Office Visit: Dr. Grant Olson by Sam Mittelsteadt, editor

Office Visit: Dr. Grant Olson 

by Sam Mittelsteadt, editor
photography by Novo Studio

Dentists spend most of their working hours inside their own practices, so they usually don’t get many opportunities to see what it’s like inside another doctor’s office. Dentaltown’s recurring Office Visit profile offers a chance for Townies to meet their peers, hear their stories and get a sense of how they practice.

This Missouri dentist’s plans for a supersized dental practice caused a commotion on Dentaltown’s online forums after Townies watched a walk-through video of the construction in progress: The “This Guy Deserves His Own Thread” message board racked up more than 10,600 views and 460 posts over just four months. Common reactions from the online community ranged from admiration (“That looks amazing! I’m glad he’s not opening it up near me”) and curiosity (“How many doctors will be working there, to make use of all that space?”) to doubt (“How will something that large stay open in Springfield, Missouri?”).

Now that Dr. Grant Olson's $15 million, 29,000-square-foot second practice has been open for almost a year, we sent a photographer to tour the property while editorial director Dr. Thomas Giacobbi learned more about how the facility reflects Olson’s large-scale ambitions for the future of private practice dentistry, as well as his faith.

Office Highlights

Dr. Grant Olson

Missouri State University (undergraduate),
University of Missouri–Kansas City (dental school)

Innovative Dental,
Springfield, Missouri

Practice size:
This location: 29,000 square feet; 16 operatories currently equipped with 15 more in the queue
Previous location: 5,500 square feet; 10 operatories

Staff size:
44 (4 doctors, 12 assistants,
8 hygienists, 5 treatment coordinators, 15 admin)

How long did you practice in your previous location before starting this project?

We opened the first Innovative Dental location in January 2013, and within a year we began renovations, expanding from five operatories to 10 and growing the team. Over the next few years we experienced immense growth, with anywhere from 70 to 100 new patients every week. We knew we needed to expand the practice or dramatically change our approach, but weren’t sure what that was going to look like.

In 2017, just over four years after opening, we had the opportunity to buy the land where this new building is located, and ground started moving by May 2019. The practice opened in November 2020, almost eight years since we opened the original location.

When you started to build the current location, it was supposed to be a second location. How has that plan changed?

We began to build the team months before the new location opened, so we wouldn’t open a new office with inexperienced team members. We went from about 20 members to 44 over the course of a year, adding in all areas: admin, assistants and doctors.

The new location was originally intended to be a second location, because expanding our footprint would allow more options for our patients. Our first location was centrally located for the community and loved by both patients and team members, which made it a logical choice to keep it in the mix, and our intention was to equip only 50% of the new building, allowing space for growth in the next few years.

However, once the second practice was open and functioning, it became apparent how hard it can be to maintain our team culture in multiple locations. Buildings can create beautiful environments for patients to receive their care, but team culture is what drives the patient experience. After a few months of dividing the team between two locations, I realized that our team—and thus our patients—would have an inferior experience with this situation. Our team continuity had to be a priority to continue to excel in patient care and the remarkable experiences that had gotten us to this place to begin with.

In January, I made the difficult but clear decision to gradually consolidate back into just one location. In August, we transitioned fully to the new building. We now have 18 rooms fully equipped.

What was the cost to build, including equipment? What is your overhead percentage?

All in, this project approaches $15 million. While I understand how crazy it may sound to spend so much to build a dental office, I approached this project from a unique perspective.

I felt called to step out in faith beyond my own capabilities, to rely on God to come through in a big way. In this way, Innovative Dental is a God-sized dream and the fact that it was built during the pandemic and that it’s a successful dental office with 62% overhead (Jan. 1–July 1) is an absolute miracle.

Do you have any financial partners or investors?

We don’t! Throughout the years, we’ve developed a relationship with a local bank, and Innovative Dental is solely owned by my wife and me. We are very passionate about the values Innovative Dental has been built on and want to be intentional about protecting the opportunity that’s been given to us. Both administratively and clinically, this creates uniform, mission-based decisions and eliminates the opportunity for conflict to emerge.

That being said, Innovative Dental has not been built alone! We believe in developing team members who have buy-in to our mission. Linking back to the culture of our team, our people really do “own” our practice and treat it as such. I do want to give some clarity to how we were able to secure financing for nearly $15 million. Our office originally was outside the city limits, which qualified the development for USDA lending up to $10 million without heavy federal approval and red tape. While this was enough to complete the building, we were far short of the funds necessary to complete the project. While we had no idea how we could complete this project, we were annexed by the city, and then qualified for $5 million in U.S. Small Business Administration lending. This was a miracle of timing and paperwork.

Explain the “Monday Morning Reboot” meetings that you have with your team.

They’re an important part of our culture— key to a mission-driven week and an opportunity to remind ourselves why we do what we do and why it’s important. During the meeting, we focus on leadership development and recap our previous week’s numbers. From there, we typically transition to some form of leadership discussion to help grow as leaders and a team. This is an opportunity to learn and grow, so we want to take advantage of that time. Discussions range from going through leadership-based books to podcast series, and occasionally breaking down our mission, values or vision and how it’s relevant to the challenges we may be facing.

You’ve said that your practice doesn’t focus on production and collections as a primary measure of success. What numbers do you and your team watch to monitor practice performance?

We track and read five-star reviews, as well as the number of new patients scheduled. Logistically, those numbers reflect word-of-mouth marketing and team performance—both vital to growth. The secret falls in the less tangible aspects of those numbers: They’re driven by the five-star experiences our team provides.

We don’t just celebrate the numbers but also recognize team members for the experiences they’re providing. Each week, team members can nominate one another as “Innovator of the Week” for going above and beyond. The team also spends time in every morning meeting recognizing “Innovative Moments”—experiences with patients that reflect our mission or vision—along with a glance at that day’s schedule.

Even on an administrative level, numbers like call volume, case acceptance rates and collections are monitored only for the purpose of recognizing trends and future planning. We intentionally recognize and celebrate wins for patients because that’s truly the core of what drives all the numbers most dental offices typically focus on. If we do our absolute best at taking care of people—both patients and our team—the rest falls into place.

Top Products

Cerec Same-Day Digital Smile Design (Dentsply Sirona)
One of the unique features of our office is the capability to mill a full mouth of veneers or crowns in a short amount of time utilizing the eight milling machines available. I’m able to transform a smile in just a few short hours and have full control over the aesthetics while being as conservative as possible. While patients love the convenience, I love the ability to control the whole process from start to finish and deliver this unique experience. This treatment has allowed us to help people who travel to see us from all over the country in one single trip.

Chrome GuidedSmile (ROE Dental Laboratory)
Full-arch implant therapy with Chrome utilizes the latest in 3D imaging and planning to deliver a predictable, efficient and premium service to our patients. The intuitive features within Chrome simplify a complex procedure and allow for the delivery of the promised result with precision in a fraction of the time, compared with free-handed approaches. Chrome has allowed me to scale this treatment to help the growing volume of patients that need full-mouth reconstruction with implants.

Accelerated Invisalign with Propel Orthodontics
Propel provides three distinct advantages for our patients. First, it allows for more efficient movement of the roots to the desired position. Second, Propel reduces the force needed for movement, thus making treatment more comfortable. Finally, we see treatment times greatly reduced because of the biomechanics of ortho on the softened bone.

SonicFill composite (Kerr Dental)
Filling teeth can become repetitive, routine and monotonous. With SonicFill, restoring decay becomes a precise service that delivers great results time and time again. Sonicfill allows for the same great adaptability that we get from flow with a highly filled composite vibrated into every micrometer of the prepared tooth.

Teneo treatment centers (Dentsply Sirona)
These treatment centers do everything from implants to endo, and they do it in a style and comfort that is tough to beat. My patients and I both enjoy the amazing feeling of a brand new luxury car every time you use them—which is good, because they cost about the same.

Your practice sees patients from all over the world for very comprehensive treatment. Take us through this process from meeting the patient virtually to delivering their treatment.

We typically begin by connecting traveling patients with specific members of our team who are set up and trained to answer more in-depth questions that come with traveling for care. Those team members gather as much information as they can—including history, previous records or X-rays—and discuss each patient’s goals. From there, they typically review cases with me to get an idea of the best options for the patient.

If the patient’s goals and our recommendation seem like a good fit, the team will schedule the patient for a virtual consultation with me. I set aside time each week to have face-to-face discussions with our traveling patients, giving them the opportunity to ask questions. A dedicated treatment coordinator sits in on the consultations and follows up with a comprehensive treatment plan. She is typically the one who will assist patients with making financial arrangements and scheduling appointments.

How do you manage the inevitable follow-up for your remote patients when they need an adjustment or have additional dental needs? Who takes care of their recare?

When traveling patients schedule, we encourage them to build in time the day after treatment for any necessary adjustments that might be needed before they leave town. For long-term follow-up, patients go about it in a variety of ways. As crazy as it sounds, some choose to come back to us for all of their visits—even their cleanings! As a general rule, we encourage patients to set up general recare with a local dentist who has some experience with the procedures we provided. From there, if a patient has questions or concerns, we’re always happy to discuss options or solutions with them.

You are the rock star in the practice, but can’t treat every patient who comes through the door. How is your clinical time scheduled?

It’s always evolving. Currently, we try to schedule larger cases on Fridays (unless they’re traveling patients, because of the next-day follow-up that might be needed). I set aside a block of time each week to focus on virtual consults and case planning. Each season looks a little different, but our team does a great job of strategically scheduling patients to make the most of our time. I still see local patients at least two days out of each week.

Many offices face the challenge of having patients accept appointments with associate dentists. How does your team make this happen?

We approach it from a branded perspective: All of our marketing pieces are about creating value for Innovative Dental; the only avenue that focuses on just me as a provider is YouTube. If patients request me when I’m unavailable, our team does an excellent job at building relationships with them and transferring their own confidence in our other providers to the patient. It’s all about showing them that we work as a team and have full confidence in each other.

Does your practice participate in PPOs? Do you offer any in-house discount plans?

Innovative Dental is in-network with many PPO plans, and also administers its own in-house discount plan, called The Innovative Smile Club, for patients who don’t have insurance benefits.

Our mission is to take care of people. Sometimes that involves bigger or more cosmetic treatments for which insurance isn’t as beneficial, but sometimes it’s about building relationships with patients at a six-month cleaning that is covered by insurance.

We are intentional about educating patients on the benefits and limitations of insurance. Dental insurance plans are built to maintain health, not transform smiles, and our team is great at communicating that with patients.

What was your initial inspiration to start posting videos to YouTube?

As someone who’s learned a lot about fitness and grilling from watching others on YouTube, I got the idea that I could share my passion for dentistry on my own channel. In the beginning, it was all about enjoying the process of creating the content and connecting with an online audience. I had hoped that the channel would grow and reach a larger audience, but after I’d created more than 100 videos, the channel had grown only marginally.

Then, sometime in early 2019, YouTube placed the channel in the search algorithm for popular dental search terms, and the channel grew exponentially. [The Innovative Dental channel now has more than 110,000 subscribers.] People were contacting us, wanting to travel to our practice for treatment, so we developed a landing page and form to take the requests and filter them into virtual consultations.

I’m sure that everyone who has experienced any “popularity” on social media has their own unique story. Our growth was more slow and methodical than it was viral. While a number of videos have millions of views, I believe that it was the consistent focus on releasing dental-related content that eventually grabbed YouTube’s attention.

It’s been a minute since you posted a new video on YouTube. What are your plans for the future of your channel?

Designing, building and transitioning into the new office took nearly all of the extra time I had originally devoted to content creation. This, along with the demand from traveling patients and a growing family of three, demanded almost all of my free time for quite a while.

Now that we’re settling into the new practice, I’m redirecting focus on further developing our social media presence. We’ve found that we really have two audiences—dental patients and dental professionals— and we split the content between separate, dedicated channels. We use the current channel to release content directed toward patients, specifically the full-mouth reconstruction aspect of restorative dentistry. And our professionally focused channel is called Rheostat.

Rheostat is the name of your new business, which was developed to help dentists “develop thriving cultures and create remarkable practices.”

The first aspect is the Rheostat app, which helps teams function more effectively, creating better team environments and patient experiences through communication and allocation assessment. It constantly provides reports illuminating the opportunities within the flow of the dental practice. The app is coupled with support and consulting that address current systems and establish new ones that will achieve more optimal team performance. Also, the Rheostat marketing team will partner with practices to develop powerful messaging that will reach intended audiences to see measurable results. We’re excited about what we’ve created at Innovative Dental, and how it could change the way our industry makes an impact on people!

It’s clear in your videos and in our conversation today that you’re a man of faith. Share how faith played a role in this project and your practice.

Innovative Dental came into existence as an answer to prayer, and what I have witnessed God do with and through the people here can only be described as a miracle. I believe that He has blessed me with this team and this practice to transform the lives of as many people as I can. This means that we invest in our patients as people before we invest in their teeth. As we start every day, we are mindful of the opportunity that we have to make an impact on each other and our patients, so we start each day with a prayer that asks God to help us show Christ’s love to our patients.

Our new location, meanwhile is a great example of a God-sized dream becoming a reality! When we began the plans to build a new office, we were quite practical in the approach to scope and budget, but as the time came to share our vision with the architects, my wife and I were taking a break from TV and reading instead. One of the books I read was Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small by Mark Batterson, which challenged me in that I was playing it safe and envisioning what I thought I could do and I wasn’t including God in the equation. After coming to this conclusion, my wife and I felt called to step way out of our comfort zone to create something that was going to take supernatural intervention. Throughout the project, my wife and I were at peace because we knew that we were trusting in Him, not ourselves..

How do you allocate your time between family and work life? What’s your typical day like?

I’m constantly trying to master work-life balance. My wife, Lauren, plays an integral role in practice operations, working with our administrative team to create the best experience for patients from start to finish and building relationships with our team to support their leadership development. She’s very detail-oriented, so she’s also key to our marketing, website development, event organization and facility design/management. So my kids have spent many evenings at the office while Mom and Dad work. We schedule many long weekends to devote time to family, and four to six vacations a year to make sure we get undivided time separate from the work of owning and operating a dental practice.

My typical day starts around 5 a.m., when I work out while listening to my favorite pastors on podcasts or YouTube. This allows me to work my mind, soul and body before my day even starts! I’ve found that this sets me up to have the most productive and positive day. The team starts every morning with a morning huddle at 7:40 before our first patients arrive at 8. We see patients till 4 p.m., so our team can get home to be with their families.

One of my greatest passions, and a consistent way I can contribute to our family life daily, is to prepare dinner on the grill.

Any favorite recipes or grilling tips? 

It all started as a practical way to provide food for my family while in dental school: I could buy pork shoulder for about $1 a pound and turn it into something delicious with a smoker. We ate BBQ sandwiches, pulled pork potatoes, pork nachos … you name it.

This passion for creating delicious food over fire became somewhat of an obsession, and I’ve carried it into the design of our new office with an amazing grill setup. We use the office BBQ grilling area for team get-togethers, celebrations and weekly happy hours. (Now I’m hungry!)

Do you have a favorite patient story?

My favorite patient story is also my most humbling moment as a dentist. While I had performed many veneer cases with the Cerec, I had never done a full-mouth restoration (28 crowns) while opening a bite in one visit. I especially had never attempted this for a patient from out of state without a wax-up. Fortunately, I had an amazingly patient and forgiving patient. For my first attempt, I knew I should have taken impressions before preparing the teeth so I would have the ability to temporize. As luck would have it, I had many issues with corrupt files and the software locking up with all of the data I was trying to feed it. I lost the bite that I had created from the aesthetic mockup and was feeling pretty defeated. I started the procedure around 8 a.m. and it was already 3 p.m. by the time I had to start over with imaging.

Long story short: We completed the procedure around 7:30 that evening, and even though it wasn’t a victory in production per hour or full-mouth efficiency, it was an incredible learning experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better patient. Even though it took all day, he was thrilled with the results [see Case Study, below] and has referred other people to travel across the country to get the same treatment!

Case Study
Grant Olson Case Study
Grant Olson Case Study
Grant Olson Case Study
Grant Olson Case Study
Grant Olson Case Study
Grant Olson Case Study

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