Office Visit: In His Element by Chelsea Knorr, Associate Editor, Dentaltown Magazine

In His Element
by Chelsea Knorr, Associate Editor, Dentaltown Magazine

Dr. Gregory J. Snevel always knew he wanted to be a dentist, but might have shocked even himself when he decided to forego working at his father's practice and hang his own shingle relatively soon out of dental school. Dentaltown Magazine had the privilege of sitting with Dr. Snevel to learn more about him, his road to dentistry, the challenges and rewards to opening up his own practice and what he has learned since graduating.

Dr. Snevel, why did you chose dentistry as your profession?
Snevel: I chose dentistry because it had all the elements that I wanted in a profession. I always new I wanted to be my own boss, I always knew I wanted to work with people and I always saw myself working in the health-care field. Dentistry combines all of the things I wanted in a career plus it allows me to be creative, problem solve, and really improve someone's self esteem and quality of life.

What was your experience like in dental school?
Snevel: I had a lot of fun in dental school, just not the school itself. I had the advantage/disadvantage of coming from a background in dentistry, so I knew how certain things would be handled in the real world vs. the academic world. A lot of the protocols and red tape were excessive in my opinion, but I think that is probably very common to the academic practice of dentistry. My education at OSU was top notch. Our clinical exposure was above and beyond most. It really made me very confident to walk off the stage at graduation and go right into practice in the real world.

Tell us about setting up your own dental practice right away. When/how did you come to that decision?
Snevel: Originally the plan was to join my father's practice, learn the business and then, in three to five years, take over for myself. I began practicing in July 2011 and from the beginning it was apparent that it was moving a lot quicker than anyone had anticipated. The practice began to grow and I decided that it would be better to start building my own practice sooner rather than later.

Name: Gregory J. Snevel, DDS
Graduate From: The Ohio State University College of Dentistry
Graduate Year: 2011
Practice Name: The Snevel Dental Group, Ltd.
Practice Location: Willoughby Hills, Ohio
Office Size: 2,366 square feet 2012 2012
Staff: Two dentists (one full time, one part time), one part time hygienist, one office manager/chairside, one chairside assistant
Staff: Six full-time staff

As you started working on setting up your own practice, what surprised you the most about the process?
Snevel: I was surprised at how much coordination and planning it took to get the ball moving. Even with the great equipment, design and builders I worked with, I still spent a lot of time on the phone, making sure everyone was up to speed, that everyone was working together and that things were progressing smoothly.

What were some of the biggest challenges in setting up your own practice?
Snevel: Having the confidence to actually go through with it. It's very scary when you start looking at the actual hard numbers of costs associated with building a new office, moving, updating equipment, etc. You can't let those fears keep you from getting what you really want. You need to take a good hard look at the financials of the practice and make a decision. I'm not a halfway kind of person, so we didn't make a move until I was confident I could get exactly what I wanted.

What sort of input did you have on the design/functionality of your office?
Snevel: I had total control. When I was in dental school, I would read magazines, like Dentaltown Magazine, and spend time in a lot of private dentists' offices. I kept a scrapbook and whenever I saw a product or cool idea I would add it to the book. I had designs of what I wanted my office to “feel” like all the way back to my second year in school. I still use that scrapbook today.

When it came to color schemes, paint, art, etc., I had an interior designer work with me to pick colors and materials that would fit with the image I had for our office. I was looking for modern, high-tech, visually striking, but not cold. I wanted the office to be bright and feel comfortable.

What challenges do you face today?
Snevel: My biggest challenges today do not come from the clinical side of dentistry at all. The dentistry is the easiest part. My challenges all have to do with the ins-and-outs of running my own business - administration, collections, staff/patient issues, dealing with vendors/suppliers, marketing, etc.

What is the biggest advantage to having your own practice?
Snevel: The freedom to run things exactly how you want them, the pride in watching something that you build grow and serve people, and the flexibility of being your own boss.

Biggest disadvantage?
Snevel: When you own your own business you are it - the end of the line. Every decision is (or should be) yours to make. Every consequence is yours to deal with. You must monitor and keep eyes on every aspect of your practice at all times. I joke that I never really have a day off. I'm at my office doing something every single day. I'm very involved in the business/marketing side of my practice, so I'm constantly looking at new-patient numbers, production, overhead, etc. When you start to loose grip on those things, your practice can start to get away from you. It pays to put the time in yourself, because nobody else is going to be as concerned with your practice health as you.

Is setting up your own dental practice something you'd recommend for other young dentists? Why/why not?
Snevel: That all really depends on the dentist and if he or she really wants to put in the work and effort and stress of going it alone. If you know in your mind that starting your own practice is what you want to do at some point in the future, then do it. What's the point in waiting? Do it now while you are young and have the energy and drive to do it and before you have any obligations. If you're not sure about taking all this on, then don't. It is not a decision to be made lightly.

You grew up in Ohio - how important was it for you to remain in your area?
Snevel: It was very important for me to stay in Ohio. This is where I grew up and my whole family is here. I couldn't imagine leaving this behind.

What is the one thing you've learned about dentistry that you wish you had learned in dental school?
Snevel: In dental school when a restoration doesn't hold up or fails in a patient's mouth, they would always make it seem like it was something the dentist did. “If you had done the procedure correctly or ideally it would have lasted indefinitely.” That's just not true. You can do everything right and have perfect skills, and it can still fail. Failures are going to happen, some will be your fault, most will not. It all comes down to how you handle it, what you learn from it and how you make it right by the patient.

You are quite the early adopter of new technologies in your practice - tell me how you got so involved in CAD/CAM?
Snevel: CAD/CAM is the future of dentistry, plain and simple. Just like the air driven dental handpiece was a game changer so long ago, CAD/CAM is the same. It allows you to do better work, faster and ultimately more affordably in the long run. The question we asked ourselves was, “Do we want to come late to the party?” In my mind the answer was a definite no! In 10 to 15 years, some form of CAD/CAM will be in every dental office in America. I want to be ahead of trends, not behind them. We sat down and compared the cost and features of a couple different systems, and examined our lab bills from previous years. I definitely saw the potential in the investment. I decided to go with Sirona's Omnicam because the company has such a proven track record, and the clinical workflow of the Omnicam is a breeze. Much easier to learn and implement than the other systems we looked into.

What other technologies are you excited to implement in your office?
Snevel: I explore, invest and implement any technology that has two common factors: 1. Improvement in the quality of my work; and 2. Improvement in the speed of my work. I try not to focus on the direct cost to implement, but if a new material allows me to do better dentistry, or a new product allows me to do a procedure faster, it will pay for itself in the long run. Digital radiography is the perfect example. Obviously, it's much faster than having to process film the traditional way, plus the image quality is superb, leading to better dx and better acceptance of treatment.

I love rotary endo; it has really improved the speed and predictability of my root canal procedures. I stick mainly to anterior and single-rooted teeth, being able to implement this in my practice has been a great service to my patients.

My STA machine is great as well, it allows me to predictably numb a tooth without doing a nerve block instantly. I also don't have to wait five to 10 minutes for the anesthetic to take effect. On top of that, its much more comfortable to the patient.

Tell us about a typical day at your office. How many hours do you work each week? What sorts of patients do you see?
Snevel: I typically work anywhere from 25-35 hours a week. A typical day consists of everyone being ready to go at the office around 8:30 am. Our first patients start at 9 a.m., and we work until about 5 p.m.

I see all kinds of patients, from simple cleanings (yes I do my own prophys occasionally), all the way to complex implant supported fixed arch therapy. Every patient is different with different needs; it's what makes my days enjoyable.

What would you recommend to those in dental school right now? Snevel: Get out into the real world as much as you can. There are plenty of doctors out there that would love to have you shadow them. See if you cant get a feel for how you want your practice to be.

Remember there are always lots of ways to do things. Be open minded, use your critical thinking and judgment skills, try new things and don't be afraid to push yourself.

Dr. Snevel's Top Five
Dexis Digital Imaging CEREC Omnicam Milestone Scientific STA
(Single Tooth Anesthesia System)
Isolite Isolation System Garrison Compositite
Matrix Bands
When did you start using it?
2011 2013 2011 2011 2012
Why can you not live/work without it?
After doing my first root canal with Dexis, the thought of having to wait for film to process seems prehistoric. It has fundamentally changed the way I look at dentistry. It's a big wow factor for patients. Give a patient a painless injection, and they will not stop sending you referrals. Plus, I can confidently numb a lower tooth every time. I bought the Isolite when I just started as I was sometimes working without an assistant. The visualization you get is great, it allows me to do better dentistry. It has taken my posterior composites to another level.
When do you use it?
On a daily basis, multiple times a day. Every day, I use it to mill large compsites, onlays/ inlays, even temporaries. Not just for crowns. I scan and digitally submit cases to the labs as well. Anytime I have to administer anesthesia. It is easy, predictable and painless. Quadrant cases, scaling and root planning, sealants, CEREC cases (its great for imaging), any patient that has heavy salivary flow or has wandering tongue syndrome. Any posterior Class II/III composite that isn't large enough for an inlay.
If you could change anything about the item, what would it be?
I'd like it to be wireless and less expensive. I would like to see more implant integration in the basic software as well as the ability to do bridges. I wish I had more of them. I wish the mouthpieces came in a few more configurations. I wish the rubber on the rings lasted a bit longer. It seems like I'm replacing one about every four to six months.

What are you most excited about in your practice?
Snevel: It's a toss up between my CAD/CAM and implants. I started placing implants a little more than a year ago, and it has really taken off in my practice. Patients love that they get to continue to see me for all their care, and I love having complete control over the whole situation. Integration of both CAD/CAM and implants (which is something I'm working on) will really take the workflow to the next level, and will bring us even closer to a restorative driven approach to implants.

You've been a member of Dentaltown since 2011. In what ways has it been a resource for you?
Snevel: It's a huge resource for me. Before I buy any product, Dentaltown is the first place I check for reviews from other dentists. I also spend a lot of time on the message boards, seeing what other dentists are doing, what materials they are using, etc.

Let's say someone told you were not allowed to practice dentistry anymore, what would you do instead?
Snevel: I've thought about being a school psychologist. Maybe a musician.

When you're not practicing, what do you like to do to unwind?
Snevel: I like to stay active. I like to fly fish, spend time outdoors hiking, camping. I also really enjoy playing music; I play in a couple of bands.

Where do you see yourself and your practice in five years?
Snevel: I would like to see the office continue to grow, and to increase the amount of surgery/implant service I do on a daily basis. I want to expand our use of CAD/CAM technology and do more total mouth dentistry. Another full-time doctor on staff would be nice, too.


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