Home Interviews Dentists are coming out of dental school now conditioned to be employees.

Dentists are coming out of dental school now conditioned to be employees.

Dr. William G Dickerson, Las Vegas, Nevada


A. It’s been 21 years since LVI started. Really the purpose of starting it was – I don’t know if you remember back then but I was doing programs for Baylor College of Dentistry, live patient treatment programs.  The purpose for doing it here was so I wouldn’t have to 1travel to Dallas to put the programs on so I started it in my 3,000 square foot office literally lecturing in our lunchroom for the team and sitting on a sink counter, crawling over chairs to get there.  Then it just kind of took off and that’s when we built the campus in 1998 – or the first part of the campus.  So the first building was in 1998 and then the second building was 2003.

Q. Do you sense that you are dealing with a different dentist market now than you were before?

A. Yes, I think that’s absolutely correct.  Dentists are coming out of dental school now conditioned to be employees.  When I first started LVI, everybody was a single practitioner, pretty much single practitioner.  There were partners and stuff but I was getting very few associates, they were mainly people that were bosses.  And now every class is probably one-third associates.  LVI dentists are progressive dentists who send the associate to LVI to learn but sometimes it’s that they’ve heard about it and they’ll come on their own and try and incorporate it in the office that they’re working with.  But it just seems that today more dentists are content with being employees than those that…  For example, when I wanted to be a dentist or I was dentist, one of the reasons I went into it was to be my own boss.  So that is a definite change, sort of the corporatization of dentistry.

Q. What is the typical dental practice in five years?

A. That’s a million dollar question. I think you’re going to see again the two-tiered practice. You’ll see the average drill-fill-bill volume mall practice that is doing the basic dentistry. People will always need the basic dentistry.  You’re going to see a few of the 2niche ones, sort of the Botox practices and I don’t have any problems with dentists doing that, by the way.

Then I see the elite practices.  Sort of like if you look at medicine right now.  The average practice is usually a group or PPO type of practice. But you have those executive physicians out there and sort of counter to the PPO or the Obamacare type of practice. They’re opening their executive practices where they provide no wait service and a lot more service oriented type of medical practice.  So I see dentists being able to do that, actually a lot more than physicians are doing.

Q. One guy had an interesting thought I’d like your opinion on. He basically said that he thinks that the practice of the future will be a closed but very integrated practice. In other words, you’d have some general dentists, you’d have a prosthodontist, you’d have a lab, you’d have an ortho.  And it would be sort of a small, little practice community having a lot of different disciplines.  Does that make sense?

A. I don’t know if it makes sense. I think there are those practices out there right now. It makes sense from a standpoint of overhead.  The problem is finding a philosophy of practice that everybody agrees with because I’ve seen a lot of divorces, meaning partner divorces because people can’t agree on what to incorporate into their group practices and the type of dentistry that they would provide.

I still think the happiest dentists are going to be those dentists that either are a two partner type practice, single partner where it’s like the old days so to speak where they get to make the decisions and they get to determine what they put in somebody’s mouth and how best to treat the patients and they’re more service oriented.

Q. What’s new now?

A. Well, it’s interesting because at the annual meeting for the IAPA, stands for International Association of Physiologic Aesthetics, we had the dean from the dental 3school, Gordon Christianson, we had the vice president of the ADA, and Homer Reed and Ron Jackson were on the podium as well.  It was about the future of dentistry.  And they all agree that the number one thing about the future of dentistry was treating sleep apnea.  And I do believe that is probably the direction.  I mean if you look at the 90s it was aesthetics, then it was implants, and I think now it’s treating sleep apnea.  And TMD, but TMD has always kind of been in there.  The future is treating sleep disorders, not just obstructive sleep apnea but all kinds of sleep disorders.

Q. So where does that put a dental practice… some of the new equipment that’s out there and some of the new procedures?

A. Well, there’s lots of new things that are coming out all the time.  And I do think digital dentistry is the future but not so much from the in-office construction of restorations, for example, but from just a communication standpoint.  The ability to communicate with your lab– the way to take an impression rather than using materials to take the impression.  All that I think will evolve over the years as we become better and better at it.  But even from the standpoint of diagnosis, we’re already incorporating for example the computer in diagnosing patients and determining where their best bite position is and all that kind of stuff like medicine’s been doing for a long time but for some reason dentistry has sort of avoided getting into that.

So I do see modern technology advancing dentistry a lot in the future.  The problem is the cost.  Because dentists aren’t doing as well as they used to – and the ADA report is pretty alarming on that – I don’t think the average dentist can afford the equipment that really would make them much better dentists.  I mean if I had my choice, everybody would have a cone beam, for example, in their office because you can do so much.  And I’m not just talking about diagnosing teeth.  I’m talking about looking at things like joint, the position of the hyoid bone which is affected by the bite.  And the neck, what is the bite doing to the neck.  There’s lots of things that we can see in cone beam but unfortunately, the price sort of puts it out of place.  And the same thing with a lot of the computerization equipment too that I think is essential.  Like reading the EMGs of muscles I think is important.

Q. Outside of dentistry and LVI, what are your favorite things that you like to do?

A. That’s kind of sad because my hobby is my work.  As I told you, I love what I do.  I love everything about the job and it is a 24/7 job.  But I’ll play golf, I’m not really very good at it so I guess you could call that sort of something I like to do.  I fly my own plane, I love doing that and look for excuses to go places and fly.  But other than that, my hobby is my job, LVI.  We love it.  It’s just great.  And knowing that you can change somebody’s life and they then turn around and change literally thousands of people’s lives is a really gratifying feeling.

Q. When did you start flying?

4A. Actually I graduated from dental school in ’76 and I did a hospital residency program in Fresno and I always wanted to fly.  I thought I was rich because I was being paid like $18,000 a year at the time for my residency program.  First thing I did was buy a motorcycle and I drove the motorcycle to the local airport there in Fresno and took flying lessons.  So literally since – I think I got my license in ’77, ever since then I flew on and off.  I didn’t really take it back up – once I started lecturing like in 1990, I pretty much stopped flying.  Took it back up again in 2006, I believe, and now we’ve flown to Alaska, we’ve flown around the country with the kids stopping at all roller coaster parks.  It’s just been great.

5Q. Tell me about the airplane.

A. I have a Piper Meridian, it’s a six seater turbo proper which means it’s a jet engine but it turns a propeller.  You can fly up there with the big boys.  It flies at 28,000 feet and it goes about – up at 28,000 feet it’ll fly about 265 knots, that’s a little over 300 mph.  So it’s a really nice plane, fun plane, love it.

Q. You grew up in Vegas, right?

A. Born and raised.

Q. What do you like about being in Vegas?

A. It’s funny cause you don’t know any different growing up.  It really isn’t different than any other town.  I remember years ago Time magazine had it as the town of the country or something and just talked about how it is.  The only difference is I remember when I went away to college and I walked into a grocery store, it just seemed like they were either going out of business it was so dead and quiet in there.  Then I realized it’s cause they didn’t have any slot machines.  So that was pretty much the difference. Even my son today, as I told you he goes to school in Syracuse, somebody can be from out of the country but when they hear it’s from Vegas they go wow, you live in Vegas?  I didn’t know people lived there.  That kind of stuff.  So it’s still going on even after all these years.  But it’s just a normal town.  I never go down to the strip.  But I love it, I’m sort of a confirmed desert rat.  I love the weather.

Q. So what makes you happy these days?

6A. Work.  I know that sounds corny.  Work makes me happy.  And obviously I have a great wife and kids and family obviously makes me happy.  But work is – I don’t know how people retire and what do they get up for in the morning.  To us, LVI is our passion-filled purpose.  We’re so passionate about it and it’s what I wake up for every day.  It just gives me a purpose in life.  If I retired, I just think I would get so bored so I don’t know if I’m every going to retire.

Q. Do you have anything on your bucket list that you really want to do?

A. There isn’t.  I mean the last thing that I took off my bucket list was sky diving so that’s out of the question.  I don’t really have much else on the bucket list.  I’ve had a great life.

Q. I have two last questions that I always ask everybody. The first one is what has dentistry really meant for you or to you, for your life?

7A. I don’t know where I would be today without dentistry.  It’s opened so many doors and I’ve lived the dream.  I gotta admit, I’ve lived the dream.  I can’t imagine my life without dentistry.

Q. And the second question is what don’t people know about you what would surprise them if they knew?

A. Well, I think what surprised a lot of people who know me is what a dedicated father I am.  I schedule my entire life with my kids, their meetings and their appointments… and I’ll get up and have to leave a meeting. I think that is my most important job is to make sure that I am there for my kids. Really this is where the two tie together. One of the greatest moments was when my son, the one who is now in Syracuse was 10 years old, he said to me, dad when are you going to retire from LVI? And I said I don’t know, why… I 8don’t know if I am ever going to retire, it’s going to be a long time. And he said, I don’t know, I love LVI. And I said really, what do you like about it? And he said, I don’t know its fun to go there. Everyone seems to be happy there, they love what they do. That made me realize at that point that it doesn’t have to be work and I hope I instilled in him that he needs to find his passion too, which I think he has. Do something that you love to do and you will never work a day in your life, you’ve heard that saying before and it is so true. So I think he saw something in there where I don’t have to hate my job. I can do something where it’s fun and I like what I do.  And I hope that set an example for him and his future. And I really believe it did because he is passionate about where he wants to go now.


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