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LocalsGuide Article: The Evolution of Soulsmile

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LocalsGuide Article: The Evolution of Soulsmile

We are always so grateful to Shields and the LocalsGuide crew when they want to interview us and help people get to know Soulsmile and the people behind it. This is the full transcript of the article that ran in the December 2017 issue of the LocalsGuide in Ashland, OR ...

ashlanddentistinterview

Hi Aron, it’s been a year since we last spoke. Tell us, what’s new with Soulsmile?

Shields, thank you for this interview opportunity. This type of support from the community has helped Soulsmile get its message out and boosted it beyond the business startup phase. Having moved mid-career from the Bay Area three years ago to start anew - I can’t express my thanks enough! We are committed to providing one patient at a time, high-tech, high-touch general dentistry with an emphasis on complex dental conditions and cosmetics. We deliver this service at a great value by really listening to our patients to come up with a treatment plan based on the patient’s wishes, and then performing in an efficient, predictable manner to achieve excellent results.

New for 2018 will be a monthly membership plan for uninsured patients, laser-assisted hygiene at no additional charge, cone beam 3D imaging for critical diagnostics, and 3D printing of diagnostic models for accurate planning and enhanced patient communication.

And personally? Congratulations on your baby girl. How is fatherhood?

Thank you! Siena is six months old and it has been absolutely wonderful. I’m most blown away by motherhood. My hat is off to my wife, Ryann, and moms everywhere. Second, I’m in love. I think about Siena all of the time and can’t wait to see her. I’m a softie already!

Starting a business brings about unexpected challenges. Would you share yours?

Right, these challenges are lifelong learning in an organic sense, as opposed to more academic learning. The two most significant areas where this has occurred for me with Soulsmile have been, first, the earning of trust in a new practice and in a new community, and, second, the development of my leadership skills.

I see that, as your “Modern Dentistry - Classic Values” slogan touches on trust.  

Yes, absolutely. That motto is eight years old now, stemming from our San Francisco office.  It’s easy to write a strong message into a vision statement, but trust is earned the old-fashioned way in dentistry. It doesn’t matter to a new patient if you’ve been practicing for a dozen years.  Making a solid connection with everyone walking through the door who values our services is at the heart of earning that trust. So I have spent a good amount of thought on earning and maintaining trust rather than assuming years of service, academic background, technology or past success will speak for themselves.

How has leadership become a learning opportunity for an experienced dentist?

To get Soulsmile where we want it, I need to become a better leader. Simple as that. Podcasts and audiobooks, which were already in my regular diet, have been perfect for improving my shortcomings in this area. Of the ten or so audiobooks I have listened to this quarter, Extreme Ownership, written by a couple of Navy Seals, was my favorite. In a nutshell, it’s about taking full responsibility for every condition, situation, and outcome.

Beyond the application of building and maintaining a high-performance team, I now see what an amazing dynamic my team members bring to our business since taking full ownership of training, working through our vision, being vulnerable to them about my own dreams and concerns, giving them a safe and fun place to work, and allowing them to express themselves and own their personal connection with patients. It’s really exciting for me to see this team becoming one of our greatest strengths.

Those points make sense, as your patient reviews often mention being very trusting of you and your team.  Do you have a particular philosophy to credit?

We feel lucky to have such great reviews from patients and humbled by their generosity. The patient experience is always on our mind. We actually have a six-star goal: a five-star review plus a willingness to refer a friend. Our patient exams are at the heart of this trust, I believe. A quote from the famous martial artist, Bruce Lee, might shed light on our approach: “No way as way, no limitation as limitation.” Lee’s philosophy rejected the idea of a preconceived response (in our application, a predetermined dental treatment plan) and mandates an open mind with no perceived limitation of what is possible. I can’t tell you how many times being open-minded, curious and communicative has uncovered a wide range of really important dental considerations, from a patient’s unexpressed desires to big life events - good or bad, to finances, to hidden dental conditions. We believe that every patient has a unique view of their dental health. Safety, comfort, dignity, beauty ... whatever the objective, it is in flux depending on a person’s situation. So our sincere goal is to have patients feel (“soul”) these positive ways (“smile”) about their dental experience.

So trust stems from focusing on listening before the big-picture plan?

Exactly. We combine what we have learned from our patients with a myriad of dental solutions - from simple to complex- to come up with an ideal plan for that patient at that specific point in their life. Sometimes the plan is even to do nothing; whatever fits the patient’s desire. Each team member is highly trained and crossed-trained so we can be nimble, often pivoting to a patient’s request while plugging in the relevant standard operating procedures that apply. This feels flexible, understanding and compassionate to the patient. But there is also an efficient and methodical backbone which gives the feeling of safety and comfort.  It also allows us to see one patient at a time and to keep fees at a good value. A patient leaving a review may not directly notice these things. Such is the case with many of our favorite businesses.

You barely mentioned technology, yet many reviews comment on this as a strong characteristic of the practice.

As Jim Collins stated in his business book, Good to Great, technology can accelerate a business beyond good, but it will not in and of itself make a business great. People will. I love technology in dentistry. It’s great for patients and the progress keeps us all engaged. Using new technology is a state of mind; it keeps you in the loop.  At Soulsmile, we don’t use technology before it is practical, tried and true. But we do continue to look for the slightest application for affordable technologies in order to stay in the mental game so that when the application of use say, 3D printing, comes full circle, we are on the train instead of looking for the station.

In your opinion, what is the least understood area of dentistry?

Dental implants. Implants are actually a group of components that are combined to create the part that the patient cares about: the tooth. Understanding the parts, prices and prognosis can be confusing. Also, a natural tooth is still the best implant. Implants are a fantastic solution for an empty space or a completely empty dental arch, but I think we need to respect mother nature and the patient’s desire to keep their natural teeth when possible and practical to do so.

What’s a question people don’t usually ask, but you wish they did?

“Here is my budget today and here is my projected budget, can you make me a three step treatment plan that will allow me to look and feel my best and keep my teeth healthy forever?”

Any particular observations from this mid point in your career?

It’s a great view from which to look around. I’ve been thinking about how my “n=” is getting high enough that what were anecdotal observations as a younger clinician have now become a large enough sample size to amount to bona fide professional experience. As mentioned, I like entering each exam and treatment with an open mind, a “beginner’s mind” in the yoga sense, and yet good clinical judgment and planning stems from solid experiences from which to confidently draw diagnosis and treatment proposals.

Lastly, I know you are an outdoor enthusiast and adventure athlete.  Any new projects?

My wife and I love the Rogue Valley as a base for outdoor activities. The dirt is perfect for riding bikes right now and there will certainly be a good amount of backcountry and Mt. Ashland shredding in the months to come. We love paddling performance stand-up paddleboards and rowing at Emigrant Lake. There are fantastic adventure motorcycle routes all around. The list goes on, and yet, I have to say, that taking Siena for simple walks in the woods might be my new favorite outdoor pursuit.

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Teeth Grinding and Nightguards

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Teeth Grinding and Nightguards

Do you ever wake up in the morning with headaches or soreness in your jaw? Have you or your dentist ever noticed chips or small cracks in your teeth? If so, you may be grinding your teeth while you sleep. Don't worry - you're not alone. Its estimated that about 30 million people in the US do the same. 

This condition, known in dental as bruxism, is not life-threatening, but it can definitely cause damage to your teeth. It is probably also disrupting your sleeping habits. In this blog we'll discuss the causes, symptoms and solutions for bruxism and how the latest dental products can help you. 

Diagnosing Bruxism

Bruxism is not typically hard to spot. Most people suspect they grind their teeth. They usually either looked up their symptoms online or have been told by friends or family that they're grinding. 

During a dental exam, we can usually tell a patient has been grinding. We look for chips and damage to the tooth enamel as well as smoothly worn surfaces. We will also ask questions about jaw pain and/or headaches. One of the most significant concerns related to bruxism is that it often is an indicator of a sleep apnea - a very serious condition. 

Identifying Signs of Bruxing and Clentching

Treatment with Nightguards

The most common way to treat bruxism is with a nightguard. In fact, up to 70% of our regular patients use a nightguard. It's one of the easiest methods of prevention! This appliance is worn in the mouth during sleeping hours to prevent grinding. Nightguards are similar to athletic guards, but thicker and more rigid. These custom appliances are made with acrylic using a professional impression, ensuring a perfect fit. 

Another advantage of a custom-made night guard is the material. Acrylic is hard (opposed to store-bought "boil and bite" type of nightguards that are soft) and discourages further biting, clenching and grinding. These are the behaviors we're trying to eliminate! An over-the-counter biteguard isn’t made specifically for you, it’s meant to fit a wide variety of jaw and mouth sizes. Unfortunately, it will never fit perfectly. 

Ask Us About It!

If you suspect that you’re grinding, ask your regular dentist for help. He or she can confirm a diagnosis and work with you to develop a treatment plan. If you're in the Ashland or Rogue Valley area, contact us at Soulsmile. You can call us at 541-482-4995 to schedule an appointment. We'd love to help you sleep better. 

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What the floss?! Soulsmile Weighs in on Recent News

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What the floss?! Soulsmile Weighs in on Recent News

Let's Talk About Flossing

Surely you've seen the headlines - "Flossing is Nonsense and My Laziness is Vindicated" or "Flossing: Government's Latest Piece of Bad Advice". All this press about flossing stems from an article published this month by the Associated Press (Read it here). Their report points out the weak evidentiary basis for floss as a method of reducing plaque and tooth decay. The American Dental Association responded saying: Trust us, flossing helps.  

In reality, the AP article is less about floss and more about evidence-based medicine. They are correct in that the published and proven evidence for the benefits of floss is poor. One reason for this is that floss has been around since the 19th-century! Recommendations for flossing are based on pretty obvious assumptions: it removes plaque from in between teeth and because plaque leads to gum disease and decay, flossing will improve these conditions. But because our medical standards have risen so greatly in the last centuries, assumptions are not enough - and understandably so. 

Anecdotal evidence and long-standing traditions have been replaced with evidence-based medicine. This approach is dependent on well-designed, controlled studies. Thus far, nobody has tackled a flossing study with the academic rigor we now expect. Why? We can only speculate. Studies like this are expensive and there is no fame or monetary reward to be found in proving out flossing. Flossing is cheap, easy to adopt and no-risk. This leaves us with anecdotes and weak evidence. Two of our leading dental associations — the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Periodontology — cited other studies as proof, but most of these studies used outdated methods or had relatively small sample size. 

Despite our agreement regarding poor studies and evidence around flossing, this does NOT mean it has been proven ineffective either. Each of your teeth have six surfaces and brushing can only clean four of them. You simply need a method for cleaning in between your teeth to properly remove all plaque causing substances that are proven to cause decay.  

We always hoped more people would talk about flossing - but not like this! At the very least, we hope this exposure will inspire researchers to conduct better studies and counteract these claims made by the AP. Oh, and by the way - even the author of the article admits he still flosses. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us directly or leave a comment. We'd love to hear from you. 

For Further Reading

This 2006 study titled, “Dental Flossing and Interproximal Caries: a System Review,” recruited 808 children age 4-13 and split them into three test segments: kids who were professionally flossed 5 days/week; kids who were professionally flossed once every 3 months; and kids who reported self-flossing at home. The research lasts 18 months and unsurprisingly, the participants who were professionally flossed 5 days/week saw a 40% decrease in the risk of cavities. 

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