How Dr. Bickling is Building the Nordstrom of Dentistry

Whenever we call Strong Smiles Dental Care, we’re greeted with a friendly, warm voice.

“Thank you for calling Strong Smiles Dental Care, open 7 days a week…”.

It's the same nice and friendly greeting from every staff member, every single time.

It’s etched into our brains that Strong Smiles Dental Care is open 7 days a week. These are unusual hours for the suburbs in Maryland. Our product and marketing team at NexHealth had to find out more.

What we found is really exciting. With 20 years of experience in the dental industry (that includes building a 26 office dental group), Dr. Todd Bickling, CEO and co-founder of Strong Smiles Dental care, is set to build the Nordstrom of dentistry. Here’s how he is doing it.

Dr. Todd Bickling, CEO and Co-Founder of Strong Smiles Dental Care.Pictured: Dr. Todd Bickling, CEO & Co-Founder of Strong Smiles Dental Care

Helping build a 26 office dental group

In 2002, a young Dr. Bickling was hired by Neibauer Dental Care, which at the time was a single office practice. The office ran like any other dental office: open 4 or 5 days a week, serving patients during the standard 9-5 business hours. However, Dr. Bickling had a key insight: patients have work. They often don’t have time to see the dentist during business hours. Not only was this hurting his patients’ dental health, but the practice's bottom line itself.

Patients have work

Like any true innovator, he personally set out to correct this. He asked the practice owner to extend the office's hours late into the evening and weekends, volunteering to take the late and weekend shifts. Today this may seem normal; however, 20 years ago, in the suburbs of Maryland, this was an highly unusual and risky move. The risk quickly paid off and business started booming. Not only was the practice doing well financially - the patients were much happier with their visit. With happy patients, Neibauer Dental Care was able to expand to 26 offices with Dr. Bickling leading the expansion as the Chief Dental Officer.

Dr. Bickling perfected the model of convenient dental care at Neibauer Dental Care. However, as things were just starting to take off, the group was acquired. After being acquired, Dr. Bickling realized it was time to build his own practice. In 2013, Dr. Bickling partnered with Dr. Victoria Yu to create Strong Smiles Dental Care. At Strong Smiles Dental Care, Dr. Bickling and his team are dedicated to delivering convenient, affordable, and easy dental care. In other words, he is building the Nordstrom of dentistry.

 

Convenient, affordable, and easy dental care

Strong Smiles Dental Care is dedicated to convenience.Dr. Bickling is growing Strong Smiles Dental Care methodically, sustainably, and for the long run. He does not want to make a quick profit. In the same manner that John Nordstrom disrupted retail, or how Howard Schultz forever changed American coffee consumption with Starbucks, Dr. Bickling wants to revolutionize the delivery of dental care. He has a simple formula for doing so: convenience, affordability, and ease.

 These three values are not just slogans. Dr. Bickling lives by them, measures them, and improves them every single day. Whenever he is faced with a new challenge in providing convenient, affordable, and easy dental care, Dr. Bickling measures the data, and then systematizes a solution. In fact, a great example comes from as recent as 2016. After three years of rapid growth, Strong Smiles Dental Care plateaued.

Faced with a new challenge

Opening his first Edgewater office in 2013 and proving the model successful, Dr. Bickling decided to open a second office in nearby Odenton. But this meant he needed to step away from practicing dentistry and, instead, run the business full time. So he transitioned to an associate model - hiring associate dentists to see patients. Although, this was the right move for the long term vision of the company, in the short term, the office's retention rate cratered. Patients were not following up on their recommended treatment plans. This meant a significant drop in revenue in both offices.

Offering convenient, affordable, and easy dental care created a fast growing practice. However, changing to an associate model was hurting its retention. And no practice can survive with low retention. Being data driven, Dr. Bickling started measuring the problem. Why are patients not accepting their treatment plans? Why are they not returning? Is it the price? Timing? The new dentists? Do I need to start seeing patients again?

"If you don’t measure it, you cannot solve it."

“If you don’t measure it, you cannot solve it,” Dr. Bickling says. After months of data tracking, Dr. Bickling developed what he calls the “Trust Score”. In other words, he is able to quantify patient trust. With this new proprietary technique, he drove patient trust and retention up and grew Strong Smiles Dental Care nearly 100% in under 12 months.

 

Partnering with NexHealth

Strong Smiles Dental Care has been included in Inc's 5000 fastest growing businesses.A lot has changed between 2013, when Dr. Bickling started Strong Smiles Dental Care, and 2018, when Dr. Bickling decided to partner with NexHealth. In a world of one-click meal delivery, streaming movies, and one-tap car rides, patients are demanding more convenience and ease from their dentists. Dr. Bickling was already ahead of the curve by keeping both of his offices open 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. However, he needed to stay ahead when it came to delivering the best digital experience for his patients too.

After considering several vendors, Dr. Bickling partnered with NexHealth, a system that works with his existing PMS software, stays on-brand, and is scalable.

"We LOVE NexHealth"

“We LOVE NexHealth,” Dr. Bickling says. “70 appointments booked in the last 6 weeks...44% of which were booked outside of normal dentist business hours.” Partnering with NexHealth means Dr. Bickling is now able to extend his business virtually to 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. No more phone tags, voicemails, or back and forth for his patients to get into his office.

Being data driven, Dr. Bickling also uses NexHealth to track his patient’s real-time feedback, comments, and questions. Partnering with NexHealth means he is able to take his model of convenient care one step further, and measure his affordable and easy care model with real-time patient feedback.

 

The future

Dr. Todd Bickling wants to revolutionize the way dental care is delivered in the US. He is building Strong Smiles Dental Care to be the Nordstrom of dentistry. He likes to systematize, measure, and scale every step of the patient journey. With lots of data and an eye for innovation, Dr. Bickling is ever more focused on delivering convenient, affordable, and easy care to his patients.

Today, Dr. Bickling is looking forward to opening his third office soon. “We are just starting to see the potential force that Strong Smiles can be on the marketplace. We will keep perfecting our systems and growing organically,” says Dr. Bickling.

Our CEO and co-founder, Alamin Uddin, is also really excited to be working with Dr. Bickling. “I love working with Dr. Bickling. His work ethic is incredible when it comes to delivering the best care to his patients. In fact, I’d recommend everyone check out his blog, The Shower Bhudda. He has some great tips there," says Uddin.

“At NexHealth, we work with thousands of dentists. Dr. Bickling has one of the most innovative approaches to dentistry I’ve seen so far”.

 

 

 

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