Q. How did you get into dentistry?
A. Well, I got into dentistry in a way that I think many do. I was impressed by my hometown dentist. He was an awfully nice person and he would talk to me about what he was doing… you know, instruments that he had and how he kind of ran his own healthcare facility there and it just seemed very attractive. So along with his personality and somewhat my own interest in detailed type of things, little details and whatnot… actually, if you aren’t detail-oriented you can’t be a dentist, we work in the field of microns.
I started my practice here in Middleburg after four years in the Navy, being a dentist in the Navy. After four years of that, I started in 1976.
Q. I remember joking with you, you say I’m just a little country dentist out here in the middle of the country. What you don’t tell everybody, of course, is that you’re doing that in the highest income county in the country.
A. Well, I don’t know as it’s the highest income county in the country. It has a very high average. It’s a very rural county, first of all, but it does have a very high average because there’s half a dozen or a dozen of the richest people in the country that live here. But 12 people will not make a practice, especially a two dentist practice. I would say if you tossed out that upper level, it really is a – it was anyway a well-rounded general practice.
Q. What do you think it takes to build a good practice?
A. It takes a lot of work and a lot of determination and a lot of desire to really want a practice of your own individual dreams. I just said this is what I want. I want to be as good as I can be which means I have to take a lot of CE which I always enjoyed and even now as a lecturer having been on the circuit for 25 years or so I feel that every time I’ve given a lecture I’ve learned a lot of things from the audience, comments and coming up afterwards. Plus the reading that you have to do to stand up in front of a group of people who are going to ask any kind of question, you have to have the depth and background there. So with that reading and taking courses, why it enabled me to really kind of feel confident about what I was doing. That’s what CE does for you. When you have competence you develop confidence and that shows in front of the patient and so you deliver a good service in a way that the patient really begins to feel they’ve come to the best dentist around.
Q. Over the years you’ve probably tried a few different marketing ideas. What has worked the best for you?
A. I really didn’t do any so-called external marketing if you will. Advertising, when I started to practice in 1976 was illegal, didn’t come along until the late 70s with a base decision there. I think right now the absolute key, the central element is a high level website with your philosophy expressed there, and it has to be true. The philosophy can’t be just a bunch of flowery words that sound nice on paper or when read. They actually have to totally reflect you because people pick up when there’s inconsistencies there in behavior versus what’s said. So you write your own philosophy and it should be just a description of what you are and what it is you’re trying to do. Then you have to have photos up there, quality photos of your dentistry, the whole aspect of it. That is the most essential thing.
I did a lot of internal marketing though which is kill the patient with kindness. I took a lot of courses on communication skills, people skills. When I got out of the military, I knew that I didn’t have people skills and communication skills. I learned a lot of dentistry in school and took a post graduate year at Bethesda Naval Hospital and three years practicing in the Navy, I had gotten my skills up there to a pretty decent degree but my people skills and communication skills weren’t good. So I took courses on that and read a lot of books on that and applied that stuff. So the word of mouth actually was what built it. Obviously got into the community, the kids in school, Lions Club and all of those kinds of things and I think those are important.
Q. I can remember walking into your office and seeing pictures of people with teeth and you had a great comment… Do you remember that?
A. Yes, I do because it was true. I would visit dentists in their offices and they’d have pictures on the wall of their hobbies, what they did. Like if they fished, they’d have pictures of them holding this big fish up or something. And I just feel that you’re sending the wrong message. You can have those in your private office but you should have nice smiles and healthy smiles, that’s the kind of message. That’s the business that you’re in. I think I said in a lecture once some offices had so many fish on the wall I thought I was in an aquarium. So if you’re really serious about your business, that’s how it should be. And obviously the office should be a reflection too. Marketing, as you know Mike because you’re a consummate person in this area, is a consistent message all basically coordinated to give the right image, to say the same thing. That starts from the time they park in your parking lot, if it’s neat and clean, and walk into the building and especially into your office.
Q. You’re a consummate lecturer, tell me how that all started and what that whole process means to you.
A. Well, it started by accident. That’s the God’s honest truth and actually for the first 15 years I kept thinking it was still an accident. I was always amazed when a group would call. It happened because of things that I was doing for my patients.
You may remember some of this, your time with Ivoclar. So I was looking for something whereby we could put tooth colored material, ceramic inlays weren’t working very well, we didn’t have techniques for that. So I thought a composite made a lot of sense if we could just make it better and then your company or Ivoclar, the one you were working with at the time, came up with a heat and pressure cured composite inlay/onlay system. It appeared at a time when I was actually looking for it and it was the very earliest days. It wasn’t a system for sale yet when I first heard about it.
I actually went over to Lichtenstein on my own to learn more about it, just showed up. I wasn’t even thinking you should call beforehand. Fortunately, the scientists were there and they welcomed me in and showed me the whole thing. So as soon as it became available, even earlier than that, I became a beta tester for them and was using it just on my own patients. Next thing you know, another dentist in town was hearing about it and wants to know about it; and then a group of local dentists at a study club, they heard about it. I always took pictures, those were back in the days of slides. They wanted me to share the information so I did. Then months after that, an actual local dental society in Maryland asked if I’d give them a lecture. Up until then, it was glorifying it to call it a lecture. It was really just a share sort of thing. I thought well, all right, if I’m going to do that, I’m going to have to learn how to organize a presentation and I did. Then after that one, it just kept going and it still has.
Q. You worked for LVI. Tell me about that.
A. 19 years. When Bill started it in 1994, it was kind of interesting cause he and myself and Hornbrook and Rosenthal and Nixon and Ross Nash, and a bunch of others that were kind of talking and lecturing in the early 90s on adhesion. Why Baylor University, Bill Walton was the head of the –he was head of the CE department down there – started these first ever really live patient courses. He just called people that were talking about topics cause this again was when dentin bonding just started and so there’s a lot of new procedures and it just opened up a whole new way of doing things in dentistry.
So when that ended, that’s when all these institutes started. Bill went out to LVI and started it and a year later he asked me to join him and been there for 19 years now. I just retired from there actually last fall was my last course
Q. Outside of dentistry now… What do you like to do? What’s fun for you?
A. But believe it or not, my wife and I enjoy travel… and we have a place, a small cottage in the Cotswolds of England, I’ve had that for over 20 years now. Spend a lot of time there. We’re Anglophiles of the first order. We spend time going to the stately homes and gardens. We love beautiful gardens and meeting people and going to the pubs and actually traveling to different cultures and seeing different parts of the world and how different they are. We do that quite a lot.
Reading. I always have novels, always have one that I’m reading, to take your mind, otherwise it goes all the time. So that and movies, films which do the same kind of thing. They take you to a different place.
We have a farm here and I love horses. One of them is a small pony. When the grandkids come, they ride around on the pony. That’s kind of a big hobby right now, the grandkids. Spending time with them… Don’t want to miss the joy of watching them grow up. That I would say is a major hobby.
Q. It’s no secret that you love your Guinness.
A. Yes. Well, I love my Guinness and I love my pints at pubs over there. A pub in England is a different thing than anything else in the world. There’s no concept of it say in an American bar or a bar in any other country. There, especially where our cottage is, it’s loaded with country pubs, it’s a social thing. Everybody goes and they talk. We lived in England while I was stationed there with the Navy so we fell in love with the history and the culture of that place and the beauty of it too. It’s a small country so you can see a lot of it but it’s really different. When you take the parts of it – Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland and England and then Ireland, which is not part of Great Britain but a separate country but part of the isles over there. We’ve got a lot of close friends there. It’s a very close second home. It’s not like a beach house or something, it’s actually a community and a home that we have
Q. Can you speak a little to what dentistry has meant to you or given to you?
A. It’s incredible what it’s given to me. And I’m still involved, I’m going to continue practicing as long as I can. I like chairside dentistry. I’m going to stay involved, again as long as I can, in product development. As you know, I’ve done a lot of consulting for various companies. You know, if you were to say what has been my biggest hobby it wouldn’t be outside dentistry, it would be inside dentistry
Q. What final advice would you give a younger dentist at this point?
A. Well, I think they’re going to have a great future. I know there’s a lot of concern. There’s negativity in it now, are corporations going to take over the field and what are they going to do to the profession, all this sort of stuff. Well, I don’t operate that way. I think that the young dentist has to learn as much as they can and be discriminating in who they associate with. Continue to take CE because your skills are what’s going to carry you.
And then begin to formulate – mentors are very important. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, find somebody that’s doing it right and copy him. Then you will form your vision, always thinking in terms of what it is you like to do in dentistry, the areas of dentistry that give you joy. Do not think you have to do everything in the office. My opinion again is that practice management people want you to keep expanding across the board so that everybody that walks in there, no matter what their problem is, you’re going to be the one that treats it. I think that’s terrible advice. You’ll become an expert in the things you love to do by just doing those things. You’ll find mentors willing to help and share. Find somebody doing it right and talk to them with the idea of finding what it is you like to do and formulating your vision for your practice future. Don’t want until – and there are a number of people out there 10 years that are still bouncing off walls. I was one of them, took me awhile when I started to practice to develop in my own mind a philosophy of approach to dentistry and find out what I liked and a plan to achieve it. But that’s what the young person has to do, that’s what the 10 year person has to do, and it is never too late but you really do have to develop a philosophy and a plan. You can’t just react, you have to be proactive. You can direct it. I think a lot feel they’re powerless, that everything is affecting them and that they don’t have these choices but they do.
You can contact Dr. Jackson at www.ronaldjacksondds.com