By Wendy Baker | Photos by Jessica McCafferty
Located off the Tom Miller Road, in the Town of Plattsburgh, Plattsburgh Family Dentistry, formerly known for 25 years as Smith & Shepard, is embracing everything about the future of dental care.
In 2017, the office began its transition to a new model of ownership, a flat employee structure and consistent use of innovative technologies designed to prioritize patient safety, convenience and comfort. The combination of these changes has led the team to develop a new approach to delivering patient centered care.
For the team at Plattsburgh Family Dentistry, meeting patients where they are, creating an experience where patients are truly known and accepted and prioritizing fun at every opportunity are key elements to ensuring healthy, happy patients. “It all starts with our commitment to seeing the whole person when we’re providing dental care,” noted Dr. Miriam Lampert, DDS. “Good dental health is closely connected to our patients’ emotional and physical wellbeing.” As a result, the practice has seen its patient count grow exponentially, particularly between January 2022 and January 2023. While this rate of growth can be overwhelming for some small businesses, Plattsburgh Family Dentistry has embraced the opportunity to level up.
New Type of Team Approach
“What everyone comments on is the sound of our laughter, which is evidence of the way all 14 of us work together as a team,” explained Office Manager, Zoe Prenoveau. “Although the transition to where we are now isn’t always easy, we think our commitment to a different type of exceptional patient care has really allowed us to do some great things for members of our local community. We’re all energized by that.”
Like many other businesses, small dental offices must also weigh the benefits of autonomous local office management and the efficiencies outside affiliation can offer. “Our practice is privately owned, and is also 100 percent locally run. This ownership structure gives us the backing we need to offer our patients advanced methods of care that mean both fewer follow up appointments and less painful experiences,” explained lead Dental Assistant/Assistant Manager, Shantell Vermette. Achieving the best of both worlds is an important component of the practice’s success. Local operational decisions aren’t hampered by outside ownership. Both patient care and financial decisions can be made locally as they always have been.
State-of-the-art technological advancements and more specialized expertise, when needed, are made available through the practice’s connection to outside resources. The trusting relationship between practice ownership and on-site employees serving patients day to day at Plattsburgh Family Dentistry has created an energized, entrepreneurial atmosphere among the employees. “Our new structure is an important part of our success,” noted Dental Hygienist, Theresa Moss, who transitioned into the new office from Smith & Shepard. “A dentist’s office is usually owned by the dentists who work there, but that isn’t the case with us. Offsite ownership allows us all to be equals in everything we do.” While the specific responsibilities of Dental Assistants, Dental Hygienists, Dentists, and Office Management Staff may differ, each employee must have the mindset of an owner in order to be a successful member of the team. “One of the things we all have in common is we are dedicated to the success of what we’ve built together. We’re all responsible to each other. We don’t have employees that call out of work. Some of our employees drive over an hour to come in every day, and no one minds staying a little late to fit in another patient who really needs us,” explained Prenoveau.
An entrepreneurial mindset is also encouraged among all employees. “Any one of us can come up with a new way of doing something that we think will help our patients. Most of the time, we get the opportunity to go for it!” explained, Vermette. “If one of us has an idea that might work, we’re all ready to support that person to do whatever it takes to try it. If it really catches on, we’ll work together to see if it is something that can benefit the office as a whole. There’s never any pressure to change. We’re all committed to making things better, so it just works.” Innovative thinking is encouraged by anyone who is striving to make their work more streamlined or their patients more comfortable.
For Plattsburgh Family Dentistry, the drive to embrace new technologies doesn’t come from a desire to make things easier or to complete work more efficiently than employees used to do. Instead, the focus is on improving the quality of the patient care experience. Many people express fear when making appointments for dental care because of possible pain involved in diagnosis and treatment, feeling bad about not having been to a dentist for a long time, or concern about added expense and inconvenience that can be associated with multiple follow up appointments. By reducing the amount of work completed offsite and making diagnoses based on technological imaging rather than more traditional methods, the patient experience at Plattsburgh Family Dentistry has become more enjoyable.
Improved diagnostic technology has helped to streamline treatment plans. The use of handheld radiographs that produce digital imaging has proven to be useful in supporting dentists to see more details earlier in the process of a patient’s visit. 3D imaging allows the dentists to have a “below the surface” image in two – three minutes that can enable them to more effectively see what is contributing to a patient’s problem and allow for a more accurate long-term diagnosis. In addition, digital X-rays produce 1/6th the radiation exposure of traditional technology and can result in better diagnostics of bones, roots, nerves, and tooth decay or damage. “
“Our office is happy to support a patient who is complaining about a single tooth. We can treat what is happening with that one tooth without requiring them to have their entire mouth treated if that’s not what they’re ready for when they come in,” explained Vermette. “We don’t care whether they’ve been to a dentist recently or not. We’re happy to help anyone who has goals for their teeth, no matter how big or how small or whether they want to feel better about their smile or to just eat and sleep without pain. We don’t judge anyone.”
Technology enabling the ability to create dental prosthodontics, such as crowns or bridgework onsite, has also brought important improvements to the patient care experience. Recently, Plattsburgh Family Dentistry acquired a Cerrec Primemiill, which uses 3D printing technology to create digitally engineered materials on site while the patient is watching. Having the technology onsite allows for same-day dentistry for treatments that might have once taken days, weeks or even months to complete that can now be finished in a single appointment. “Each of these new tools makes the experience better for our patients,” explained Dr. Martha Breyette, DMD. “Every one of our patients is known to us as a person and their dental care is customized for their specific needs. The way we’ve worked together to streamline everything we do toward the overall well-being of our patients as they experience dental care is something that makes our team really proud.”
Plattsburgh Family Dentistry
326 Tom Miller Road
Plattsburgh, NY 12901