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Ronald Silverstein is a veteran dentist and seasoned marketeer, practicing on the East Coast of the United States. Like many of his contemporaries, he started off with “drill, fill, and bill,” but unlike many of his contemporaries, he has adjusted to the new times—with success. As you will see, he’s not afraid of ruffling some feathers.

I recently received an e-mail from a dentist, who read my lament about the failure of our professional colleagues to effectively embrace the tool of marketing. This dentist seemed more upset with me, and my candid (but entirely truthful) comments about the dental industry, than the plague before us. His frustration is understandable, though more than a little misplaced. In fact, he was downright angry with me, treating me like a deliverer of unpleasant facts who should be isolated or thoroughly forgotten. All of which left me feeling like Mr. Bad News, a man with a story worth telling. Put another way, Why is the prophet always scorned, a presumed messenger of catastrophe-to-be-avoided or salvation-to-be-embraced?

This sectarian front man—a Biblical Western Union man, if you will—always meets resistance, even violent protest. And I thought my job was difficult, telling my professional colleagues that their end is near—because it is! Keep practicing dentistry without any regard toward marketing, and your career will absolutely die. Don’t believe me? Look around at all the dental schools that have closed, and read the press clippings of the schools planning to close. Folks, things are not good.

Talk about a sweetheart deal…and another example of the dental profession’s seeming blindness to reality. The very absence of most marquee dental schools—the closure of Northwestern’s dental school is a powerful case in point—should say something (it does), loud and clear: the old way of doing business, wherein students would pay high tuition for the “honor” of a prestigious degree (coupled by a readily built-in framework for getting patients), is archaic. And the really frustrating part is my own profession’s obliviousness to a problem that will only worsen with time. This problem is endemic, serious and voraciously strong, a menace we neglect at our own risk to prosperity and career longevity. Must we be this stubbornly foolish and willfully ignorant?

Believe me, I wish things were different. When I graduated from dental school, the good life was at hand: tons of patients, a growing practice, respect, influence, power and wealth. Now my colleagues struggle with mortgage payments, dwindling patients, professional obscurity and little prestige. But there is a solution, the genius of marketing.

We dentists have an incredible knowledge base at our disposal; we simply need to leverage our educational credentials with the public’s appetite for clever marketing. Not gimmicks or late-night commercials. I am referring, instead, to efforts that encourage creativity and attentiveness—the kind of awareness that anticipates and responds to trends. (See my previous article about the Halimeter® and its ability to create new business.)

There is no reason why the dental profession cannot be just as successful as any other medical industry. Our skills are real, our education highly respected and our numbers…well, they stink! But, if we pool our resources and think wisely, the horizon is truly bright. Smile! We have a profession to save.

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