Dental Struggles and Positive Perspectives

Shaun Keating CDT + Dr. Frank Clayton DDS

Being a dentist is a difficult yet a rewarding career path. From being an “emotional Sponge” for your patients to managing staff and running a business, there is a lot of stress and anxiety tied to the dental world. Dr. Frank Clayton DDS joins us this week to discuss how to overcome the daily struggles of being a dentist by having a positive perspective and amazing attitude. Frank touches upon the drastically changing dental industry model due to debt.

Full Transcription:

Shaun Keating: Hey everybody, Shaun Keating here. I’d like to welcome you to this week’s Dental Up podcast here at Keating Dental Lab in beautiful Irvine, California. We have Dr. Frank Clayton from Suwanee, Georgia. Today we’ll be discussing the day-to-day life struggles of a dentist, and the business freedoms that come with running a dental practice. Frankie, baby, what’s up dude?

Dr. Clayton: Shaun, man, how long has it been?

Shaun Keating: I haven’t seen you in a few years, when we were hitting it hard in a bar in Atlanta, Georgia, man, at the, I think it was the Hinman, man, at the Lobster Room or some freaking place. Where was that?

Dr. Clayton: I don’t know. Let me tell your listeners that both of us started out about the same time. Did you start the lab around ’99 or 2000?

Shaun Keating: I was actually 2002 when I started. I started at another lab in ’84, but I started my own company in 2002, but yeah man, what a trip, huh?

Dr. Clayton: That is when we hooked up. I went solo in 2002 here and we became friends on DentalTown. My buddy said, “Man, you’ve got to check out this lab. It’s got Shaun, he’s got a new killer lab you’ve gotta try out.” My crown preps looked like shit then, they’re a lot better now Shaun, I promise you.

Shaun Keating: Yeah, they’re awesome.

Dr. Clayton: I’d send you stuff and I know your lab techs went, “Gah, what is this, some new grad?” So 17 years later, I actually use burrs now and I actually don’t use belt-driven handpieces, and I can polish the margins a lot better but you and I go way back and it’s been good times.

Shaun Keating: Oh, dude, that is so cool. In all my years, I’ve been doing this a long time, but I’d talk with dentists all the time but you’re one of the funnest guys. We’ve been together several times in different meetings and you have your young guns guys, Brooks, Scotty and Tamera Bailey, Brenton Young but you know, it’s just fricking totally upbeat fun, funny as hell. I literally pissed myself one time. I remember when we were at, I think it was [Kinkapalooza 00:02:09] and we were just getting nuts, going to Wiener Circle. You’re just off the charts, but dude, I just love hanging with you.

Dr. Clayton: Funny you say that, my first calling, I wanted to be a comedian or a disc jockey and my mother just looked at me like, “Really?” I said, “Really, that’s what I’m gonna do.” I ended up going to school for something that’s not even dental related. I tell dental people, and I speak to people, you know what? This crap’s hard enough day by day. You’ve gotta let loose so when you’re with people like you, you let loose, you go to these [SEE 00:02:46] events and you learn your stuff, but some of you guys gotta lighten up a little bit because life is too serious. When stuff happens in your life, like real things, I’m not talking about when margins don’t fit, I’m talking about when parents pass away or one of your kids gets cancer, real shit like that, it makes you put it into perspective. When we get together, I love cutting up like that because you understand. Maybe it’s a California thing too. You guys are a little more laid back there.

You know, dentistry’s a bitch and you gotta unwind so my advice to people is, when you go on these meetings, just don’t be a tight-ass the entire time. On the floor and stuff, just let loose, be yourself. I tell people take that back to the office because people smell bullshit a mile away.

Shaun Keating: Absolutely.

Dr. Clayton: You know what I mean? You built the lab, you’re truthful with people, you tell them how it is. If you’re a young dentist listening out there, tell them. Tell them exactly how you feel. You’ll attract those patients, same way you attracted clients, Shaun. The people that you read off, we went with you because we’re like, “Yeah, this guy gets it. He understands.” If we have a remake or whatever it is, understand back then we were young guns, we were young guys, and you understood. Your lab grew, practice grows with it, I’m telling you, everything prospers when the whole tide is lifted. Don’t take it too seriously.

Shaun Keating: Oh I know. I remember you cracked me up so much one time when we were at, it was the Hinman meeting, and Hinman are some of the nicest, most generous, just they’re southern folk and just it’s a whole different vibe from all the dental shows. Hinman was one of my favorites, but I remember you telling me seriously but kind of funny, being like, “Shaun, this is one of the best attended meetings because all the dentists go to this because the ratio is like 10 to 1 women to men because all the assistants and all the stuff. So he goes, “You get a lot-”

Dr. Clayton: Was I right?

Shaun Keating: You were, I know guys that got divorced and everything after the Hinman meetings. I think it’s the national assistants convention or something. What is that?

Dr. Clayton: It’s because you get out of these small towns around here. Around here you call it like you get church stops. So you get your best outfits on, you go with your dentists to Atlanta, which is the big city, and it was. So one doc brings the entire staff and they don’t bring their husbands or boyfriends because they’re going out on a night in Atlanta, which is a great town. So I told you that and you’ve been out with us here. I’m happily married for 26 years, but I’ll tell you, the ratio is about like 8 or 10 to 1. Female listeners, then that means you’re bringing your female staff so it’s even moreso. It’s a great time. Like you said, there’s a lot of hospitality, it’s a great meeting.

Shaun Keating: Oh yeah, and the food.

Dr. Clayton: I’ve always enjoyed it.

Shaun Keating: What’s that one little town that we go down, where the lobster room was, what’s it called, Cooktown?

Dr. Clayton: You and I went to Buckhead.

Shaun Keating: Buckhead, that’s it.

Dr. Clayton: You and I went to Buckhead, so listeners, you want to tell it?

Shaun Keating: I’m using the F word. “Hey, we’re going to F Head. F Head to the taxi guys, where the heck’s F Head?” I don’t want to say it, but, so yeah, go ahead man, tell it.

Dr. Clayton: So people listening, Shaun’s at the far end of the table and he took all of the salad. By the way, I appreciate it and I still owe you like two lobsters and two steaks. So Shaun’s at the other end of the table, I can barely hear anything, and I’m pretty hammered. Everybody’s pretty hammered. There’s probably 16 of us there. Shaun’s at the one end, I’m at the other end of the table. Waiter comes around and says, “What will you be having?” I couldn’t really focus on the menu, and all I said was, “I’ll just have what Keats is having.” He looked at me and he said, “Are you sure?” I said, “Yeah, I’m pretty frigging hungry.” Turns out, tell them Shaun, what did you have?

Shaun Keating: I had like a four pound lobster, like the biggest one. They had all these lobsters on the wall on the ice and they’re alive. I said, “Give me the biggest one.” “Well, we have four pounders.” So I’m like, “Yeah, get at it, Frank.” I love that guy. I loved it because you ate it all too, you weren’t picking at it. You went at it.

Dr. Clayton: Oh, shit no.

Shaun Keating: I think we threw a steak on there too.

Dr. Clayton: We did throw a steak on there, because the guy goes, “You know what he ordered, don’t you?” I said, “I don’t care what he ordered. I’m hungry like him.” I said, “We’re brothers, I’m gonna eat whatever he’s eating.” The guy just shook his head like, “All right, you little drunk dentist.”. That damn lobster was on a plate of its own. That was a four pounder. Then Shaun, he brought out this Porterhouse, this big-ass two pound steak, and then all this other stuff. We ate the hell out of that. I swear to you, to this day, man, when I go out to eat with people, those friends that you mentioned before, Brent, Scott and Tammy, all they say, “Aha, I’ll just have what Keats is having.”

Shaun Keating: That’s so funny.

Dr. Clayton: It is legend. Legend.

Shaun Keating: I think I got the saying too and I say it every time because I eat lobster all the time. I love lobster and shellfish. I always say, “Well, looks like tomorrow I’m gonna crap a cube of butter.” Because there’s so much butter and it’s just like I crap a cube of butter. That’s just terrible. My wife hates it when I say it. It’s like, “I hear that enough Shaun, okay?” And it’s just me and you and I go, “I’m gonna crap a cube that day.”

Dr. Clayton: With a new crowd, jokes like that work well. Don’t listen to what she’s saying.

Shaun Keating: Yeah, 33, 34 years, 35 years together, 33 years married. She’s kind of sick of my lines. They’re getting old.

Dr. Clayton: I know she is.

Shaun Keating: It’s kind of like those old guys that say the same stories. I’m getting there, man. I need new adventures so I can come up with new lines and she’s done with it. It’s like, “All right, save it Shaun.”

Dr. Clayton: I can’t believe your wife and my wife tolerate us.

Shaun Keating: Oh, she looks at it now, she’s goes, “This guy’s probably gonna drop on me soon. I’m gonna just stick around because I’ll have it all instead of half of it so I might as well stay around.”

Dr. Clayton: Give him more butter.

Shaun Keating: Yeah, give me more butter and deep fry that shit with the Crisco man, like my mom used to do, God rest her soul. Remember that Crisco?

Dr. Clayton: You’ll be on Autopsy Files. They’ll spin your blood through of those spectrometers and they’ll go, “There’s a shitload of Crisco in here.”

Shaun Keating: Oh I’m telling you.

Dr. Clayton: Then she laughs, yeah.

Shaun Keating: Crisco’s lard. That’s where you get lard-ass from. They were there, babe, lard-ass. I never knew where it came from, but I guess lard is what they cook with in Mexico and everywhere else.

Dr. Clayton: No shit. In the south, there’s a whole can of lard. That’s what you use for everything down there.

Shaun Keating: Oh, that bacon fat or whatever it is, or the grease.

Dr. Clayton: Hell yeah.

Shaun Keating: That’s the flavor. Oh geeze.

Dr. Clayton: You pour it back in the Crisco can, it sits by your sink and then when you’re ready, you dip into it once it makes room temperature.

Shaun Keating: Oh that’s so funny, dude.

Dr. Clayton: Good times.

Shaun Keating: Man, I’m just fricking rolling here. We usually start off with sports, but screw sports.

Dr. Clayton: Sports, man.

Shaun Keating: What do you guys got out in Atlanta? You a Falcon guy or what do you think about-

Dr. Clayton: Yeah, we don’t talk about the Falcons for that shit that happened with New England. So the Braves came to town. Are you guys L.A., are you Angels, are you Dodgers?

Shaun Keating: We’re more Orange County Angels. The Dodgers are kind of on a tear now but eh, you know. We’re Laker fans, but not Dodgers really. We’re more Angels. Angels are sucking, but what about the Braves? They doing anything?

Dr. Clayton: Yeah, they’re doing all right. We’re 500, we got a new stadium. I’ll tell you guys, if you’re thinking about building a new office and you think you’re gonna build it, you gotta have the substance to put in the thing. The Braves have a great stadium but a so-so staff. Don’t half-ass your office. If you’re listening to this going, “Yeah, I’m gonna build the Taj Majal,” well, you better and it’s great if you do it, but you better back it up. The Braves have put a 500 team at a brand new place, and the draw is not as big as it should, but people go there for the novelty. It’s neat and everything, but they took it out of downtown. It’s better. It’s out here in a suburb.

Shaun Keating: I remember back, when I think of Atlanta, I would think of the Falcons a lot, but I think of Michael Vick and even Deon Sanders back in the day. Vick, he stepped on his foot there last week. He was talking about Kaepernick’s hair or something and it was like, “Mike, you don’t really have a lot of room to talk.” You know, dog killers and I’m a dog lover and all the shit he did with the dogs. Dude, that guy should have been put in a cage and let guys beat the shit out of him, the MMA guys and stuff like that. “Here, let’s see what it feels like to go get …” That’s just kind of messed up.

Dr. Clayton: Exactly. To put it in dental terms, that’s like the dentist that used to work at this clinic in the early days. This doctor, I swear to God, would put paper clips instead of posts, down for a post and core, and so this is the same doc that’s lecturing me on how to do dentistry. I’m thinking in the back of my head, “Dude, you just frigging used a paper clip and charged the guy for a post and core.” When Michael Vick lectures you on your haircut, it’s like, “Yeah, you know,” it’s time to get a PR guy to tell you to be quiet.

Shaun Keating: Oh man, that is so on the money there. I still get a lot of paper clips, believe it or not, in my impressions like for their canal. That’s like, “Dude, buy a little ParaPost system.” Put a green, a yellow one or the different colors in. Just whatever’s in the top drawer sometimes. That’s the way it’s always been. Even, too, implants, some of my implant guys, it’s like, “Dude, fricking don’t just put in what you have there, sometimes you’ve got to think it out a little bit.” I’ve got four different implants on nine, I’m doing eight implants and five of them are different. It’s kind of crazy.

Dr. Clayton: Nope. Spend the extra 20 or 30 bucks, you cheap-ass dentist, and do it right. Especially with your lab. If you’re using Shaun, or whoever you’re using, don’t handcuff them with crap like that. You know what I mean? Get what you’re supposed to get, charge the patients 20 bucks more or whatever it costs, and just be done with it rather than try to half-ass it. Then you’re making up and you’re hand-tying your lab. I know you get it, Shaun, because my lab, the local guy here goes, “Oh my God, you should see some of the stuff.” It puts him in a bind. Give him the right stuff if you’re doing the implants.

Shaun Keating: Yeah, absolutely. I love that, man. I need you on here talking to our guys. We have 95% of our stuff and our guys are real passionate and do the best job they can, but the 5% is a lot when you do kind of a lot of work. It’s like, “Guys.” Some of these guys are like 15, 20 plus years and they just try to cut little corners here and there. It’s just like, “Dude, if you’d just not cut those corners, you’d be less stressful, you’d have better predictability.” You just have those little things, they’re trying to skip those little things and trying to save money but you’re actually losing money at the end of the day.

Dr. Clayton: You heard what Fran would always say, “You’re stepping over dollars to save dimes.” Don’t half-ass your lab. Pay for the higher end stuff, especially anterior work, Shaun. You guys have got great stuff. You put it in there and when she smiles, because men don’t give a crap, you put something anterior in a female and she smiles, believe me, she’s going back, drinking wine with her friends and telling her where she got it. If you half-ass it and either you go for something a little bit cheaper, or don’t give them a good margin or something, and you say, “Ah, this’ll work,” don’t make it work. Make it right, give the lab what they need. That patient tells so many people, believe me. And if she’s pissed off, she drinks more and tells more people pissed off, and then you’re mad at your lab when it’s really your fault.

Shaun Keating: Absolutely. Raven fans out there, you know when you do some good, especially those anterior high profile areas on the patients, you do a great job. I mean they’re literally crying in the chair, even men almost. It transforms their lives.

Dr. Clayton: It changes their lives, and what’s it worth?

Shaun Keating: They’re going telling people and it’s just such a big thing that you do a little extra job and that little extra effort, and they start telling people, then those people telling people. That’s just the way life works, and you know how companies grow and get better. When you’re doing just average stuff, and it’s behind the lips, it fits, no one’s really bragging about you or telling their buddies or this and that. It’s just weird that some guys don’t get that part of it.

Dr. Clayton: Spend the money. Tell about your guy, your doc. If you’re listening doc, you’ve been practicing for 15, 20 years. You bitch at CE about you’re stuck at this level of production, whatever it is. You’ve invested years of your life and tuition, eight years of your life of college to do this crap, and you sit there and bitch about stuff. Spend a little extra on the lab. I promise you, you spend a little bit more on your burrs, your labs, you shape it up a little bit and you stop cutting the corners, lo and behold, your production goes up. So what, your lab bill goes up a half a percent, which is nothing because you’ll produce a shitload more if you do it right.

Shaun Keating: Absolutely. That’s good advice, I’m telling you there, big guy.

Dr. Clayton: Telling it like it is. That’s just what it is.

Shaun Keating: That’s it. So tell me Frank, where did you go to college? Tell me how many years you been doing this now.

Dr. Clayton: It’s a long story but my first degree was in international business. I don’t know if you knew that Shaun.

Shaun Keating: No, I didn’t.

Dr. Clayton: Man, I’ve been around for a while. I studied international business and German. I studied for about eight years. My life goal was to go over to Europe. Anyway, I met this girl, we came back. Bottom line was, I went back to school in St. Louis to Washington University for three more years to study biology. I wanted to be a physician. My father-in-law, years ago, said, “Man, you ought to think about dentistry.” I said, “Why?” He goes, “Because you like the business side of things and you like the science.” He goes, “If you’re a physician,” and he is a physician, he goes, “You’re gonna spend your time in a hospital married to insurance.” “Ah, I don’t know about dentistry.” Sure enough, I hung out with some dentists, and I took pre-dental course work. You people that are calling BS on it, dentistry is a business and you have to look at it as a business. Then you get to take care of your patients and do your vacations and crap like that.

But as a business model, dentistry is still somewhat cash based. Yeah, you’re messing around with insurance, but as a business model, it works so much better than medicine, model for model. If you want to take care of people’s hearts and lungs, that’s fine, go be a physician. I did not want to. I was already 27 years old, I hadn’t even gone to school yet. I applied to dental school and went to University of North Carolina for dental school. That’s where I met Brent, and that’s where a lot of friends, then opening up the dental school, I was called a retread. What that is, if you do something else the first chapter of your life, you know, I gave up a career in corporate.

I was actually in sales and marketing and that’s what I did. I hated selling cheese. I worked for Kraft Foods and I hated the hell out of that job, so much so that I said, “I’m gonna do something where I can steer my own ship.” Again, and this is where my point when my friends start to bitch about how bad dentistry is, try selling fricking Velveeta out of an ’89 Ford Taurus, going to frigging Fred Meyer Piggly Wigglys. Honestly it sucked. My family was pissed because they got free food from me. We all got free damaged food, whatever. I said, “I’m giving this up and I’m going back to dental school.”

The people that haven’t really worked a job like that, or if you haven’t shoveled crap, and I’m talking literal crap, or worked in asphalt on a highway, or honest to God dug ditches, when you have a shitty day in dentistry, believe me, it is a lot better than days where most of the world is, so quit bitching about that. Long story, I went back to dental school for four years. My wife supported me. She worked at the hospital there. We were in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and I grew up here in Atlanta, so we came back to Atlanta. I researched it, where would be a great place, and I ended up here in Suwanee. I opened up in 2002, and that’s why I thought you were ’99. I got out of school in ’99, found you in 2002, and then just opened up my own place. Now I’m at my second spot.

Life is good. It’s not perfect. Some days suck. I’d sell my practice on certain days and I’d go off. If you offered the right amount of money and vodka, I’d be out of here, but the truth is, hell, ask your friends who are not in dentistry, by the way, when you’re taking Friday off, ask them. We’ve got a pretty good gig, as much crap as we’re dealing with. That’s my advice on it. You put way too much into this, you’ve invested all this in yourself and in your employees, you know Shaun, any business is tough. Dentistry’s the easy part. It’s managing people, it’s getting the right thing to the right people, the product, and that’s the challenge. The grass is not always greener.

Shaun Keating: It is, it is. It really is and it’s a tough thing with patients. The business part is the easy part, really. I feel for dentists. We always kid around, we have stone models. They don’t feel any pain and we don’t have that patient. There’s a lot of weird people out there, man. There’s just a lot of people that just are either not happy or they’re happy but they have other quirks. We’re just also humans. That’s why dentists can be so straining on the mind, trying to keep them happy, keep them out of pain. You’ve gotta be like a psychiatrist almost or just a real nice person to be successful. If you don’t have really good bedside manner with them, some dentists can work that way, but more so than not, you’ve got to be a people person.

Then what about the dentists? They need to be picked up and brought up. That’s why I can see dentists getting down on themselves and it’s hard. It’s hard to be up for everybody all the time. Then your staff, unless you have a really good staff that you’ve invested in, it’s hard to keep those guys unless you’ve got a good crew. Then it’s easy. It’s a tough field but it’s really rewarding, I know it is, but yeah.

Dr. Clayton: It’s so that way, and you’ve nailed it on two big points that I try to stress to people. One, pay your employees the most you can because you will get more out of a high-paying employee that you don’t have to mess with. Believe me, it’s worth every dime, and guess what? If it’s not then you fire their ass. This is the wrong opportunity for you. You go to work someplace else. This is not a good match. But I guarantee you if you start hiring low-rung and you expect a $20 an hour employee to perform like a 10, then shame on you for even thinking it. You’re not gonna get it. You want to get paid the most you can for your services. Hire better employees. Your stress level goes down.

The ratio of your salaries you go, “Oh my god, I’m paying so much.” Well guess what? Your production’s gonna go up because they’re gonna handle a lot more headaches. You hire sharp people and pay them more. Shaun, the second thing you said was a huge bit. Dentist’s are emotional sponges and punching bags and it’s odd man when you sit there and you work on someone. My father-in-law who talked me into dentistry, I asked him this point. He said, “When I worked on people,” he goes, “I had an anesthesiologist and they would just knock them out,” and he goes, “I’d go to town.”

He was an EMT and he’d wail on their face. He says, “I don’t know how you guys do it because somebody’s looking at you with fear. You’ve got a fricking handpiece whizzing and a needle, and you’re looking right at them.” Like you said, if you’re an empathetic person, and most dentists are, some of you quirks are real weirdos and shouldn’t whatever, but anyway. You can edit that out can’t you?

Shaun Keating: Nah, we’re keeping in baby.

Dr. Clayton: But you know what? Like you said Shaun, if you’re a people person and you take on the emotion of your patients, promise you, patients feel it man. They go, “Yeah man. You actually give a crap about me.” If you do, at the end of the day, you are dog worn out. It wears your ass out. That’s when it’s great to go on to, I do bitch sessions on Facebook, you go on DentalTown, you find your group, and you go, “Yep. I had the crappiest day,” or whatever. You get it out of your system and you recharge because you’re gonna do it again tomorrow. Patients will sniff out if you don’t give a crap. Your employees sniff if you don’t give a crap. Your butt better be in the game and do it. Hell, start taking Thursdays off.

If you can only give three days a week, your production, I bet you it only goes down 10%. If you’re good those three days a week and you bust it, then my God, you’ve got a four day weekend. You do whatever you want when you’re a dentist. That’s the beauty of it that a lot of people don’t understand. If you sit and bitch about it, well guess what? If you’re the boss do something about it.

Shaun Keating: Yeah, absolutely. You can make anything you want when you’re your own business owner and you can make it a great day. It’s up to you to make it a great day or you can be miserable. It’s something that you gotta want to do and the people do pick up on that like you said, so quick. But again, it is tough. I can see some of the dentists getting after being the nice guy, and coming home, and using the wife as a whipping post a little bit or whatever. It’s a real balance to keep it going but that’s any job. Like you said, dentistry, it really can be magical to be able to do three or four days a week and still write your own ticket. It’s just a neat thing. It really can, and it can be a miserable thing if you make it that way.

Dr. Clayton: Yeah, and you know you’ve got friends in dentistry, and y’all know, and you hear. We have access to substances. You can drink whenever you want. Like you said, wife’s a whipping post, dog, you kick the dog. There’s stuff that you do that’s not right but you shouldn’t take it out on those people. It’s an easy escape to go, “Yeah, I’ll do this and I’ll worry about that,” especially if you’re male. You’ll bury your head in the sand like I do. You try not to and you try to ignore problems because men don’t talk things out, and then it just fosters and it gets worse. Well you have to confront it sooner or later. It doesn’t matter what business, but dentistry will bring you down, and you’ve seen it. You’ve seen practices go under. Guys get hooked on stuff.

Shaun Keating: I see it all the time and it’s just like, it’s tough. I understand it, but I don’t understand guys killing themselves over it and stuff like that, but God.

Dr. Clayton: I don’t either.

Shaun Keating: You got musicians doing it. You’ve got a lot of people with mental health problems. It’s a whole nother thing we could talk about there, but let’s just keep it positive now.

Dr. Clayton: Yeah, I’m with you.

Shaun Keating: Tell me a little bit. You’ve got a really bitching practice, it’s like a dental home. Tell me a little bit. It looks like a home and stuff, but you’ve got a lounge area. Tell me a little bit about your practice. How’d you do this, your second practice? You had to build this out. What were you thinking? Tell me a little bit about it.

Dr. Clayton: I mean honestly if you’re thinking about building your practice or you’re in an associateship and you want to do your own thing, I would go to other practices. The senses that set you off like smell, and look, and taste, whatever it is, I go to other practices and go, “Yeah. That reminds me of a dentist office. That reminds me of this.” When I built my own I got rid of it. I don’t use things here that smell like a dental office. There’s no eugenol in here. I built it like a, I don’t know, it’s like a cabin in here. There’s lots of wood. There aren’t white walls. Yeah I paid a little extra for leather chairs up front and I had a comment yesterday. She goes, “My God. This is nicer than my living room,” and you know what? I told her, I said, “Yeah. It’s nicer than mine too.”

I said, “I invest in this because I’m here 12 hours a day and I want my employees and me to be happy.” This place looks like a lodge and people tell me that, and it’s on purpose. They say, “Ah, it doesn’t smell like a dental office.” Well shit, I don’t use stuff that smells like a dental office.

Shaun Keating: That’s awesome.

Dr. Clayton: Because it’s hard enough to get you in here to tell you you’re gonna pay X amount for a crown, or whatever, and then poke you with crap. All the things, the barriers here, I try to lower. Over time people go, “Yeah, you know it helps.” But you still have to produce. You still have to act the part. You have to be empathetic. You have to do good work. You have to give you good margins so I can get a good result so that person can tell someone. You can’t just give up and go, “Ah yeah, the wall colors look good. I got it made. People are gonna come in here.” I had that mentality going through and I’ve kept it since day one.

I’ve actually even built a surgical suite in here and we’re doing something similar to Teeth in a Day. BioHorizons calls it All-on-4. This is not a promotion, but I just wanted to let you know what I’m doing.

Shaun Keating: No, no, absolutely. No, that’s it.

Dr. Clayton: I start getting slammed with restorative 10, 12, 14 years into it, so for 8 years I look for a specialist. I’m like, “Why is there no specialist that has the skill to do this,” and that, “I have a perfect operatory. I’ll suite it out however they want.” I found someone last year. I have a periodontist whose done his own brick and mortar, been there, done that, he’s done it for 28 years. The guy is amazing. We’re doing All-on-4. My competition is ClearChoice.

I say, “Do you want your hand held a little bit more at a fee for service practice? Or you can go to ClearChoice,” and people say, “Well I’d much rather stay here,” if we’re talking All-on-4. I’m not talking scaling or root planing and that kind of stuff, I’m talking comprehensive dentistry like that. That has become a part of my practice. I even cut back a day a week to let him work more. Most of my friends said, “Oh you’re gonna lose a day of production.” No, guess what? I’m not. You listen to what the market’s there, you figure out what you want. I wanted to work less. I wanted to make more. I didn’t want to burn myself out. I tailored my practice into that. We’re becoming known as the place to go for that service.

Shaun Keating: You guys are crushing it too. You kind of say it like “the dental implant consultants,” you’re tagging that a little bit in your website. You guys are crushing that man and that’s what you need to do. Go ahead.

Dr. Clayton: And you know what? It’s funny because I told a lot of implant reps, I go, “I know you’re selling implants through the surgeon.” That’s usually where it’s driven so my idea was, hell, drive it through the GP. I said, “Let’s pitch this model to other guys who have excess capacity and excess space in their office.” One day a month you could bring a periodontist or an oral surgeon in, young guy, old guy, it doesn’t matter. Set him up with third, set him up with implants, whatever it is. Debt load is becoming so big in dentistry Shaun that the models are changing. It’s not just open up anymore and yeah I’ll pay the bills.

I talked to a kid yesterday who was 350,000 bucks in debt. This is before he even spent a million bucks on an office. People are starting to change the way that they think. The periodontist I found said, “You know what? I didn’t want to own my own place anymore. I wanted to be able to travel and I wanted to find a dentist like you who understood the value of what I do,” and so I found him. There are a lot of dentists I’ve talked to out there that go, “Yeah, that’s what I want to do.” Well guess what? Do it. You know what I mean? It’s not gonna happen until you start to do it. Your life starts to change because you’re actually doing the crap that you said, “Yeah, I like doing that.”

I don’t understand why so many people sit there. You’ve read about it Shaun on DT and Facebook. I’m like, “Hey.” “My lab’s …” “Change the lab.” “Try Keating.” “Oh yeah, I know about it but …” “No, try it. See what it’s about and then guess what? You get a better product and you never know until you try it.” That’s my pitch.

Shaun Keating: That’s so true dude. It’s something that you get it. You get it and you really do, and you’re doing a great job. We’ll wrap this up pretty quick here, but with my younger guys out there, any CE courses, implants are probably one of my fastest growing areas. I think with all the baby boomers and all this stuff with teeth being better but needing implants, I think it’s gonna be growing in the future. Any CE and ideas that recommend, I mean money’s tough but anything that you recommend CE-wise and anything on social media. Are you doing anything with that? I know your Facebook and you guys are doing all that stuff but what kind of advice can you give some of my guys out there? I know some of the older guys, they’re stuck in a rut. What just quick advice could you give on either of those?

Dr. Clayton: I mean, younger guys, spend the money on occlusion, and Shaun you know this. You can put an implant anywhere or you can ask your surgeon to do it. If you don’t know occlusion, and I’m partial to Kois and Spear, if you don’t understand the whole concept of not only is this patient a bruxer, he swishes with coke zero and whatever it is, you put it all together and you go, “Okay, this is why this is happening.” You spend the money on courses like that, you will understand a lot faster. You’re not just replacing one crown, you’re finding the solution as to why crap keeps breaking. It’s not Shaun’s lab work that keeps breaking, it’s the guy’s masseters because you’ve got things out of position, you’re using the wrong material. Use the zirconium in places.

There’s all kinds of solutions that you have to look at the overall picture. I’m saying Kois and Spear, and they cost a lot, but Jesus. Look how much you paid for your education. If you pay 300 grand, this is what I tell a lot of young docs, you pay 300 grand, and if you balk at six or $7,000 for a CE course that will return over your life I can tell you many more, then you’re making the wrong decisions. You’ve invested way too much in yourself, three or 400,000 bucks. Don’t stop. There is inexpensive CE out there but pay the money for the guys that know the occlusion because then once you know that you communicate with your lab better. Your lab already, believe me, probably knows it better than you do, but you know how to convey, “We’re putting this implant here. What material is best? We’re thinking about a bridge here. What material is best?”

Well tell them, “This guys a bruxer, refuses to wear a guard, X, Y, Z.” Helps you a lot Shaun when you know because you’re looking at models. If I sent you a picture, a face model of a guy who has fricking masseters that could crush a walnut, and you said, “Yeah, this guy keeps breaking fricking the porcelain off everything but he wants white teeth.” Well I’m pretty sure you’ve got a material you can offer me. If you know the occlusion, and Shaun has helped me out in the past where you say, “Yeah, prep it a little bit more here because we’re gonna stack it a little bit more there.” Believe me, what you pay for those guys on the front-end, Kois and the Spear type, then on the back-end saves you a lot in remakes. It increases your knowledge of occlusion where that crown doesn’t keep coming off six times and you get a new patient that comes from another doc that goes, “This bridge keeps coming off. This is the eighth time it’s come off.”

Well you know what I mean? Well hell I’m gonna resubmit it and be the ninth guy. That’s not gonna work. You put it all together and you figure it out, and then you call your buddy and you go, “Shaun, this thing keeps coming off. This is what I’ve got. What material?” And another thing dentists, put your damn guard down. Shaun and other labs see thousands of cases. You see, I don’t know, what Shaun, 10, 20 a month maybe of your own dentistry and maybe your group?

But I ask reps whether they’re labs or whether they’re dental reps, I always ask them, I go, “What are you seeing out there? What’s the thing, you know? Materials, hiring, firing,” whatever it is, because guess what? They step in 10, 15 offices every day. Shaun talks to 50 offices every day and probably has the same damn thing. He’s like, “Yep, it’s another young guy that under prepped like Clayton did back in 2002,” so believe me.

Shaun Keating: That’s so true.

Dr. Clayton: You put down the ego and you ask people who are there, who’ve done this stuff for 10, 15 years is about the mark where you’ve seen a lot of this, and you go, “Hey I’m thinking about doing this.” Every now and then an experiment’s fine, and Shaun, you and I used to do it and I was like, “Yeah, this is …” Shaun you’d pitch in on a charity case and I go, “Oh, a single mom wants to look good for church, okay.” May not be the strongest material but I’m not putting it on the 35 year old bruxer whose a type A.

I want to know that from you. I want to know that from everybody. That’s free CE. Give you business, I call you for advice, you just saved me, put a monetary value on it. That’s the way I’ve grown my practice and for younger people that are listening, use other people who have the knowledge especially your vendors and the people that you’re working with because there’s a reason that they are in business and they’ve got as successful as they are. They’ve been here a lot longer than you have. Use them for knowledge. God it’s expensive to learn on a million dollar bank loan and a 300 grand student loan.

Shaun Keating: Yep, and in the trenches on your own just what you think might work, where you can get honest opinions of what really works by say going with your implant reps and/or your labs, “Yeah, we see 10 thousand restorations a month.” You do that month after month, year after year, you get it, and like you said, the occlusion is such a big thing like getting clicking in your ears. “What is it? I’ve been to five dentists. They can’t get it.” Well they don’t have any kind of occlusal scheme working. “Well you gotta not grind them in and quit equilibrating them to shit.” You gotta open them up a little bit. You gotta maybe put some composite over on the 30 and 31 and see if that helps them out, and then “okay, well we got that.” It’s just really neat when it comes to occlusion and that’s on the money, and I love Spear and Kois.

John Kois, I’ve had him out at the lab here. He cost me a lot of money getting out here but I filled the house. I think too for a whole year thing I think, and flying out, it might be 50, 60 grand. But dude, like you said, you have four or 500 grand plus you got a build out of a million plus. Like you said, stepping over quarters to lose dollars or whatever, but hell. I always butcher that saying. It’s like you gotta do that. It’s your whole foundation. If you can get the tools in your toolbox at the beginning, and these young guys that are starting off and they do it, and they listen to the veterans like you, just listen to these little things, you start off and you really kick ass from your 25, 30 to 40, by 40 to 50 you’re rolling dude. It really works out.

Now tell me, and we’ll wrap this up, tell me a little bit. Any social media, that’s the new frontier, and we’re starting to do it. I don’t know. It’s like, I’ve got a lot of guys that it’s like, “Look at me, look at me, look at me,” thing right now. But it’s like DentalTown. I went through that whole thing in DentalTown where I was obsessed back in 2002, whatever I’d say and then, “Oh, did they respond? Did they respond?” I got through it all and then I just got on Facebook a couple months back. My teams been doing it for a while but it’s kind of neat. It’s like a bunch of nice people but I’m not on any of the dental ones really. I don’t really have a lot of dental. Even [Kanka 00:39:29] I see on there and he’s like nice as I’ve ever seen him.

He does a little politics and all that stuff. I don’t really get into politics or the religion stuff. You can never win on those arguments. I always try to stay up and positive, but it’s pretty neat on Facebook. We have an Instagram we do and shit. We’ve got like 26 thousand guys on Instagram already and they just like to look at little pictures of teeth. It’s kind of weird.

Dr. Clayton: Isn’t that wild? People want to see those pictures of … I’ve had people, they’re like, “Yeah, they’re clicking on fricking pictures of teeth.” They don’t want to know about the other stuff. That’s another one Shaun because I straddle the fence on that. I’m old school. I’m 50. I’m older school in that, “You kids get out of my yard,” and then I’m new school like yeah, this Teeth in a Day, I’m getting it down to the point where I’m able to buy data to pinpoint whose looking at ClearChoice, and who would be a candidate for this. I’m buying mailing lists. Yeah, it’s great. I love technology where you can hone in on that and you go, “Yeah, I’m looking for that exact patient,” where in the old days you’d have to send out 50 thousand mailers, and God forbid a yellow page ad.

But my thoughts on it, you young docs, you’ll pick up a lot of knowledge online. I use it more as a friendship bitch session and I can get validation that patients are fricking wacky, dentists are wacky, employees are wacky, and because you’ll get it other people go, “Yep.” At the end of the day you’re like, “Everybody’s fricking wacky,” and then you go home and you’re good.

Shaun Keating: Yeah. Crack a cold one, and beat the wife, and kick the dog. We’re fine. No. I’ve never hit my wife.

Dr. Clayton: If you have to do it you do it.

Shaun Keating: I’ve never hit my wife all these years. I wanted it sometimes, no. She wants to hit me.

Dr. Clayton: She’d beat the crap out of you man. She’d body slam you in a heartbeat.

Shaun Keating: She slapped me around quite a bit but I’m not allowed to touch her. But it’s like “eh.”

Dr. Clayton: You know. Well I’ve also been told by patients, and this is the kind of patients I want to attract, but like, “I’m glad you don’t bombard my Facebook line with the fake stuff.” What they’re talking about is if you hire a marketing company they’re, “Oh a smile a day,” and then it has the apple, and the toothbrush and stuff. This is not that kind of practice. Some friends of mine, they do it, it’s great. It’s name recognition. I want to be the guy, if I’m gonna get in your face, it’s gonna be with nice interior crowns, and I don’t want people going, “Where’d you get those?” I don’t want them knowing that anything artificial’s in there. I’m not gonna bombard Facebook with that stuff.

Some of it yeah, as a teaser you know, but I guess you younger guys may need to market heavier than I do, but word of mouth is powerful. If you treat people right they’re gonna be your biggest-

Shaun Keating: Yeah, they’re gonna be your biggest marketer out there man. That’s so true.

Dr. Clayton: That’s how you grew Shaun, the young days when you … I remember when you left your other lab and you’re like, “I’m going out and I’m doing this thing.” You grew. Word of mouth was like-

Shaun Keating: It blew us up.

Dr. Clayton: It was insane.

Shaun Keating: It was all because of you guys and a core group of probably 10, 20 doctors that you guys … I was the only dental technician that was talking with dentists back in DentalTown in the early days. I didn’t ever sell nothing on DentalTown ever. I never went in and put my pictures. I just talked to shoot the shit with you guys and we just talked about day-to-day life. I’ve been working with dentists all my life so I just felt more comfortable talking with dentists than I do my old buddies from high school because they’re in different fields. We’re just dental geeks, but then when I found the guys that are dental geeks that are freaky and out there, we all clicked. What you guys did for me was just great, Core, Scott Bridges, Frank Clayton, and Bailey, on and on. It’s just a neat thing and I’m very thankful for you guys for doing that man. That’s huge.

Dr. Clayton: No, you delivered. The whole deal, the docs that are listening, or if you’re a lab tech, whoever’s listening, you say it, and you deliver, and what’s up? 15 years later Shaun and I have places that I love coming to work. Yeah, some days are hell but we’ve made it what it is. There’s no reason any of you, no matter what your profession is, that you can’t do it but you’ve got to be true to your word. Like you said Shaun, you’ll find like-minded people that go, “yeah,” whether it’s patients, whether it’s docs that use your lab, that go, “Yeah man. He gets it and he’s true to his word and delivers a great product.” That’s it man. I don’t care if it’s cheese, or teeth, or whatever, and I figured that out early.

Shaun Keating: That’s it.

Dr. Clayton: That’s it.

Shaun Keating: You’re the man dude. Hey, I can’t thank you enough for this.

Dr. Clayton: I appreciate the invite.

Shaun Keating: Ah man, you’re the man and it’s great to hear from you again. We gotta get together for sure. Anything we can do, I thank you for all the work through all the years, and just let us know, whatever we can do you know it, if we have to do another charity patient especially for the church people. You know I’m hoping to get into Heaven, so maybe God will look at us and say, “You know what? He’s sewing a seed of making a new smile. Lord, please forgive me.” But I want to go.

Dr. Clayton: God’s gonna be like dental school professor and you’re gonna have to do so many units to get into Heaven. He’s gonna go, “Keating, he’s done 12 units. He’s gotta do about 10 more.”

Shaun Keating: I’ve got more repenting to do so we’re gonna create smiles for a lot of people. We’ve already created millions of smiles. We gotta do a bunch more, but hey, Clayton, you’re the man. I want to thank you so much dude.

Dr. Clayton: You got it Shaun. I appreciate the call, and it’s good catching up. Tell your listeners you’re not paying me anything and this is the goodness of both of our hearts. We’re sitting here touting each other, but we both believed that you could do it, try it. If you don’t use Shaun, give Shaun a try. If you’re in Atlanta, call over here. I’ll do some dentistry on you. It’s easy. You guys don’t make it more difficult than it is.

Shaun Keating: It really is and it’s just you gotta do what you love and if you love it it’s not a job. It’s just good things happen. You’re a good guy and those kids. How many kids you got, like six boys, or how many kids?

Dr. Clayton: No, I’m the same as you. Don’t you have three boys?

Shaun Keating: Yeah, I got two boys.

Dr. Clayton: I’ve got three boys, and two are off to college and the third kid’s living somewhere at home. We don’t care about him much. He’s just there. Third child man, you don’t care where he is. It’s like “whatever.”

Shaun Keating: Yeah, wait till he’s gone and then it’s just you and the wife. You better get some dogs man because she gonna drive you crazy. It’s like, “Franky, Franky, Franky.”

Dr. Clayton: We got five dogs in anticipation so we’re good. We rescue dogs.

Shaun Keating: Oh, good for you man. All dogs go to Heaven.

Dr. Clayton: Well tell everybody I said hello.

Shaun Keating: I will Dr. Clayton. You know, again, thank you so much and we’ll talk to you real soon.

Dr. Clayton: You got it. Take care Shaun.

Shaun Keating: Later buddy.

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