To Build A Great Business, Trust Is Paramount (A Visit To The Dentist)

I cheated on my dentist and I will never do it again. This is a story about the importance of trust if you want to build a great business. It is also a story about not taking your business for granted if you've been at it for a while.

During regular times, I'd see the dentist every six months to get my teeth cleaned. Once a year, I'd get some x-rays and go from there. However, due to the pandemic, I skipped out on seeing the dentist for 18 months.

Getting breathed on with my mouth open in an indoor space for over an hour didn't seem prudent. So I waited until I got fully vaccinated before going.

In the meantime, I flossed, brushed, and rinsed religiously. I even bought a metal plaque scraper and pick to help remove any buildup. In essence, I became my own dental hygienist.

Seeing A New Dentist Out Of Convenience

I had been going to my dentist in downtown San Francisco for over 12 years. While I worked downtown, my dentist was a convenient 8-minute walk from my office. But once I moved to the western part of San Francisco in 2014, the commute to my dentist grew to 20-25 minutes each way plus parking.

My wife smartly found a new dentist on the west side of the city in 2017. So finally, after so many years, I decided to give her dentist a go this year. I felt bad about not going to my previous dentist, but I wanted to see a dentist that was walking distance from my home.

With some concern, given I hadn't been inside a building with strangers for 18 months, I went to the new dentist for a cleaning. I had to wait for about 20 minutes before being seen.

Once the hygienist started, she said, “You waited too long to see a dentist,” implying that I had poor dental hygiene. “You should have come earlier,” she went on.

I was taken aback because no other dental hygienist has ever implied I had poor dental hygiene. Further, she shared no concern about how new patients might feel coming in during a pandemic.

When providing feedback, it's generally good to balance a negative with a positive. The dental hygienist's lack of emotional intelligence was apparent. She certainly wasn't making me feel welcome.

As a business owner, I understand using dental hygienists as “top-of-the-funnel lead generators” to get patients to potentially do more dental work than perhaps needed. Having the dentist then come and agree to the “suspect areas” the hygienist finds is one of the best ways to convince a patient to do some work.

It’s kind of like a car salesman going to his manager to consult on a counter-offer. The manager then comes out to try and make the close. The one-two punch is hard to resist.

Unfortunately, I have trust issues with new dentists because I've been encouraged to do fillings pre-maturely before by other dentists. Further, I have a dentist friend who has told me stories about unscrupulous dental practices.

As a new patient, I began to have my doubts about this new place.

Couldn't Be Bothered To Explain

When the dentist came, she said that I needed a filling because my cavity broke down. Fair enough. When I calmly asked her to point out the cavity on the x-ray, she sarcastically said, “You can't see that obvious big hole?

My bad. I guess I should have been well-versed in reading x-rays! When I looked at the image, I just saw teeth with various dark and light spaces all over the place.

The dentist then said I'd probably need a crown on a cracked molar, which was a surprise. I had never gotten a crown before. Therefore, I asked her to explain the difference between a crown and a filling.

As soon as I asked her, she let out a sigh of annoyance. In her head, she was probably thinking, how dare he question my judgement. She rattled off an explanation and wanted to move on.

But I wasn't finished yet. I wanted her to explain how long a crown would take, how and what should I eat with a temporary crown, and what was the failure rate of a crown. Basic questions any reasonable person would ask.

At this point, she got up and left!

As a new or existing patient, you have the right to get your questions answered before agreeing to any procedure. This is especially true for an uncomfortable procedure that costs 5X more on average than a filling.

If you're curious, the average tooth-color filling costs between $200 – $450. The average cost of a crown is around $1,100 – $1,500. As a money guy, I can't help but want to know these things.

For the dentist to not be patient enough to answer my questions was disappointing. I did not feel comfortable enough to go back because she had lost my trust. And I'm sure she was annoyed that I didn't fully trust her by asking questions. What a waste of time.

But if your goal is to build a great business, a client's trust is extremely important. Building trust is especially important if a client has to pay money and go through an uncomfortable procedure.

I understand dental practices were particularly hit hard in 2020. However, bulldozing a client into doing things to boost revenue is not great long term. There's more to the story I won't get into.

The bottom line is that I'm returning to my original love, my dentist downtown. And now so is my wife. After 12 years of building a great relationship, leaving her for a new dentist close by was a mistake. I took her care for granted. Never again!

Building A Great Business With Trust

Different businesses build trust in different ways.

To get investors to trust in his company, the billionaire scientist behind the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine didn't sell a single share as of May, 2021. And of course, Uğur Şahin, was one of the first to take his own vaccine.

To get customers to keep coming back, Nordstrom's has a “no questions asked” return policy. Legend has it a customer in the ’70s successfully returned car tires to Nordstrom—the funny thing being that Nordstrom doesn’t sell tires.

Staying Consistent

For Financial Samurai, given I'm not a public person and don’t charge to read anything, the main way I’ve built trust is by consistently writing useful content since 2009. Over the years, I've developed an archive of over 2,000 posts that share my thoughts on almost every personal finance topic imaginable.

Keeping up a 3X a week publication schedule with two little kids at home during a pandemic is also an exercise in trust-building. Goodness knows I wanted to quit many times. But during uncertain times, I felt it was more important to keep on writing about personal finance.

After writing for so long, it's easy to take for granted the new readers that stop by every day through search. It’s easy for me to think they should know about XYZ because I’ve written about the topic before. But from their perspective, they don't know who the hell I am, what I’ve done, or what I stand for.

Therefore, my dentist experience reminds me never to take new readers for granted by writing thorough posts, providing guidance to previously written posts, and responding to comment questions.

Investing In What I Believe

When it comes to investing, I'm consistently putting my money where my mouth is. Otherwise, writing about investing eventually becomes pointless jibber jabber.

For example, after writing, How To Predict The Stock Market Bottom Like Nostradamus on March 18, 2020, I invested a healthy sum between March – April 2020. I then decided to purchase a new house around the time I wrote, Real Estate Buying Strategies During COVID-19, in mid-2020.

Today, I'm no longer investing new money in the S&P 500 because I find valuations to be excessive. But I've been thinking this way since the 4,100 level.

Instead, I'm investing in a commercial real estate opportunity, a venture debt fund, and paying down some mortgage debt.

I'm also bullish on the U.S. housing market for the next several years, although the pace of price growth should decelerate. If I could own more single family rentals, I would. Alas, money is finite.

And If I'm wrong about my beliefs, I'll tell you through an update. You’ll also get to clearly see whether my actions worked out or not by observing how assets perform over time. There's really nowhere to hide if you take a public stance. All this, and I'm not even in the investment advice business.

To be more balanced, I may write posts like how I bought a vacation property a year before the bottom fell out. Its value still hasn't fully recovered today. So sad.

Or maybe I'll keep things real and share things like the negatives of early retirement nobody likes talking about. I could have pretended everything was hunky dory after leaving finance. But that wasn't the reality.

Using Products I Recommend

I was recently listening to a personal finance blogger on a podcast who said he works with over 500 advertising partnerships. I was blown away because how can someone ever get to know or use that many products? The answer is he doesn't.

He hires freelance writers to write search engine optimized content to rank well in Google. It's a smart strategy that is making him a lot of money. Google can't really tell if an author has expertise or not.

However, it's a hard strategy for me to get behind because I like to meet with or speak to the people behind the product. Then I like to try out their product to ensure it's legit. I've been burned before, so I certainly don't want readers to experience the same.

My strategy of only writing about things I believe in is not good for revenue maximization. However, it feels good to the soul. And hopefully, it builds trust with readers as well.

Great Business Owners Don't Get Complacent

Unfortunately, the longer you live, the more bad (and good) things will happen to you.

You'll either get ripped off by a company, invest in a bad stock tip from an acquaintance, get stabbed in the back by a colleague, get passed up for a promotion or a raise that your manager promised, and so much more. As a result, you will naturally find it harder to trust new people.

Once we accept that trust gets harder to come by, if we want to grow a great business, we must work harder to build trust. Resting on our laurels because we have a lot of experience, positive reviews, or a booming business is dangerous. Instead, we should stay humble and pretend like we’re just starting out.

If you are acquiring new customers, please spend enough time to make them feel comfortable with your services or products. Once you gain your customer's trust, they might become customers for life. Further, you might gain an evangelist who tells all their contacts how great your business is.

Related: Reflections On Making Money Online Since 2009

A Great Business Can Be Anything You Want

Finally, I've come to realize a great business can also be defined in many different ways. Some people measure a great business in terms of the number of employees, revenue, profitability, or impact.

Somewhat selfishly, I think a great business is something you enjoy doing that buys you and your family more freedom. In other words, I much prefer owning a lifestyle business that charges customers nothing and has zero employees over a business with lots of employees and many moving parts.

As soon as I start feeling like my business is taking away too much of my freedom, I re-strategize. And one such strategy is to take a good long sabbatical after the 4th of July weekend.

For those of you trying to build a business, good on you! A day job is much easier than being an entrepreneur.

You're never going to get everybody to like you or your product and that's OK. But if you can build trust through consistency, even your naysayers have no choice but to respect you.

Related: Why I'll Always Regret Selling My Online Business For Millions Of Dollars

Readers, what does a great business mean to you? Anybody have a bad dental experience before? I just learned that the University of Pacific Dental School charges $119,000 a year in tuition. If you are a dentist, I'd love to know your thought process behind wanting to become a dentist.

For more nuanced personal finance content, join 50,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. Everything is written based off firsthand experience. 

40 thoughts on “To Build A Great Business, Trust Is Paramount (A Visit To The Dentist)”

  1. Anonymous Dentist

    As a dentist, I am disappointed to hear of your experience but not entirely surprised. While not excusing the dentist’s behavior, it is quite possible that she was having a very bad day. At least I hope that is the case. Dentistry can be a very taxing profession and I can imagine a scenario where you questioning her sent her over the edge. We work in millimeters and in a part of the body that first and foremost requires a lot of trust for patients to give us access to and secondly, that patients are very esthetically concerned about (for good reason). Dentists have to run a business in the sense that they need to be able to keep the doors open but also be social enough to retain their patients. Their main goal is the oral health of their patients; the mouth is many times the site that systemic diseases and cancer are first observed. The day you saw this dentist, she was at least being stressed by financial concerns, staff concerns, multiple patients in chairs at the same time and who knows what personal issues. This does not excuse her behavior in any sense. You certainly did not ask any questions that you did not deserve answers to. What else can I tell you? I guess the bottom line is that everyone is different and this goes for dentists as well. You want to find someone who went into dentistry because they love saving teeth, helping patients maintain optimal oral health and are ethical. As another dentist here noted, I would recommend staying away from practices owned by a chain company that simply employs the dentist since they are in it mainly as a business. I’m happy that you are are comfortable with your dentist downtown; this is the type of person we all need.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I was the second to last patient at 4:30pm, so yes, probably a long day for her.

      Good to know on disease and cancer first getting observed in the mouth a lot of times. I really care a lot about oral health, which is one of the reasons why the hygienist push felt a little manufactured.

  2. I had a dentist I thought was a rock star. Tons of the old arcade games in the game room, very attractive secretary’s and hygienists, and the waiting room was always full. He talked me into getting my front teeth capped. Said I’d look like a movie star. I was in my twenties so don’t laugh at me to hard.
    Anyway, I had the procedure done and one of the caps fell off a couple weeks later while I was fishing in Alaska. The dentist there got me right in and after examining the work my rock star dentist did told me to never go back. The guy does shoddy work that wasn’t necessary.

    I switched to my wife’s dentist who agreed with the Alaska dentist diagnosis. Had to redo all my original dentist work but my current dentist did it over a 5 year period. He said wait till they break than I’ll fix them. His policy is X-rays once a year but he lets me go to 18 months.

    No video games, not hot hygienist but my teeth are better than ever.

    P.S. he has all but 1 of the employees he had when I started going to him over 20 years ago. That’s the sign of a good businessman!

  3. Heh I have 2 dental stories, one identical to yours and another one which is in support of this article on trust! I have been fortunate enough never to have had a cavity.. I definitely eat alot of sweets, but always brush twice a day every day. Anyway as a kid I used to see one of the best dentists in the city for as long as I can remember. After growing up and seeing a dentist less regularly I ended up moving away for about 15 years and during that time saw a new dentist in a downtown office. Very similar negative experience, the tech first told me I had problems, then proceeded to ram the sharp scrapper into my gums causing them to bleed and hurting more than I had ever felt at a dentist. Then the dentist came and told me I had 4 cavities, I questioned him and he backtracked and said I had 2 cavities and 2 “stainings”.. anyway I felt so uncomfortable I just got up and walked out. Even the front desk staff was in on this scam, as she yelled at me as I was walking out “Are you sure you dont want to fix your cavities?” I then went and saw a family friend who took additional x-rays and told me I had no cavities at all.

    Anyway when I moved back to my hometown about 15 years later I was seaching for a dental practice for my kids and on a whim looked up my old dentist when I was kid. There was still a practice under the same name and we went to it and it was almost identical layout because I remember playing the video games in the front lobby! His son was now running the practice and we have now sent our kids to him ever since and will never change. One time I went and told him this story and the younger son said “My Dad is still practicing would you like to see him?” I was amazed and walked over and saw my old dentist that I hadn’t seen in about 20 years!! Same guy and voice. He didn’t remember me, but no doubt he ran an honest and proud family business. Nothing better than trust and I would happily pay more out of pocket just to see him and not worry.

  4. Alex Hamilton

    Sam, I must confess I actually drive slightly more than an 1 hour to go to a dentist I have seen since 2012 and trust immensely. I have tried to find a local dentist but each time I am sorely disappointed. I have had so many bad dentist experiences here in SF specifically, including one trying to push Invisalign on me at a significant mark up far beyond market value. My belief is the rise in wealth here in SF has prompted a lot of providers who operate a mostly cash business to attempt to grift whom they perceive as the new wealthy clients. (See also: reasons for stealth wealth.) I have friends who have told me similar experiences here in SF trying to find an honest, respectable dentist.

    Finding any excellent healthcare provider these days – cherish them because they are few and far between.

    I ended up getting Invisalign years later with an excellent provider whom I trusted NOT in SF.

  5. Getting sick with covid and still having long term effects, I saw a ton of doctors in the last year and half. Very few had the patience or time to answer all my questions, which I had a lot. They basically want to get you in an out in 10 minutes and move on to the next person. My point is that the few that took the time I really appreciate it and even wrote good reviews online, when normally I wouldn’t bother. So a couple of extra minutes or some extra care is good for a practitioner or any business owner.

  6. Canadian Reader

    Ugh- I have to find a new dentist because we are in a new city. I used to go to a clinic run exclusively by dental hygienists who would do excellent cleanings with lower fees because there was no actual dentist on the books. They also allowed for direct insurance billing. Then, whenever I go to my home city, I see the dentist at the office where my sister works as a “treatment coordinator.” I trust him and the prices are reasonable because we are friends and family. Anyway, if you’re comfortable with skipping the x-rays for just for in-between cleanings, you could see if hygienist run clinics are an option in your area.

    Side question- why do some of your commenters have pictures attached to their name and others don’t? For example, I don’t see any option to add a picture of myself if I wanted to.

  7. Ms. Conviviality

    It took two bad crowns before I went on a serious search to find the best dentist in town. I didn’t care if they charged more as long as they did good work. The way I see it, fillings/crowns become permanent parts of my body and not so easy to replace. It is best to have it done correctly the first time. I did find the best dentist. She always points out areas on the x-ray, without me having to ask, and explains what she sees when she notices work that I need done. She also offers up options and timelines on how long I can possibly hold off the procedures. On top of all this, she’s friendly and funny. It was surprising how difficult it was to find a good dentist. There were plenty of websites rating dentists and I’m aware that most people only complete reviews when they’ve had bad experiences but the circumstances shared were enough to steer me clear of the majority of dentists.

  8. A good dentist you can trust is very important. I’ve had the same dentist for 15 years now and I never once felt pressured to do unnecessary work. I have a mouthful of implants, fillings, bridges ect… from childhood through my early twenties. Other dentists have always pressured me to replace older bridges with implants just because. I literally have a bridge in my mouth that was put in place when I was 12. (now 41). He has never once mentioned replacing it because it’s perfectly functional and not visible to anyone except me when I’m brushing my teeth mouth agape. He’s more of an adult dentist, but I’m seriously considering moving my daughter to him. Her current kid dentist has found 12 cavities in her baby teeth and they spend zero time actually cleaning her teeth.. just repeatedly take X-rays every visit and point to obscure things on x-rays between teeth saying they look like or are potential cavities. I’ve seen times where one dentist in the office will find a cavity.. then another the day of will say… I see 4 more on this xray we should get out of the way now too.

    It’s my daughter, and we have great insurance.. pays 90% of the bill… so I usually just go along with it. But I’m really starting to feel taken with unnecessary fillings in baby teeth that are going to fall out sooner than later. She also has of fear of the dentist now, because the constant x-rays every visit make her gag with the bites they place in your mouth.

  9. FS, sorry about that ‘new dentist’ experience, I had one identical to yours. I really felt bullied, and the sarcasm and impatience had the opposite effect on me. I kept searching for another dentist who would do a simple cleaning without the guilt trip or upsell, and am happy now with my dental professional.

    But I did get rolled, after moving to a new area and a several year (ahem!) gap in care. They saw I had insurance, and took full advantage. In fact, they told me ‘it won’t cost you that much for the co-pay, why are you being so cheap?’ Yes, they really said that! Redoing a filling (“I won’t do a cleaning, unless you get these fillings redone.”) seemed like an inconvenience, but I agreed. The ‘crown’ game was also played on me, and the front-desk staff was eager to book me for the work. Don’t know if you were recommended for ‘tooth scaling’ but it is a pretty common recommendation and this ‘new dentist’ and they turned it into a four-visit procedure.

    Only after discussing this with a long-time friend who is a dentist, did he tell me that my treatment was really based on the ability to bill insurance. Ugh! Well, glad you are back with your old and trusted professional!

    1. “Why are you being so cheap…” bad sales technique! lol

      Think I’ve heard of tooth scaling once before, but don’t know what it is. Will look into it and learn how to read teeth x-rays better via Youtube before going to my next dental visit!

      It must be interesting going from only focusing on being a dentist to then trying to run a business as well. I’ve got to imagine that some dentists have a tough time with this transition.

  10. Sam,

    I work in the medical field, keep this is mind.

    Medicine- Diagnosis hard. Treatment easy

    Dentistry- Diagnosis easy. Treatment hard

    May be why the dentist felt like their authority was being questioned, i.e, you can’t see that big hole.

    1. Interesting saying. I would think in Dentistry, the diagnosis is relatively easy and so is the treatment, unless the teeth and gums are really messed up.

      I just don’t think asking a health provider to explain why before proceeding is harmful. Patience is a virtue.

  11. Dentists are some of the most sleazy people I’ve ever met. Some are VERY good at their job and are ethical. Others just want to make a buck, it was ridiculous.

    The United States dentists, especially. You are legally allowed to refuse x-rays. However, good luck finding a dentist who doesn’t mind you refusing an x-ray. When I refused an x-ray, one dental hygienist took such offense at that that when she did my flossing at the end, she ended up stabbing my gums to the max and causing more blood to come out from my gums than I ever experienced from a flossing before. It was absolutely ridiculous. I wanted to report her to the dental authorities but turns out, that’s another complicated process to do so.

    Stay safe out there. If you want to refuse x-rays and take the subsequent health risk of refusing the x-ray, please do so. If you don’t want to take the risk, then please take the x-ray. However, at the end of the day, it should be your choice.

    I can’t imagine how much unnecessary radiation I put into my body as a result of bad dentists.

    1. Are you serious?
      Do you also refuse to fly or live at sea levl?

      1. David @ Filled With Money

        I know the radiation dosage from dental x-rays is tiny. The point is, the radiation dosage is *cumulative*.

        If I don’t *need* the radiation, I ALWAYS refuse it. I time my x-rays so that I get it once every two years or so, I don’t need it once every year, let alone once every six months like how my dentists wanted to get.

      1. Dr. Remoulak

        I push back on x-rays as well, completely unnecessary unless you’re having pain/issues and *potentially* dangerous over the long term. My dentist once pushed back and said “how can I know if there are not problems with things I can’t see?” My response was, “why doesn’t my family doctor ask for an x-ray every time I see him, and how does he help diagnose things he can’t see without them”? Try it, you may get an interesting and amusing look from your dentist.

  12. Hi Sam,

    I, too, had an unpleasant experience with a dentist. But my dentist was not condescending like yours. Instead of being defensive, your dentist should have taken the time to answer your questions in a professional manner.

  13. Hey!
    I’m curious about a side note you mentioned – the price of SNP 500. By which metrics you judge if it’s overpriced or not?


  14. Cris Shepard

    I see this differently. I am a dentist and my practice has recovered very nicely from the pandemic. Trust goes both ways. New patients come in all the time who put dentists in an impossible spot. Usually, the patient is younger, has a solid career, and limited dental restorative history. The patient doesn’t want to be told that they have any dental problems and will get defensive when informed. By you asking to see the area of decay on the radiograph and seeming to demand failure rates of restorations, it reminds me of several interactions I have had with patients who don’t want to do treatments to help problems they have in their own mouths. Being compared to used-car salesmen is why I take an intra-oral photograph, plop it in front of the patient, and ask if they want this ugly-looking tooth fixed?

    Why go see a new dentist if you won’t accept what they find and challenge them to “prove to you” the problem they found? Would you have chested-up to your long-time dentist if he/she diagnosed the same treatment? I doubt it. Now how you were treated by the hygienist and how the dentist walked out when you asked follow-up questions sounds unacceptable. That isn’t what I am arguing. But can you honestly say you approached that dental visit openly and fairly?

    1. I see your perspective.

      I used to think it was OK to ask a question for clarity before proceeding. But it seems like this may not be appropriate with some dentists.

      How would you suggest a new patient go about feeling comfortable with a new dentist and suggested procedure?

      I approached the new dentist in a calm and professional manner. All I did was ask her to point out the cavity in the x-ray. There is a screen in a room that shows all of us the x-ray results, including the patient.

      If a patient is discouraged to ask questions, why is the monitor there? I’m an inquisitive person who likes to understand things.

      I’m older with plenty of dental work in my history. Money isn’t the issue. And for the car salesman example, I was thinking of buying a new car situation actually, at the Porsche dealer, if that helps!

      At the end of the day, everything is rational. It was clear the dentist didn’t value our business enough to explain things clearly, so we rationally left.

      1. Cris Shepard

        Totally understand. Bottom line is that you didn’t feel comfortable and for good reason. I have no problem asking for the dentist to show you the cavity on x-ray. My argument is that even if the dentist answered all of your concerns satisfactorily, you already seemed thrown by the hygienist saying you were overdue for a cleaning, your hygiene was suspect, and you were probably surprised that the dentist found some restorative work that needed to be done. Would the dentist’s answers really have made a difference in you having the work done?
        That brings me to my previous question. Would you have hit up your old dentist for stats on crowns and to show you decay on the radiograph? Or did you want to be praised for your dental hygiene from the hygienist and told from the dentist that you had no work that needed to be done?

        1. I definitely would have asked my old dentist to teach me about a crown, how it works, it’s pros and cons, etc. And she would have totally explained everything to me as we. She rocks. I just love to learn. Do your patients not ask about how crowns etc work?

          I might be an outlier. Bc I also like to write and teach as well. We only have so much time to learn one or two professions well. I sometimes wish I could learn multiple professions well, but I can’t. So I appreciate talking to experts on subjects.

        2. David @ Filled With Money


          What Sam is trying to say is that if the dentist answered all Sam’s questions satisfactorily, that would have made all the difference in the world.

        3. As a patient, we have the right to ask questions before opting in for a procedure. Do you expect us to just google for the answers instead of asking the doctor? Are we not supposed to ask questions? I had a deep cleaning and asked my new dentist questions probably during the entire exam time. He was happy to answer.

          You sound kind of defensive from your dentist point of view. But look, Sam probably would’ve done the procedures if his doctor took the time to answer his questions.

          Btw, dr Gordon Wong and dr Herbert Hu in SF rocks! Been going to dr wong for years. He’s super honest. Dr Hu is good too. I’ve been to another dentist who just wanted me to get gum surgery and dr hu fixed my issues with just deep cleaning and monitored my condition and taught me how to better care for my areas of concerns.

    2. I understand times were hard in 2020, but don’t be so aggressive in trying to win more business by bulldozing over patients.

      Please have more empathy for new patients who have not seen the dentist during the pandemic. I certainly haven’t

      Patients are looking for guidance, encouragement, and trust. Not to feel like they are wasting a dentist’s time.

      I hope all your future patients get treated well and receive the support they deserve.

      As a dentist, you should be the better person. Nobody likes to go to the dentist! Don’t make it even worse.

      And yes; I’m sure you have encountered arrogant know it all patients who really don’t know what they are talking about. Be the wiser if you want to have a bigger business.

      1. I like to go to the dentist. I suppose I’m lucky with good teeth genes, but I also do what they say. Brush, floss, 2-3 time a day. Its easy. I haven’t had an issue with my teeth in over 15 years. Every time x-rays come out well, and teeth are clean.

        I also have been to 5 different dentists in my time thus far. My last dentist I used for 10 years. I Will be looking for number 6 shortly as I just moved to a new state. I think the key is treat them with respect like any other professional and/or service, and they will treat you the same.

        I can’t imagine it’s fun looking into people’s mouths day in and out and asking simple questions like do you brush and floss…the patients says yes, when the hygienist or dentist can clearly see otherwise.

        In reference to the explanation versus treatment. I agree. Why would you do anything without understanding it. I don’t think its a challenge to ask someone why. In fact if they can’t articulate the reason why, they might not be the correct person for the job.

        Seems odd overall that there would be attitude on either side.

  15. Thanks for the reminder to not take new clients for granted. I bet the dentist simply lacked perspective. The dentist and the staff were probably one of the first to get vaccinated. They’ve also therefore been seeing many patients find the whole thing routine.

    However, it is totally understandable for new patients who haven’t seen a dentist in a while to be a little apprehensive. Dentists should spend this time being MORE patient and MORE caring, not less.

    I bet her practice is backed up too with pent-up demand. But yes, good bedside manners from dentists, doctors, etc is so important.

  16. Albert Jeans

    My wife recently had to have an implant done. We both see the same general dentist, a high school classmate of mine, and he has his go-to set of referrals for implants, root canals, etc. So he referred her to his implant friend for the extraction and implant. I’ve had two implants done by this guy and never had a problem before. My wife is more price conscious than I am (i.e. frugal) and when she questioned them about various procedures and costs she was treated disdainfully which made her even more suspicious. Apparently he did an unnecessary bone graft during the tooth extraction which cost an extra $1200, and also unnecessarily gave her general rather than local anesthesia, another $600. They also insisted on being paid up front and then refunding any insurance money later. So my wife went shopping and found another very highly qualified implant dentist who was much cheaper and more transparent about what would be done, and that dentist is doing the implants (now 2) and subsequent crowns as well. That dentist treated my wife with respect and knew the meaning of customer service, whereas the other dentist treated his patients like products on an assembly line. So like you said, business owners can never afford to be complacent. Once you lose customers, you’ll never get them back, and word gets around.


    1. The temptation to make the short-term money is high indeed.

      However, if your intention is to grow a long-lasting business, then focusing on elongating the customer’s lifetime value is smart.

      Ideally, you want people coming back for the rest of their lives and referring all their friends.

      Hit and runs are no good for sustainability.

  17. Nuts! This is also why I have been going to my same dentist for near 16 years now. He doesn’t push for fillings, crowns or other big ticket items HL until it is absolutely necessary. I’ve had a cavity that we have been “watching” for 4 years!

    Meanwhile my wife who had “cavities” all the time as a kid and teen no longer has any “issues” even with the same dental hygiene practices.

    Your spot on about trust in all business’. Keep up the good work and enjoy the sabbatical!

  18. Augh sorry you had such an awful experience. I’ve seen six or seven dentists over the course of twenty years. I didn’t trust several of them and several others were just weird, impatient, or curt. I stopped going to the dentist for about a year and a half as well due to COVID. That’s lame your hygienist so clueless and lacked empathy especially when you were a brand new patient.

    I had to change dentists for my son after a horrific visit with a dentist who should be ashamed to be in pediatrics. He had absolutely no idea how to talk to or handle kids. Thankfully his new dentist is amazing.

    Trust is certainly huge in dentistry and any business. Great post!

  19. Matthew Stegemiller

    I retired from Dentistry 2 years ago at age 59. Reason? I had enough money, I was burnt out, and my hands were beginning to lose fine dexterity. It was time and I was fortunate to sell my practice and real estate pre-Covid.

    Trust is a huge factor in the success of a dental practice. It has to be earned over time. Often on an initial exam I would multiple issues of varying priority. I would inform the patient fully but then say something like “Since we’ve just met, I’d like to delay some of more minor issues and we’ll take second look later.” Of course any issues that would clearly worsen in 6 months needed to be scheduled.

    This communicates to the patient that you’re not just trying to get into their wallet. And I never was.

    The current crazy state is driven by the high cost of a dds degree (more than med school). People are graduating with so much debt then need another $600k to buy or set up a new practice. When this becomes impossible they may find themselves working for a corporation with monthly production goals. Unmet, they are shown the door.

    It’s gotten worse over the course of my career.

    1. Congrats! I can’t believe The University of The Pacific Dental School charges $119,000 a year in tuition now!

      What was it that attracted you to dentistry? What do you think attracts most people to get a DDS degree?

      1. Matthew Stegemiller

        I had an awesome gentle dentist growing and I asked my Mom if she thought I could be a dentist. She encouraged me. I learned some mechanical skills watching my dad fix our cars (7 kids, gotta pinch those pennies.)

        Leaned toward biology and chemistry (math challenged). Was inspired by a great professor at IU to study microbiology. Couldn’t decide which way to go so one day a said screw it, I’m sick of trying to decide. It’s dentistry. So I walked into the undergraduate counseling office for med/dent and announced that I wanted to take the DAT. They said that’s great the deadline was 3 days ago. Next year pal!

        Worked for a year selling ads for the local newspaper and saving money. Sold my 1977 VW Rabbit and that bought me my first semester. My wife put me through the next 7 semesters- cheap apartment in sketchy neighborhood, public transportation, camping for fun. We got me through with only $5k debt.

        Dentistry take an unusual combination of a diverse set of skills. You have to be a decent student i.e. able to pass Organic Chemistry. You have to have way above average hand eye coordination and spatial abilities. Every year some of the best test-takers wash out when they find they can’t look at an object in a mirror upside down and rotate the situation in you brain. You have to be able to run a small business with absolutely no training from dental school. You have to be outgoing and genuine and have a sense of humor if your patients are going to like you. You have to get along with a staff of usually women. (I had 5 older sisters so I went in prepared.)

        Gotta have all the above for success- lots of practices are limping along missing a few of the above. Like the one you visited.

        1. Wow! You rock! Thanks for sharing your dentistry background. So awesome!

          “ Every year some of the best test-takers wash out when they find they can’t look at an object in a mirror upside down and rotate the situation in you brain.”

          Holy crap! Didn’t think of this. Definitely sounds hard!

          And I have to say, kind and patient doctors and dentists are the best. We patients are already coming into the office in a vulnerable state. Being able to reassure a patient is HUGE.

      2. Adrian Krulewecki

        I was born in Argentina, moved to the USA in 1988, and went to dental school at USC. I retired from dentistry last December, I’m 56 years old. I owned a large dental practice in the Central Coast of California, focusing mainly on seeing Hispanic patients. Why did I choose dentistry? I like science, like social interaction with people, and have good hands skills. Coming from a family that runs a successful business in Argentina, I had the understanding early on in my career that to have good hand skills or be knowledgeable in science was not good enough. I understood that customer service, good reputation, transparency, and finding my niche were going to be the key to have a successful practice. I found a practice with 3 operatories for sale for 25K from a retiring doctor. Bought it with borrowed money. I moved multiple times in town and sold an 11 operatories practice for 1.9 million. Dentistry is an amazing profession, it gives you independence and freedom. I love to travel and I needed more freedom to do it without having to go back to work. I built a house(fully paid) in Mexico and made this my base to travel. I thank dentistry for giving me the opportunity to realize my dream, retire young, and have the freedom I need. It breaks my heart to hear ugly stories about dentists, but they are real. There is so much to do in dentistry to earn a decent salary, so the question is why bad customer service or dubious proposed treatments are reported? My take is that dentistry, like any other profession or business, comes in multiple shades and flavors. The market will dictate the success stories and the failures, it is up to the consumer to become educated, YES to ask questions and decide the right fit. Human nature will appear in EVERY field of consumption, including medicine and dentistry. You have the good ones and the bad ones. You, as a consumer will decide where to spend your hard earned money.

        1. Tell the truth you piece of shit Dr. Adrian. Tell everyone what really happened. Fellow comrades, he is one of the biggest scumbags that walks the earth, if you don’t like Dentists, you really won’t like this guy. He’s retired in Mexico because he shagged his stupid dental assistant, (25 years plus younger YUCK) abandoned his two adopted children and wife of 25 years, cooked his books and kept all of that information from the courts during his divorce proceedings, and stole all the cash from his practice from his cash paying Mexican clients and built a house in some crappy place in Mexico away from the US Courts and his deserving family. Then you know what he did? He denied ever having children, joined a Facebook group called “child free”, (DESPICABLE) and then took his money to Mexico and sold his practice all under dark secrecy, ignoring the court order to ever pay alimony child support and his wife who will never get half of the value of that practice of which she completely built. He’s a loser. She had to help him get through dental school because he was lazy and didn’t want to do anything with his life. She built that practice into what it was and managed it beautifully. Then one day he just decides to fuck someone else, deny his children, never see them again,destroy their lives and run away to a foreign country where she can’t get to him and his money. He’s a criminal, he’s left his family in destitution and emotionally ruined. Did I mention one of his kids is special-needs?

          He should’ve never been able to sell that practice, it was half hers and he stole that money from her. He’s a criminal, he has the worst character that you could imagine, and his narcissistic behavior is going to catch him someday. He will get all that he deserves. He’s “retired”because he needed to flee from the United States to avoid his responsibilities to his family. May you rot in hell Dr. Adrian!

          TELL THE TRUTH! You are a despicable man.

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