I feel so fortunate to be the very first person KaVo Kerr interviewed for the KaVo Masters Podcast. I recently sat down to talk about topics like diagnosing pain, the transformation of my endodontic practice, and the development of E-School, my unique endodontic CE courses for general dentists.
If you’d rather read the highlights, I’ve pulled together a few parts of the conversation I think you’ll find most interesting and instructive.
Before we dive in, I also want to thank Benco Dental for highlighting me on the back cover of their Surgical & Quarterly as the first ever KaVo Master. I literally came home from a trip to find my own face in my mailbox. Thank you, Benco Dental, what a surprise!
Alright, let’s dive into the podcast interview!
Can you tell me about owning your own practice?
I just had my 12th anniversary as an endodontist, but you might not know I first practiced as a general dentist!
I was a general dentist in New York City after I did my GPR in Brooklyn, and I honestly could not fill my schedule. There were no full-time positions available, so I worked at a bunch of different practices to fill my week. In two years, I had nine different jobs. When I did finally find a full-time job, there was no opportunity for growth there — which went directly against one of my core values of growth.
I knew, as an associate, this kind of life wasn’t for me. So I returned to school for my endodontic residency and ended up starting my own practice in Charlotte, NC in 2008.
Now looking back, I kind of wonder how I did it! There have been a ton of ups and downs, but looking back, I wouldn’t change any of it. It has totally grown me personally and professionally, and I needed to go through that to be where I am today.
Remember, they don’t teach you business practices or visioning in dental school. I had to learn both of those skills, become vocal about it, and have invested in my colleagues and teammates along the way. I want work-life balance for myself, for instance, but I also proved to my team that I was really interested in helping them fulfill their own personal dreams, too. Culture is so important — and when you stop believing that you’re the only one who can do everything, and instead empower others to do things even better than you, your whole business thrives and grows.
Tell me about E-School, the first online endodontic CE course of its kind.
This is where I made my passion my job. I became really passionate through dental school about my own tooth story. And once I started practicing as an endodontist, I saw my same tooth story among my patients. This happens when general dentists don’t know how to diagnose endodontic pain. After all, most dental schools only have time to give students a crash course in endo.
I believe endodontics is the basis of dentistry, mainly because patients seek us out when they’re in pain. So we need to learn how to diagnose pain well, and this requires an evolution of our dental education system.
And I’m a go-getter! So I believe that evolution begins with me.
I took basically everything that I’ve learned in my decade plus of experience so I can fast-forward general dentists through the mistakes that I made. Because — think about it — we’re making these mistakes on people, and we got into this field to help people.
Everything I use in my practice — like templates, forms, trips, and tricks — is now part of E-School. It’s like a mini-residency in endodontics. Even better, I give my students lifetime access to the content so they can continue referring back to it and picking up something new.
I also know that different students like to learn in different ways. So E-School Independent is designed to allow you to DIY the course, with modules from diagnosis to obturation and beyond. But I also know there’s only so much you can put into a video, so that’s why I offer E-School with Coaching. That’s where I’m in the program with you, to help troubleshoot your specific questions.
Best of all, E-School with Coaching students are eligible to attend E-School LIVE, a unique 4-day hands-on endodontic CE course hosted in my own practice in Charlotte. At E-School LIVE, my students get the chance to perform root canals on live patients, with me standing by for in-the-moment mentorship and support. I’d love to encourage you to sign up for the waitlist for E-School LIVE, since we’re about to open enrollment in the next session in less than a week! One of my favorite things about E-School LIVE is the fact that it’s a give-back program. We provide approximately $50,000 of free dental care to the community with each event.
How have you engaged in your own continuing education?
I am a constant learner, personally and professionally. Once I started investing in myself personally, I grew professionally.
In 2015 and 2016, having just had my third child, I was on the verge of burnout. I wasn’t the best communicator or boss at that time, and I realized I needed to make changes in my own life.
I started listening to podcasts, learned how to be a better leader, read books, and started exploring how to be vulnerable. This really allowed me to grow.
What’s it like becoming a board-certified endodontist?
It’s kind of a big deal! I got boarded in 2014. There aren’t that many of us; perhaps about 15 percent of endodontists. You take a written exam, an oral exam — which was probably one of the scariest days of my life — and create a portfolio of cases.
These aren’t just your everyday root canal cases, but there are some specific criteria you have to meet for it to be an accepted case. And the kicker is, you have to have a one-year recall after the case, so you need to get the patient to come back for that visit.
It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. There’s something beautiful that comes out of re-learning everything, and it gave me a new layer of confidence to build E-School and to talk to my patients.
Tell me about A Night for Smiles.
This is my pride and joy! Back in the day, I used to watch The Real Housewives, and one of the housewives would throw a huge gala charity event. I thought to myself, “We don’t have anything like that in dentistry in Charlotte.”
One night, I went to dinner with my colleague, Dr. John Nale, an oral surgeon in Charlotte. I told him about my idea of a party with a purpose over our meals. He loved the idea, and within a week he’d booked the venue. Today, A Night for Smiles is a fundraising gala with a silent auction and a live auction benefiting local dental needs.
In our first year, we built a mean, lean committee that raised enough money to donate $75,000 — and in our second year, we raised $140,000 — all for the Charlotte community’s dental nonprofits.
Let’s talk about money. How has it played out during your career?
I don’t really think about money so much as my time and my impact.
My currency is root canals. So I think, “Okay, I could do that root canal quicker and easier than that other task, like clean my house. I’d rather spend eight hours doing eight root canals. If I do just one extra root canal, I can pay for someone to help me with my house cleaning!”
But let’s go back to year one. I know that it’s often harder at the beginning. And my experience was no exception. I didn’t take a salary my first year. And then, my goal was to keep growing, with higher numbers each year than the year before.
It’s easy to get caught in the production and collection, but that’s not where all your numbers are. The moment you start to understand you need to create goals and stretch goals, you’re keeping yourself from growth potential you didn’t even know you had! And that leads to you hitting goals you never thought you could.
If there’s anything I would have done differently, I would have actually built my practice bigger. People don’t realize how big they can get, and they think small in the beginning. I did, and now I wish my practice was twice its current size!
How did you set up your practice? What have you invested in?
In the beginning, I knew that I simply had to be available to make my practice work. I took any and every case I could, and I really hustled. I went to every dental meeting there was, and I got my name out there. That helped catapult my growth, from one patient a day to seven or eight.
Patient feedback was really key to me growing my practice. I always wanted to make sure my patients felt loved, cared for, and like they were being treated with excellence. And then they’d pass along that feedback to their dentist, and that allowed the referrals to keep coming in.
My growth was fast, as a result. In fact, I needed an associate after two years.
But it wasn’t just about how to fit more patients in, but how to become more efficient. One of the main ways I did that was to invest in technology, like my cone beam. It’s one of those secret ROIs that aren’t obvious, because it really changed my life. (Honestly, I can say the same thing about the GentleWave!)
Every handpiece I’ve ever touched since my endodontic residency has been from Kavo Kerr. They have been flawless and reliable from the get-go. I use the ELECTROmatic, and here’s a quick tooth story about that. I had to disassemble a tooth with a cast post and core. So I had to cut off the crown and then literally drill the cast down enough to where I could vibrate the post out. Usually, that eats up 15 burs. But with my trusty ELECTROmatic, it was like butter. What normally would have taken me a full hour to get out instead took me only 15 minutes.
Any time I can rely on my equipment to get me through, and keep me from being down an operatory, I’m preventing loss of production. So investing in technology really makes a difference!
Let’s wrap it up.
Such a good conversation, right? I want to leave you with this thought: everything comes down to your beliefs. When you have limiting beliefs, that will limit you. And when you change those beliefs, everything will open up for you. I’ve experienced this over and over again in my career, and I know it’s true for you, too.
I hope you’ve had some other great takeaways, like…
- The importance of investing in yourself, your technology, your team, and your vision.
- Giving back is something you can do, especially if you have a great team.
- Endodontic CE courses are one of the most important investments any dentist can make in their career, and for their patients.
- Think big and strive for excellence, and you’ll go far.
I’d love to hear from you! What are some of your favorite pearls of wisdom you gained from this interview?