Office Visit: Dr. Eric Steinbach by Kyle Patton, associate editor

Office Visit: Dr. Eric Steinbach 

by Kyle Patton, associate editor
photography by Sean Micah Siegel

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.

Forty-one times a year, this Townie listens to the scuff and scratch of sneakers on hardwood at Barclay Center, home court of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. For most people in attendance, it represents a chance to watch the home team battle to stay in first place, but for Dr. Eric Steinbach, it’s just another day at the office. Steinbach, who has practiced in Brooklyn since he opened his first office in 2014, has also been the NBA team’s official dentist since 2016.

Steinbach’s beginning, though, is a relatable one. After several years working the ins and outs of corporate dentistry, he finally took the plunge and started a scratch practice in one of the most competitive markets, leveraging the efficiencies he learned from DSOs and adding his goal of becoming a big name in the world of aesthetic dentistry. He recently opened his second practice in the borough, and that’s where we catch up with him, tour the new office, and get to know one of Brooklyn’s best docs.

In this month’s Office Visit Q&A, Steinbach gives us an inside look at being an NBA team’s official dentist. You’ll also hear his take on how to make bread-and-butter dentistry a steppingstone to doing more cosmetic cases, how he balances two offices in the middle of a season, and more.

Office Highlights

Dr. Eric Steinbach

New York University College of Dentistry

Park Slope Dental Aesthetics, Court Street

Practice size:
4 operatories

Staff size: 10
You’re the team dentist for the Brooklyn Nets!? Tell us about how this came to be and walk us through the logistics, duties, responsibilities, etc.

It came to be out of nowhere—or seemingly out of nowhere. I got a call before the 2016–17 season from the team’s front office asking if I’d consider the position, which requires treatment of dental injuries during home games for both teams. I accepted almost immediately and brought on my close friends and partners Andrew Sarowitz and Pauline Vu. I’m lucky to have them on the dental team. There aren’t enough hours in the day to be practicing full time, running two offices, and covering 41 games a season!

A part of being the team doc is making sure you’re on hand during the home games in case of any emergencies. What’s your setup like? What sort of procedures have you had to do during a game?

Thankfully, my skills aren’t needed during most games! The most common dental injuries have been intraoral lacerations and nondisplaced concussions or subluxations. The idea is to stabilize so the players can get back to the game. Pending the severity of the trauma, we’ll see them after hours or the next day at the office to definitively treat the issue. The setup reflects that: thin-gauge braided wire, a seventh-generation bonding agent, flowable composite, Valo curing light. The medical bay has every suture imaginable, and topical and local anesthetics.

What about the players’ regular dental care?

We take care of the players off the court, too. I’d argue that regular checkups are as important as in-game coverage. Preventing a hot tooth right before tipoff is worth a lot. It’s also been a pleasure accommodating the players’ families, coaches and team staff over the years. These days, most of those appointments are after regular business hours, but before the pandemic, there were more than a few star-struck patients in the waiting room as a Nets player walked in.

You were a top-rated cosmetic dentist even before the Nets asked you to come aboard and before opening your first Brooklyn practice in 2014. What are some tips for general dentists looking to up their aesthetic game?

The easy answer is CE. There are more amazing doctors dedicated to teaching their ways than ever before. Follow them and immerse yourself in their content.

An entirely different question might be how I became sought for aesthetic dentistry. I can tell you it wasn’t by branding myself as a cosmetic dentist and hoping I could back it up! It truly came organically. I had an interest in aesthetics early on—in dental school, really—and knew I wanted to weave those concepts into how I practiced.

The reality for most young docs with new offices—including our first from-scratch one in Park Slope—is that you can’t expect to see four patients a day, limiting your scope to cosmetic dentistry, without loyal patients and a body of work, and still expect to pay the bills. I made it a point to do clean, beautiful general dentistry, took before-and-after photos and gained the trust of patients in the community, letting the work I did and the experience we gave our patients speak for themselves. The practice grew, and so did the percentage of cosmetic procedures that make up most of our typical workweek.

The best advice I can give would be to make your mundane general dentistry beautiful and make sure your patients see it.

Now you’ve got two offices, both in Brooklyn, and you’ve made some impressive upgrades to this newest location, which we’re featuring here. Walk us through some of your favorite elements.

Our second office is gorgeous, and I’m grateful to the team who helped bring my ideas to fruition. And of course I’ll always love the design of our first office, which is a renovated garden apartment in a brownstone. I wanted the new space to feel more open and interactive, brighter and taller, but keep the same vibe that made the first location special. I think we’ve done it. The black leather A-dec chairs on the charcoal oak floor, the open-bay Kavo CBCT and the flat-screen televisions hidden in the ceiling are cool features. For me, though, it’s the subtle angle of the hallway where you’ll see a fraction of each half-glass operatory wall as you look toward the back of the office. It has this golden proportion thing going on, and I’ll just stand in the hallway admiring that vantage.

Tell us about your partner and the dynamic you share that keeps these practices thriving.

If you haven’t heard the name Andrew Sarowitz, you’ve been living under a rock. His company, Impact Dental Designs, makes the best mouthguard in the game for competitive fighters. His other company, InJitsu, is all things MMA, including livestream training and event coverage. He’s my right-hand man when it comes to the Nets, and has been my partner in both offices since the beginning. Funnily enough, we haven’t practiced dentistry side by side since our residency 13 years ago. That should change in the next few months, which I’m excited about. I’ve always appreciated how our dynamic seems to be conducive to growing our group of practices, where I tend to be focused on the experience at the moment for the patient, while his grasp of the bigger picture keeps us in balance.

It seems like every private practice owner who started in corporate has horror stories, but you managed to carry over some things that work to your benefit. What are they?

To keep a long story short, I moved to the West Coast after dental school expecting to step into practice after a friend’s father retired. The ink wasn’t dry on my flight out there before the plan fell through.

I ended up associating between two Pacific Dental offices outside Los Angeles for almost four years, which were memorable for many reasons. I consider Drs. Terri Nguyen and Natasha Boghosian, respective owner docs of those practices, as my mentors. There are undoubtedly corporate dental horror stories out there, but none came from my experience working at Pacific Dental.

At times, the pressure to produce was felt. And you can imagine that if your office invested in a Cerec mill, sending anything to a good lab would be frowned upon. As a young associate, those things bothered me. Years later, as an owner, they ring a little more true. What I’ve taken most from corporate dentistry and tried to apply in my practice are the efficiencies that sustain a business. Metrics, data analysis and goals matter, but I’ve found that building a schedule that’s consistent but not rushed, treatment-planning in the patient’s best interest, doing good dentistry, and giving patients a reason to refer their friends lead to productive months and goals reached.

Top Products

Soprocare intraoral camera. We take intraoral photos of just about everything: decay, old and broken fillings, before-and-after composite restorations, before-and- after cleanings (great for hygiene). This has been the single most important tool to build trust with our patients.

Garrison Composi-Tight 3D XR Sectional Matrix System. My favorite sectional matrix system for predictable tight, broad contacts on Class II composites.

Luxatemp and LuxaFlow. I learned with the gold standard provisional veneer, crown and bridge material back at NYU Aesthetics and haven’t looked back. Chairside mock-ups with LuxaFlow and temporaries in Luxatemp for smile design cases are essential to our workflow.

Nikon DF camera, Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105 mm macro lens, Sigma Ring flash. I approach all aspects of general dentistry from an aesthetic perspective, but our practice has shifted to more explicit cosmetic dental procedures, which always begin with a series of photos. A DSLR, dental-specific macro lens and flash are standard.

Some of the challenges of practicing dentistry are universal and some are certainly relative. What’s a challenge for you?

The biggest challenge for me was letting go of the reins as our first office grew and we started to consider opening a second. I felt able to control every aspect of the experience we were giving new patients and thought that was positive. It took some time to understand that this practice, to some extent, would take on a life of its own—it should take on a life of its own. It’s necessary for growth. I think trusting that the seeds I’ve planted or the vision I’ve instilled among staff and associates would guide the growth has allowed me to overcome that challenge.

Think you’ll keep expanding?

We knew it was time to open another practice when our hygiene appointments were booked out for four months and I had to work weekends to schedule insertions within three weeks. We won’t expand for expansion’s sake, but if the demand is there, sure.

What are three things you can’t imagine practicing dentistry without?

I literally can’t practice without my Designs for Vision 3.5EF “Buddy Holly” frame loupes. I’ve had some version of those since dental school and can’t imagine wearing anything but. I’ll circle back and say my DSLR with a macro lens and ring flash. I’ll always be pacing the hallway carrying it in one hand.

What was the single most beneficial change you’ve made in your career? What did it do for you?

I’d say taking more photos of my work, from 10 upper veneers to full-mouth rehab cases to simple posterior composites. Patients want to understand how we make decisions and want to know the quality of dental work they’re receiving. It builds trust.

We’ve gone long enough without a basketball reference. When it comes to the mentors, instructors and other doctors you’ve worked with, who would be on your all-time dental dream team?

Dr. John Calamia, director of the NYU College of Dentistry’s aesthetic dentistry program, was my first instructor and mentor. I owe him a lot. Dr. Boghosian out in Los Angeles does some of the most sound general dentistry I’ve seen. She does my dentistry—enough said. My associate, Dr. Nikita Thomas, and I speak almost daily about case details. She asks some of the best questions and truly thinks outside the box. Lastly, my partner, Dr. Sarowitz, is a skilled surgeon with a business mind.

What aspect of dentistry is lagging behind the times?

I’m not sure any aspect of dentistry is lagging behind the times! From a purely clinical perspective, biomaterials have never been better. Digital everything is standard these days. We have intraoral scanners accurate enough to make nondigital impressions obsolete, and they’re becoming more affordable. And dentistry on social media is bridging a gap between doctors and patients.

What’s your management style like? How do you run your office?

We’ve put together a team who understands what has made our practice special—workflow, how we interact with patients, etc.—and I’ve been lucky to bring hard-working employees and associates on board. I don’t have to run the tightest of ships, which I think eases some of the pressure inherent to this profession.

You’ve done some truly remarkable smile design cases. In your experience, what can a dentist do that helps create the best possible outcome?

Work backward from the aesthetic outcome you’re envisioning. This is standard among cosmetic dentists, but take an abundance of photos and wax or mock up your vision for the patient. Allow a version of the final product to guide your treatment plan. Let the desired position, size and shape of the teeth, contrasted with the current position, dictate whether, for example, crown lengthening or orthodontics are needed before prep. This approach will make every aspect of your case more predictable, which means you’ll be better able to meet your patient’s expectations.

OK, so we have to know: Do you even like basketball?

I love basketball. I have fond memories of going to Penn State games at Rec Hall in the ’90s. I think the capacity at the time was 4,000 but the noise was still deafening. So, the first time covering a Nets game, those unmistakable basketball sounds—the screech of shoes on the court, banter between players, the thrum of the crowd—jogged those memories. And of course, my dad has been to a few games at Barclays Center. It’s great to relive those times 25 years later.

Give us a snapshot of your life outside of dentistry.

I just got married to my biggest crush, Marly. We had a small wedding with our closest friends and family. We have a gray-and-black Sphynx cat named Judas and an 11-year-old chihuahua named Stella. If we’re not trying the newest, coolest thing in Brooklyn with my sister, Alexis, you’ll find us upstate at a bed-and-breakfast, in Pennsylvania or Wisconsin visiting our families, or at home rewatching terrible ’80s horror movies.

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