Office Visit: Building Bridges in Dentistry by Chelsea Knorr, Associate Editor, Dentaltown Magazine

Building Bridges in Dentistry
by Chelsea Knorr, Associate Editor, Dentaltown Magazine

Dr. Miran Ho had a humble childhood. At the age of 12, she started to pursue her dream of getting an education. The now-practicing dentist first received her degree in civil and environmental engineering and in management. Herein she tells us her amazing story, what inspired the career change to dentistry and gives us the inside scoop on her practice in Mesa, Arizona.

Name: Miran Ho, MS, DDS
Graduate From: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor - DDS
Brigham Young University - MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering
Brigham Young University - MS in Management
Practice Name: Mesa Modern Dentistry and Orthodontics
Practice Location: Mesa, Arizona
Practice Size: 12 operatories
Staff: Six full-time staff

First off, what drew you to dentistry? What inspired your career decision? And the career change?
Ho: It might sound funny but the movie "Patch Adams" inspired me to be a health-care professional. The differences Dr. Patch Adams made in the lives of people were fascinating and limitless. It inspired me to help others using the talents I was blessed with. Flexibility was another reason. Being an engineer was rewarding and challenging. However, when I had some life changes, I needed a flexible career in a field that would allow me to raise my son.

What is your practice philosophy?
Ho: Our vision is "We will be the provider of choice in our community by providing outstanding services and offering the most advanced technology available in the most effective and efficient manner." Mesa Modern Dentistry exists to serve the community and make a difference in positive ways. We will continue to promote oral health and improve smiles.

Do you have partners or associates?
Ho: I am a partner of a large group practice.

You have such an interesting life story. Tell me about where and how you were raised.
Ho: I was raised in a middle-class family in Korea. Due to a bankrupt family business, I became responsible for my own education at age 12. From then on, I financed all of my schooling including dental school through scholarships and grants. I feel very blessed I was able to finish all of my education without any debt. I also learned leadership and time management skills by serving as a president of student council during my adolescence and in college, which have benefited me throughout all of my education, career and personal life experiences.

Why do you have an engineering degree?
Ho: Dentistry is a second career for me. I came to the U.S. during college and studied engineering and management in graduate school. I worked as a civil engineer in California and then started a small business in Michigan. Throughout my life I have been involved in community services which has helped me to be grateful in life and share the blessings I have received abundantly.

My personal experience and community involvement led me to dentistry, which offers an opportunity to serve others every day with great compassion in a very personal way. Dentistry also fulfills my calling as a mother, a family member and a friend.

How has having a degree in management helped you run a practice?
Ho: I haven't had any "aha" moments necessarily in which the degree has helped me to run a practice. I have seen, however, that my broad life experiences have helped me connect with people and look at the bigger picture. Management is a hard subject that they don't really teach in dental school. Every day I get to practice is a better day.

What is it like to be involved in a group practice?
Ho: Pacific Dental Services is my partner and provides business support services for my private practice. I couldn't ask for a better partner as they manage daily business and red-tape concerns while I set tone for the office and how we practice as a clinical leader. Another advantage of working in a group practice is the network of clinicians. I have easy access to a large number of general practitioners and specialists, and business experts who are there to form a collaborative environment for the purpose of sharing best practices.

What is your experience with Dentaltown?
Ho: When I was in dental school, I was looking for something that connects dentists from all over the world and I found Dentaltown. Dentaltown is not just a dental magazine or website, it is a place where thousands of dentists - young and old, experienced and new - meet and share their enthusiasm and experiences. When I have a question, I search in the message boards or CE classes. I also learn new technologies and hot topics from what other dentists talk about. My favorite feature is CE courses. It is different from reading textbooks or research papers. It is science that has been practiced and modified.

Dr. Ho's Top Three
Sirona CEREC Surgitel Loupes and Light Sirona Orthopos XG and Schick Intra-oral Camera
When did you start using it?
2010 2008 2012
Why can you not live/work without it?
I would like to provide the most advanced and convenient technology available to patients. Patients value same-day full porcelain crowns without wearing temporary crowns. I would not feel comfortable doing any restoration without loupes and a light. Digital X-rays are essential diagnostic tools. They are my eyes and intra-oral photographs allow patients to see what I see.
When do you use it?
Currently, I use it for posterior and anterior crowns. In the near future, I would like to use it for more of a variety of procedures such as veneers and bridges. I use them for most restoration procedures so that I deliver restorations with confidence. Patients deserve it. I use them for every new and continuing patient, and emergency patient exam. Many times I take extra intra-oral pictures for patient education. Pictures allow patients to participate in diagnosis and make a sound decision about treatment.
How do you market this item to your patients?
Our team is great at telling patients about the advantages of this technology. During the office tour, patients are introduced to the CEREC unit. We also let them know we donate a portion from each crown we mill to charitywater to build wells in Ethiopia. I say, "With these glasses, your tooth is the size of your fist and I might be able to see some bacteria hanging on for dear life." Digital X-rays reduce exposure to radiation by as much as 80 percent and provide doctors instant images with accuracy for diagnosis. Intra-oral pictures give patients visual access to their entire mouth.
If you could change anything about this item, what would it be?
I would like it to be more user-friendly and less bulky. I would also like to see it improve in collecting data and speed. hope for them to be lighter in weight. Less bulky sensors and better resolution are always desirable. I would like to see an X-ray machine that can produce accurate BWs and PAs without being so cumbersome.

What is a typical day in your practice like?
Ho: Our day starts with a 15-minute morning huddle. It helps us learn from the previous day and prepare everyone for the present day. For new patients, I meet and greet the patients in my office and prescribe X-rays and introduce my dental assistants to them. After X-rays are done, I meet the patient again in an operatory for an exam. When the exam and treatment plan is complete, our benefits coordinator puts the treatment plan together to present to the patient. My days are filled with a variety of treatment with both existing and new patients. This includes direct and indirect restorations, removable prosthetics, oral surgery, straight RCT and SRPs. Most indirect restorations are done using CAD/CAM technology.

What do you think is the biggest problem dentistry faces today?
Ho: I think it is lack of true professionalism. The message many dentists send out to the world is that dentistry is a sales profession instead of health-care profession due to the fall of the economy and large educational debt. I feel bad when I see ads advertising buy-one-get-one-free implants or crowns, severely reduced prices on any major treatment, free this and that. Dentistry is definitely not a retail store or car dealership but a place where patients' concerns are addressed and oral health is promoted based on mutual trust and respect.

What are your concerns for new dentists?
Ho: Dentistry consists of clinical excellence, business acumen and behavior. There is not enough exposure to the business and the behavior or people side of dentistry during dental school. New dentists need to prepare themselves by visiting local dental offices, talking to senior dentists and reading many books before working to avoid unexpected surprises and stress, and enjoy dentistry while upholding and delivering the highest standards of care.

I think everyone should be involved in community service. Dental students are often overwhelmed with schoolwork and life. But from my own experience in dental school, offering service to the community provided me with the gratification of serving others during a stressful time in my life. As a practicing dentist, I am still busy perfecting clinical skills and improving my practice; however, I have continued to include service into my life. There are so many people who need our hands and hearts. If we can take a few hours to volunteer at homeless shelters, underserved communities, local schools, or overseas missions, the world will be a better place for all of us.

Looking ahead, what would you like to see dentistry do in terms of the way it operates as a profession in the next five to 10 years?
Ho: I would like to see a cooperative approach. Success follows cooperative efforts, not necessarily confrontation or competition. I hope we remind each other of the values and oaths we hold, and uplift each other.

Who are some of your mentors?
Ho: Dr. C. Collin Fairchild, Dr. Jonathan D. Ritchsteig, and Dr. Kenneth W. Stoffers (life-long mentor).

What are your favorite marketing techniques? How do you get the word out about your practice?
Internal referrals are my favorite marketing technique. A referred patient's first visit is smooth because he or she has a built-in trust relationship and is ready for treatment. I follow up with all of my patients within 24 hours of their visits and during the follow-up call I enhance the relationship and trust. Numerous patients express that the doctor and our wonderful team members actually cared about them and enjoyed the happy environment. Patients become life-long patients who refer us to their families and friends.

What is your favorite procedure or part of dentistry?
Ho: Anything that creates a smile on a patient's face. Whether that be to eliminate pain through RCTs and extractions, an improvement of aesthetics and function such as veneers, bridges or whitening, or simply an adjustment or polishing of an existing prosthetics and enamelplasty.

Another favorite part of my day is to listen to my team members laugh out loud. It resonates throughout the clinic and my heart. I am so lucky to have such happy team members who thrive everyday.

Describe your most successful or rewarding experience in your professional life.
Ho: Since I have been on board, our practice has grown significantly. Staff members are happier and patients have very positive experiences with dentistry. One patient came in with severe anxiety and fear and we weren't able to finish the initial exam at the first visit before she broke down into tears because of her fear of dentistry. With extra care and assurance, we eased her into starting treatment. We started slow with simple procedures and within a couple of months, we were able to fabricate anterior crowns without nitrous gas. She is now a patient for life and refers her family and co-workers.

What do you like to do when you are not working?
Ho: I like spending time with my 10-year-old son. We travel, watch musicals and movies, hike and bike. I am taking advantage of this time while he still enjoys hanging out with his mom. We also like to get involved in community service and church activities.


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