Face to Face with
Dr. Edward Zuckerberg
by Thomas Giacobbi, DDS, FAGD, Editorial Director, Dentaltown Magazine
Dr. Edward Zuckerberg, a New York practicing
dentist is romanced by technology. Herein, we
visit his practice and learn that social media
runs in the family (yes, he’s the father of the
father of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg).
Tell me about your office.
Zuckerberg: The office is about 1,400
square feet. The office is attached to my home
in the New York City northern suburb of
Dobbs Ferry. The patients enter through a separate
wing of the house into an open reception
area, sharing a common room with the reception
desk where we have two front desk personnel with computers.
There are two business areas just off the reception area. One has a
desk for our insurance and data entry employee and the other
belongs to our office manager but also has a digital panoramic Xray
and the milling machine for our E4D CAD/CAM. We actually
added this room to the office about five years ago.
We have three treatment operatories and a lab/sterilization center
(used to be our darkroom but we’ve been darkroom-free for 13-
plus years now). Adjacent to the office is the media room, used
primarily for family TV watching, but I have hosted professional
presentations here for Henry Schein and Imageworks.
We purchased the house from a retiring dentist in 1981, more
than 30 years ago, but the practice was housed in a one-chair setup.
We renovated the house and added a 1,200-square-foot, two-story
addition in 1987 that brought it to the current state. The window
bay from the old house is now the wall between the two new operatories
and contains a custom built-in 200-gallon saltwater aquarium
that is viewable from both operatories and is see-through.
I have a full-time associate, so the office is covered on days I’m
What is the hardest part about living in the same house
as your dental practice?
Zuckerberg: This has been overwhelmingly positive for me to
have my office in the house. It has allowed me and my wife, Karen,
to be both professionals and dedicated parents to our four children. I got used to being the only Dad
present at events like open class day
and second grade school plays
because it was easy for me to block
out an hour to run to our local
school and quickly return. People
warned me I’d have patients knocking
on my door on Sundays and
all hours with emergencies but that
never happened. When true emergencies
presented themselves, being
able to just go downstairs to handle
them couldn’t have made dealing
with them any easier.
The hardest part about it is that
you need to have a decent memory and recall of patients’
names because you repeatedly run into them in the supermarket,
church/synagogue, restaurants, etc. You need to be
on your toes to reinforce that you care about them as people,
not just clients/patients.
Did your children ever work in your practice during
Zuckerberg: I had them do some filing back in the days
when we had paper charts, answer the phones and do simple
deeds like make sure that lab cases got picked up and delivered.
My son, Mark, actually made our office a computerbased
communication system called Zucknet that removed
the need for a Comlite type system of inter-operatory and
front desk communication.
Your office has a distinct fish theme with a large
aquarium as a focal point. What advice do you have
for other dentists contemplating a similar feature?
Zuckerberg: Choose a reputable firm that has been in business
for a while and get recommendations from satisfied customers.
Have the tank serviced regularly by a professional to
keep it attractive and running smoothly. I put mine in the operatory
since I spend most of my time there and want to enjoy it
too. That’s also where the patients need it because the operatory
is where they are most stressed. Putting it in the waiting room
sends the message to patients that they are going to spend a lot
of time there and I want my patients waiting as little as possible.
Your Web site says you “cater to cowards.” What
inspired this focus?
Zuckerberg: I don’t think there is anything in dentistry
that I find more rewarding than taking people who haven’t
been to the dentist for 10 or more years, who have finally
forced themselves into the office practically in tears because of
the pain and then being able to convert them into patients who
come back for regular care. It is very professionally rewarding
to be able to help people that way. This became the focus early
on in my practice.
Your practice is full of the latest technology. What
are some of the greatest technologies in dentistry
Zuckerberg: Everything feeds off computers. I am known
as Inspector Gadget by my patients. When I saw the availability
of digital X-rays in the late ’90s, I pounced on that technology.
Don’t take intra-oral photography or digital X-rays away
from me! I am really learning to love the CAD/CAM. The
technology I love and use the most is that which allows us to
be a paperless office. I can access my data from every operatory,
or even while traveling. Being paperless is probably the technology
that I’m most proud of.
You use E4D. How long have you been using it in your
practice and what materials do you like to mill with it?
Zuckerberg: I have been using E4D since 2009. We have
done some veneers but mostly I find it has really enabled me to
do much higher quality dentistry. Also it’s an option for patients
with large composites. Primarily I have been using the lithiumdisilicate,
the e.max for real bruxers and my bread and butter go-to is the Empress CAD. It is very easy to work with and doesn’t
require glazing. We have been doing fewer crowns and many
more onlays. That is the newest in a long line of technologies.
Let’s talk about social media. You are very involved
with that. How so?
Zuckerberg: I lecture several times a year to dentists about
technology and social media marketing. Many are afraid to
incorporate it into their offices. They are afraid to use a vehicle
like Facebook to market their practices. I am trying to educate
them. I use all kinds of social media outlets in my practice.
With something like Facebook, is it a mechanism for
a practice to communicate with its existing patient
base or to expect new patients?
Zuckerberg: When a practice first starts out, Facebook
must be used solely as a vehicle to enhance communication in
the office itself. Just by virtue of having a simple sign up in the
waiting room, a lot of patients will become fans of your
There are a variety of tools to get people to “like” your page.
The first tool is a sign in the office where you display your logo
and web address. I have my office Web site and my Facebook
address on everything.
Another thing we do is encourage visitors to check in on
their smart phones. If someone walks through the door, he will
see a big yellow decal that says check in on Facebook and get a
special deal. If he checks in three times at the location, which
publicizes to all his network friends that he just checked into
Edward J. Zuckerberg, DDS’s dental office, he will walk away
with a free take-home bleaching kit. Then I try to get worthwhile
messages to Facebook fans. I don’t bombard them. I shoot
for two or three updates a week.
The key advertising demographic feature on Facebook
allows you to market to friends of your fans. This puts a
thumbs-up “Like” logo with the name of their friend who already likes your page. If a prospective recipient
gets this ad and sees that a friend of his
or hers already likes your office, this is a powerful
message. We all know word-of-mouth
referrals are the best kind of referrals because
the new patient comes with implicit trust.
Your son Mark’s accomplishments
have been well documented. What has
been your greatest moment celebrating
Zuckerberg: Firstly, I’d like to say that I am extremely proud
of all four of my children and each one of them have not only
accomplished great things in my eyes, but I look forward to
more wonderful things from them in the future.
Almost every year Facebook hosts a conference called f8
that usually features a rollout of a new feature or service it is
offering. The conferences are well attended by more than a
thousand people. The people in the auditorium listen to every
word Mark says and they applaud like Congress does during
the President’s State of the Union Address. That’s always a huge
thrill for me, but also whenever I hear personal stories from
people who met and are now together as a couple because of
Facebook or stories of citizens of a country using Facebook to
affect meaningful change, those are the times I really feel the
full impact of his accomplishments.
I noticed on your site you have a link to join Tumblr.
Tell me a little bit about Tumblr.
Zuckerberg: My youngest daughter, Arielle, created my
practice Tumblr using a lot of the same content I already had on
my site. Most people use Tumblr as a blogging page but it is a
reasonable way for people to create a Web site, which is very easy
to post updates to. And the updates I do automatically go to
Facebook and Twitter also. It kind of simplifies my job of updating
all my electronic presences.
Every dentist has patients who make comments
about how much money the dentist makes. What is
your favorite response to this comment?
Zuckerberg: I live in the same community as my patients
and drive the same kind of cars that they do, so when patients
say I charge a lot (they will do that no matter how much I
charge) or say something like, “I’m paying for your next vacation,”
I tell them what they are paying for is all my insurance,
overhead and salaries for my great staff that takes wonderful
care of them. I don’t live a flamboyant life, although in the past
10 months since my first grandchild was born, I travel a lot to
California to see him and my patients know I’m gone a lot, but
when I tell them it’s to see my grandchild, it’s something they
can relate to. Many are concerned that because of Mark’s success
I don’t need money and will retire soon. I tell them I still
love dentistry and now in addition to practicing I am enjoying
passing on my knowledge via lectures to my colleagues on
how best to evaluate and integrate technology into their practices
and why and how they should be using social media to
market their practices.
Do you consider yourself a person who loves to work,
and will do so into semi-retirement, or will you pick a
day, and just stop working?
Zuckerberg: I’d like to keep working as long as I’m physically
able. I’d love to continue serving the patients in the practice
where I have worked for the last 31 years, but realistically
the challenges of managing a practice from 3,000 miles away,
even with a great staff are at times overwhelming. I’m searching
now for the right person who can step in as my successor to the
practice, handle most of the management duties in addition to
serving the patients as a provider and allow me to serve the
patient base part time without the management headaches. I
think I’d also like to work with select offices on a one-to-one
basis to bring them up to snuff in this great technological environment
we live in.
What are your thoughts on dentists using Groupon?
Zuckerberg: A lot of people only buy products or services
they already use. That said, it would be the worst-case
scenario if someone who would likely be a full price buyer
of your service was to have the ability to purchase the service
– which he or she would purchase anyway – at a discount.
This is not the kind of marketing that works in the
dental office setting.
The New York State Dental Association is looking at this
from a legal point of view. There is some potential violation of
the dental practice act since we are not paying up front for the
advertising, but the payment is based strictly on the referral. To
pay for this type of referral service essentially amounts to fee
splitting with a third party, which is illegal under the current
N.Y. State Dental Practice Act.
How can other dentists find you online?
Zuckerberg: The office Web site is www.painlessdrz.com,
our Facebook site is www.facebook.com/painlessdrz and our
Twitter handle is @painlessdrz.