When my colleagues ask me where my practice is, and I tell them that I work in many practices because I am mobile, they give me a blank stare. Then they usually follow up by asking, “What do you mean you are mobile?” My answer at this point would be this: “I practice in about 12 to 15 different offices, doing implant-based surgery; I am a mobile implant practitioner.”
The next response one would give is how interesting and unique this type of practice model is. Colleagues then want to know more about how I got involved in such a mobile setup, and why. The answers to many of the questions colleagues ask about the scope of my practice, as a mobile implant practitioner, are not simple. First, we must look at the overall picture of the dental practitioner in our present day, in order to better understand things.
DENTAL PRACTICE MODELS ARE VARIED AND CHANGING
During the last 2 decades, in dentistry, we have seen an increase in the number of general practitioners (GPs) and specialists. Many in the profession are saying that our field has become very saturated in all disciplines and, as a result, competition for new patients is at its highest amongst both GPs and specialists. This competition has led to changes in the ways many are practicing dentistry. In other words, more general dentists are trying to keep all of their work in-house, making every effort to avoid referring out treatment to others. In turn, the dental specialists who depend on referrals have been forced to rethink their marketing and business strategies. Based upon many discussions that I have had with recent graduates in the dental specialties who are starting a new practice, the majority of them say it takes 3 to 5 years to develop a good referral base. Some have begun to offer certain types of incentives to those who refer patients, while others have opened up satellite office locations just to stay busy. Others have been joining forces with GPs, becoming associates to gain more work in their field of specialty.
When we begin to narrow down on certain subdisciplines within the dental field, such as implantology, we are finding that pretty much every dental discipline is involved in implant dentistry on some level. From the GP to the oral maxillofacial surgeon, periodontist, prosthodontist, and (more recently) the endodontist, all are being trained in and practicing implant dentistry, at least on some level. Although there is now cross-discipline involvement in the placement of implants, I think it is safe to say that there is no such category as a dental implant specialist at this point that solely and surely limits the practice to only implant-based treatment. Yes, some of the above mentioned specialists have now focused and limited their practices to implant-based treatment, but none can be called a dental implant specialist, because no such title/specialty currently exists!
COMPETITION IS THE NAME OF THE GAME
Due to increased competition as well as the challenges in gaining referrals, we have begun to see a change in the way some practitioners practice. In particular, with regard to implantology, if a practitioner would like to limit his or her practice to dental implantology, this can be quite difficult due to all the competition and cross-discipline involvement. In my opinion, it is due to this overall business environment that we have seen a new trend in the growth of the mobile implant practitioner.
DEFINING THE MOBILE IMPLANT PRACTITIONER
What do I mean by a “mobile implant practitioner”? These practitioners limit their practices to dental implantology, and do not have traditional fixed-location practice offices. They are strictly mobile, traveling in and out of select offices of their choosing, performing implant-based procedures. One might ask why, and what is so significant about this style of practice? There are a number of interesting aspects to this. Let’s look at the benefit to the office in which the mobile implant practitioner works.
Benefits to the principal dentist (practice owner[s]) are the following:
- The principal dentist and the mobile implant practitioner can have detailed one-on-one communication with respect to the patient’s treatment plan and clinical execution, providing for an optimal treatment outcome.
- The principal dentist keeps all the treatment and revenues in his or her business.
- Patients are treated in the comfort of their own dentist’s office, which also includes the office business team, with whom they are already familiar.
Benefits for the mobile implant practitioners are the following:
- The mobile practitioners can usually stay consistently busy with a full schedule, since they are usually scheduled in these offices only a few days of each month.
- Their practices are limited to the treatment protocols that they enjoy and want to focus on (such as implant surgery and bone grafting, for example).
- They do not have to deal with the stresses of running an office, staff issues, equipment problems, and collection.
- The worry and stress of depending upon marketing plans for new patients and new patient referrals is more or less eliminated, in the traditional sense.
Many dental specialists may think that a mobile practitioner would take away from their referral base. I can tell you, from personal experience, that I do not, nor do most mobile practitioners that I know, advertise or solicit services to other dentists and/or offices. As a matter of fact, it is usually the GPs who reach out, look for, or contact mobile practitioners due to the many benefits discussed above that are realized when such a practitioner is brought into their practices.
A SYSTEM FOR MOBILITY IS NEEDED
So how does a mobile implant practitioner travel among different office locations and yet keep the dental materials used and the surgery protocols consistent? Well, there is obviously a system that one must put into place.
As I do, most mobile practitioners will travel with their own assistant and favorite instruments and equipment; this would include surgical instruments, surgical handpieces, implant motors, and dental implant surgical kits. In addition, one would have to always keep a good amount of materials in the mobile inventory, such as many different sizes of dental implants, bone graft materials, and membranes—remember that you never know what materials or sizes of implants you might need for a particular treatment. As you can imagine, this actually requires a lot of preliminary and ongoing material planning/organization.
The way I have organized all of my materials and instruments is by using Pelican cases. Pelican cases come in many different sizes, and they can be customized with internal foam inserts to fit the instruments/materials one needs to transport everything safely and effectively. For the mobile practitioner, the higher the level of organization, the higher the level of efficiency. A high level of organization also dramatically decreases any unnecessary work-related stress.
Dentistry is constantly evolving, and as clinicians, we must be able to adapt to these changes in our own innovative ways. We must also be prepared to evolve with the profession in order to stay current and competitive. The mobile implant practitioner is just one way some are adapting to the many changes taking place in our profession.
Disclosure: Dr. Aptekar reports no disclosures.