and our patients.

Your bright future

There's more to this article than making lemonade out of lemons (lemonade has a lot of sugar and is bad for your teeth). Rather, I'm framing things from a realistic point of view to give those of us who feel beaten down and inferior to our dental counterparts hope for a brighter future — without the need for teeth whitening to brighten that future. OM

DR. GERBER IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE POWER PRACTICE, A COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN MAKING OPTOMETRISTS MORE PROFITABLE. LEARN MORE AT WWW.POWERPRACTICE.COM OR CALL DR. GERBER AT (800) 867-9303.


Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: May 2012, page(s): 18