Enjoyable, efficient, effective, excellence
What can you tell us about your background?
I have a busy, single-doctor orthodontic practice in the eastern suburbs of Ottawa, Canada, a mere 5 miles from where I grew up as a child. When I was young, I was always fascinated by science. I read biographies of great scientists such as Newton, Galileo, Einstein, and da Vinci, and I used my chemistry set to create large smells and small explosions.
In grade school, my best friend’s father was a periodontist. He encouraged us to consider dentistry as a career, so that option was always somewhere in the background of my career planning. Also, my high school ski-racing coach was a dental student. When he told me, “Hey Blair, you know, dentists take Fridays off to go skiing,” that was enough for me! Done deal; sold to the highest bidder! It may seem a frivolous way to have chosen a career, but these personal considerations are often the points on which destiny turns.
After doing an honors BSc in Biochemistry at Ottawa’s Carleton University, I found myself in dental school at Western University in London, Ontario. (Sadly, no skiing to be had there!) In dental school the course that interested me was orthodontics. Much of my free time was spent observing things at the Orthodontic Graduate Department.
But a larger part of my free time was spent with a wonderful girl named Joselyn. The day after my dental school graduation, Joselyn and I were married in Oakville, her hometown just outside of Toronto.
For our honeymoon, we spent 2 weeks driving to Vancouver, where I worked as a general practice dentist and Joselyn, a kinesiology grad, worked in the Vancouver fitness industry. We spent as much time as possible skiing at Whistler. (Are you starting to notice a theme here?)
Two years later, just after we had bought our first home, each of us arrived home with some big news.
I had received a letter accepting me to the Graduate Orthodontic Program at Tufts University, 3,000 miles away, in Boston. And Joselyn had been given the wonderful news that she was pregnant!
We were stunned! We went out to a nice restaurant and just sat there in shock! What to do? Reluctantly, we sold the cute little house we really loved and moved to Boston.
Boston was a big surprise. We didn’t know much about it, so we didn’t know what to expect.
Boston is a wonderful city with so much culture and history, and the people are so nice. We loved it!
I started the Ortho grad program at Tufts in August. In October, our wonderful baby, Nicola, was born. Nicola is our only and most favorite child. She is now a third-grade teacher. As I am writing this, Nicola has just sent me the ultrasound image of her new baby! We’re going to be grandparents!
We had a wonderful time in Boston. Dr. Everett Shapiro, head of the Tufts Orthodontics Department, was loved and respected by all and ran a very happy program. Joselyn was not eligible for a work visa, so she spent her time learning early childhood education — Boston has so many great resources for that.
My message to young people having children — get Burton White’s book, The First Three Years of Life.
At the end of each chapter, there’s a cheat sheet for fathers. I found it extremely helpful.
The spring before I graduated, we had so much rain in Boston that we decided not to go back to Vancouver. Some people feel it rains excessively in Vancouver. Instead, we chose to go to my home town, Ottawa, so we could be closer to Nicola’s grandparents.
Orthodontics is an immensely rewarding career. It involves the right brain and the left brain. Smile design is art and architecture. Creating harmonious occlusion is the science of applied biophysics, an engineering project in miniature.
Spiritually, as the Buddha advised, it is “Right Occupation.” We help people to get what they want, and we spread the joy of smiles around the world. Our love of our profession and the patients we serve encourages us to continuously pursue the path of mastery. The joy of watching our young patients grow in confidence as we sculpt their beautiful new smiles is truly heartwarming.
What do you think is unique about your practice?
Digital diagnostics — we are the only Ottawa orthodontic practice using computer-scanning technology to straighten the teeth “in the computer world” before we put on the braces. Image-guided orthodontics, combined with 3D treatment planning, is like the GPS in your car. It allows me to predict and avoid potential pitfalls that could occur in treatment. We achieve our treatment goals more directly and quickly, with less stress and more comfort.
What systems do you use?
Let me start by answering this at the macro level. I am a firm believer in “systems-based” thinking. When systems are implemented in any process, the power of teamwork is amplified to produce superior patient care that is consistent and patient-centric.
Now, at the micro level, if we are thinking of systems of “orthodontic therapeutic devices,” I use self-ligating .022 brackets. I’ve been using these exclusively in my practice for the last 10 to 12 years.
In about 70% of patients, I use active clip brackets like the DENTSPLY GAC InOvation®, American Orthodontics Empower®, and Ormco Nexus™. I like the way the active clip controls rotations and allows me to correct torque.
We use passive self-ligation such as the Ortho Classic H4™ and Ormco’s Damon® brackets in about 30% of our cases. The low-friction mechanics and early use of light elastics allow me to achieve beautiful non-extraction, nonsurgical treatment no one would have dreamed of 20 years ago. We also use these techniques in our Phase I cases to create amazing, beautiful non-extraction changes for 7- to 9-year-olds.
As a side note, I am beta testing an entirely new self-ligating bracket and archwire system developed by Dr. Rohit Sachdeva, and I hope to present the results shortly.
What training have you undertaken?
I am a committed lifelong learner. Also, I encourage the ethos of a learning organization in my team. I am an ardent believer and practitioner of reflective learning as well. As recently shared with me by Dr. Rohit Sachdeva, this zest for learning is best described in the words of Ryan Hoover — “It’s the wanting that makes you a learner. That’s what absorbs you. That’s what makes you lose track of time, overcome fear, build grit, knowledge, and grow. Learning happens when you are not aware of it. It’s the wanting that makes you a mother, an inventor, a friend, a learner. When you look back at yourself 6 months from today and don’t feel embarrassed by your naiveté, there’s a problem. That means you’re not learning, growing …” Any learning that make me a better person or a better doctor allows me to make a difference in my patients’ lives. Their orthodontic care experience is improved. That will always be worth my investment in time and effort.
I love to visit an excellent clinician who gives a course in his/her own office for a few days. When you can spend time in someone else’s own environment and hangout in the evening having informal, far-ranging discussions long into the night, that’s when the real learning takes place. That is the way I learned the Herbst techniques of Dr. Terry Dischinger, which have been indispensable for many years. This allowed me to dispense with using the “headgear,” something that always gets a huge vote of appreciation from patients and their parents.
Dr. Bill Arnett’s in-office surgery course is one of the best courses I’ve ever taken. I persuaded our own surgeon, Ottawa’s Dr. Kevin Butterfield, to take this course, and now, together, we produce beautiful, stable results for our patients with more severe problems that can only be dealt with by combining orthodontics with facial surgery. I am also trained to provide care for those suffering from sleep apnea.
Who has inspired you?
Recently, we were in Toronto, listening to a speaker talk about gratitude. We have so much to be thankful for. We get caught up in our daily lives and rarely take time to appreciate what we have.
At the same time in Toronto, we were watching the unfolding tragedy of the burning of Fort McMurray.
We were inspired to be thankful for the wonderful neighbors we have, the dependable team we work with, and the people we serve and care for on a daily basis. We were inspired to be grateful for having clean water and a place to sleep. Not everyone has that. It’s not automatic. Creating beautiful smiles is a favorite conversation topic with our patients and their parents. The techniques I’ve learned from Drs. Tom Pitts and Duncan Brown in their Masters Continuum course have made differences that people really notice. They love the results.
Dr. Rohit Sachdeva is my coach. If Wayne Gretzky could benefit from having a coach, I believe every high-level professional can benefit from having a coach. Over time, daily routines can lead to complacency and overconfidence. Rohit’s insightful perspectives on life in general and orthodontics in particular have awakened my awareness of new horizons in patient care and practice management. Our intensive, weekly, 2- to 3-hour Skype sessions dissect every facet of patient care in my practice.
Rohit has shown that solutions to the most complex problems can be found by investing time in proactive planning. The key lies in reduction of complex interactions to the fundamentals of applied biomechanics. Rohit fondly calls this the “pre-mortem.” I truly believe he has awakened hidden talents within me.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your practice?
Watching our patients grow up and go out into the world armed with one of the best success tools you can give someone — a beautiful smile. We know many of them from age 7 to 17. It’s wonderful.
And then 10 or 15 years later, they’re back with their own little 7-year old. The circle of life.
Pretty cool, n’est ce pas?
Professionally, what are you most proud of?
Adams Orthodontics is a team of skilled professionals dedicated to “Patient First” care, guided by the principles of servant leadership. We are known for providing empathetic care and designing personalized smiles for our patients by using the best of the newest in image-guided orthodontic technology. Last year, we won both the Consumer’s Choice award and Faces Magazine Award for best orthodontic office in Ottawa and surrounding area.
It just wouldn’t be possible to do this without our team. They are truly indispensable.
Eleven years ago, we built a beautiful 5,000-square-foot orthodontic care center, expressly designed to have a homelike atmosphere. We spend a large proportion of our time there, and we wanted our patients and their families to feel as though they have been invited into our home.
I am truly blessed to have this great team creating gorgeous smiles with me in such a beautiful environment.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Like most orthodontists, I’m sure, our biggest challenge is assembling an outstandingly talented team. Training and retaining wonderful people who can routinely deliver memorable patient care experiences is a constant, daily project. Everyone has individual strengths and weaknesses. Nurturing the strengths and finding others to fill in for the weaknesses can be like conducting a symphony orchestra.
What would you have become if you had not become a dentist?
Architect or engineer. My parents’ worst nightmare was ski bum!
What is the future of orthodontics and dentistry?
There have always been and always will be issues that raise concerns with regard to the integrity of dentistry as a whole and the safety of the public. As the French say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Personal integrity, mastery of clinical skills, and systems that provide service excellence are the keys to success and fulfillment in any field. Focus on the pursuit of excellence.
We strive to provide “An Experience of Enjoyable, Efficient, Effective, Excellence.” There will always be clients who seek out and appreciate this level of service. There will always be those who seek the best in esthetic results and long-term healthy function. These are the people we want to serve. This is what makes us feel good at the end of the day.
Research into why people don’t adequately plan for their retirement dis-covered that many people have a “disconnect” between their “present selves” and their “future selves.” Subjects who were shown an image of themselves that had been aged to look as they would far in the future consistently increased the amount of money they intended to save for their retirement. The researchers concluded that subjects who felt more “connected” to their “future selves” demonstrated more responsible behavior.
Achievement of beautiful, healthy orthodontic results requires the full participation of a committed, educated patient who has a supportive, helpful family. Orthodontics is a team sport. There will always be those who don’t plan for the future and merely wish to avoid pain and expense in the here and now. These are not people we can count on to be part of the team. There is a place in the world for “emergency dentistry.” There is no “emergency orthodontics.” (Except for crossbites and associated cr-co shifts that are causing gingival destruction.)
What are your top tips for maintaining a successful practice?
- Let your patients and their families know that you and your team are there for them.
- Do “whatever it takes” to provide a first-class experience and first-class results.
- Keep your facility up-to-date. Provide a warm, welcoming environment for your patients, their families, and your team.
- Train, train, train. Help your team learn to provide a consistently excellent customer service experience. Read the book The E-Myth Physician by Michael E. Gerber.
- Stay current on the “best of the newest” in orthodontic techniques and technology.
- When hiring staff, hire for “nice.” You can train people to make appointments and bend wires. You can’t train people to be nice. People are “born nice.”
What advice would you give to budding orthodontists?
When I told my family dentist that I had been accepted into dental school, he told me — “Don’t make patients of your friends. Make friends of your patients. Get to know them and their families.”
You won’t be busy from Day One. Go out and meet every single dentist within 10 miles.
Find out what kind of dentistry they want their patients to have, and how they want their patients to be treated.
Communicate on a regular basis with all dentists who trust you to care for their patients. They are the contractors; we are the sub-contractors. They need to know what’s happening.
Take photos of every patient at every visit. Get into this habit before you get busy. It will save you years of chairtime. When things go off track — and they will — these photos will tell you when it happened, and how to prevent it from happening again. Experience is the ability to recognize a mistake when you make it again. We all make mistakes. Get over it, and learn from them.
You can’t provide excellent customer service without learning to manage a business.
Dr. Ron Roncone’s JSOP Orthodontic Management course is the best there is. Take it.
Dr. David Sarver’s facial esthetics course is the best. It doesn’t happen often. Grab it!
Invest in a clinical coach to sharpen your focus on the pursuit of excellence. I have found Dr. Rohit Sachdeva to be one of a rare breed. He has transformed my approach to orthodontics and my perspective on life.
What are your hobbies, and what do you do in your spare time?
Spare time? What’s that?
See favorites list.