By Dr. Jess (Singer) Shapiro

I’ll never forget my periodontal rotation in dental school. During the first surgery that I assisted with, I turned green and nearly passed out. From there on out, I thought, “this isn’t for me.” Dental surgery was just never on my radar. 
 
With implants specifically, I only had so much exposure in dental school. Sure, we had a lot of didactic instruction, but less access to patient surgeries during our day-to-day clinic. 
 
Diving back in after a rough start 
 
Fast forward to my first month at Aspen Dental. I was working on extractions to an extent, but I knew my practice owners—who were also my mentors—placed a lot of implants. Even though I’d expressed my hesitation, they insisted they were excited to teach me with hands-on training, so they began calling me into their big cases. 
 
After a few pushes and encouragement, I started to do more surgical procedures and something started to click. It began to feel easier and there was less of the unknown. During the first implant placement I led, what my owner doctor called “a greenlight case,” he was by my side handing me the tools I needed and walking me through every step. From there, I was hooked —and I wanted more! 
 
More training did the trick 
 
I placed about 8 implants with my mentor docs before attending the formal implant training program with Aspen Dental in Alabama. At the course itself, I placed 12 within three days! Another great component of the training was that it took place at a small clinic that serves many vulnerable populations, making it almost feel like a mission trip. It was a powerful experience to bring our services to such communities.  
 
We also had residents on site who worked side by side with us helping out with just about anything. There was a nice camaraderie between the visiting doctors and the local residents. 
 
Ongoing support on speed dial 

 
I’m someone who is really proactive about seeking out help and support. What’s awesome is, I now have Dr. Rawal (SVP of Implant Support Services), Dr. Burr (Dir. of Clinical Support, Implant Services) and Kyle (Division Dir. of Implant Support) on speed dial.  I reach out to them for any question I may have or success I want to share. Their team as a whole has been beyond exceptional in terms of responding, sharing educational resources, and providing all kinds of support. 
 
There’s a lot that went into this journey, getting me to where I’m at now. Sure, my confidence has played a role, but my team’s confidence is just as key. It’s important as practitioners and leaders that we exude confidence in our skills so our team is excited and aligned with our goals and practices.  
 
Building an “implant culture” 
 
Now, I’m placing anywhere from 10 to 20 implants a month, and I hope to keep it consistent as all of our patients deserve the most exceptional care that we can provide. This growth is largely due to both team culture and word of mouth.  
 
There wasn’t always an “implant culture” at my office, where the team kept implants top of mind when speaking with patients. Now, if patients come in and they’re missing teeth or in need of dentures, implants are a conversation that starts with my dental assistants—not with me. The key to this was involving my team in implant education and the life-changing impact dental implants have on our patients. With this development of culture, most patients are leaving and scheduling their next appointment for implants. Our team has broken the barrier of discussing implants with our patients.  
 
Additionally, building a great patient experience is truly the gift that keeps on giving. So many new patients come in because someone they know told them to come to us. They’ll say, “I spoke to my friend and they loved you guys and got implants here, so let’s do it.” That in itself is a really rewarding thing to hear.  
 
Best advice for doctors starting their implant journey 
 
What I tell doctors now, especially before embarking on formal training, is to make sure you master surgical extractions, tissue management and socket preservation. If you don’t know how to do those well, you won’t get enough out of the course. Once you’re confident in those areas, that’s really the hardest part—placing an implant on a healed ridge with a guide will be easier than you think.  
 
At the same time, know your limits, especially when you’re navigating through surgery. It’s okay if you realize you can’t do something—acknowledge that, find another solution, reach out for help and believe in your potential! 
 
 
Interested in learning more about what your own implant journey can look like at Aspen Dental? Reach out today to get the conversation started!