Home Interviews My goal with IgniteDDS was to take the missing pieces of dental...

My goal with IgniteDDS was to take the missing pieces of dental school and bring those three major buckets of information to dental students.

Dr. David Rice, Amherst, NY


A. So after my residency I stayed in Pittsburgh, I practiced for a year as well was an attending at Allegheny General.  Moved back here in ’96 and I met Mike Gaglio.  Started off as an associate but we knew the pretense was it was going to transition pretty quickly into an ownership opportunity.

Q. How old were you when you bought the practice?

A. I was 28, 29.  It was amazing.  I had spent all that time researching clinicians in the area who I wanted to grow up to be.  People who had clinical excellence, they were great people people, had outstanding reputation. Mike was one so I was very proud to be following through and purchasing a practice that I had targeted probably two years earlier.  A little scary as a new guy on the block.  I still remember the day signing the papers and walking back to the office and I had $17,000 in bills to pay and I had yet to pick up a handpiece.  Daunting but exciting.

Q. How long were you in that location?

A. We were there for six years.  We leased space down the road.  So we’ve been here now 8½ years. So we purchased here, we were going to go purchase our own building on our own piece of property but we met a developer and conceptually we sat down and said hey, let’s put together a medical park.  So each person here owns their building as well as the property that it sits on.

Q. What did that feel like when you did that?

A. That was awesome. Scary also, same thing. But it was one of the best moves we’ve ever made.

Q. Why?

A. Business people would tell you you shouldn’t build it because build it and the they will come thing doesn’t happen.  I would argue that all day long.  We built this practice, it was exactly what we wanted it to be and our numbers jumped 40% purely from the move.  I mean we always grow I would say 12 to 15% per year, we’ve done that since inception.  But that move, it just triggered a chain reaction and everybody in our community was talking about the practice.

A. Our concept was to have a dental practice that really looked nothing like a dental practice.  So when you walk into our space it feels almost like a luxury hotel when you walk in, you wouldn’t really know you’re coming into something dental.  When you enter the treatment area we really wanted to make it open so the 20 foot ceilings out there keep thing open. The treatment rooms are set up as pods so they don’t close off but we also have some privacy.  We’ve got a lot of open air space.  Every room has a window in it to keep natural light flowing in.  It keeps energy up.

Q. Is there a philosophy in terms of handling patients or dealing with patients that you have?

A. The complete exam for me is of utmost importance.  I think clinically we set the bar so high that a patient will never leave here because of the dentistry.  They may decide at some point in time they can’t afford who we are, I’m okay with that.  But I would never want someone to leave the practice because they felt they could get better care anywhere else.  I think what helps us thrive more than anything else though is throwing out the old golden rule that mom and dad taught us and treat people the way you want to be treated because most of my patients probably wouldn’t want to be treated the way I like to be treated.  So we prescribe to the platinum rule and our goal is to treat every single person absolutely the way they would like to be treated.  This is their practice, we’re here to work with them side by side and partner with them and that has been a huge transformation for us 15, 16 years ago when we changed that perception.

Q. Explain that.

A. We’re all very, very different people.  So some of us are drivers, some of us like things high-paced, we’re quick decision makers, time is of the utmost importance to us.  That’s one group of people.  There’s another opposing group of people who really want a lot of time.  They need soft approach, they need someone to hold their hand, they need to know that it’s going to be okay.  So we’ve studied psychology here for 17 years.  A lot of people know Myers Briggs, we’ve studied that.  We’ve studied DISC.  We’ve worked together as a teach with strength finders so we understand where each of our strengths and weaknesses are and we can as a team compensate for those.  We study a lot of generations so we understand the conversation shift from a 75 year-old to 50 year-old to a 35 year-old to 25 year-old.  It’s very different.  So everything is customized and geared towards who that person is in front of him.

A. We’ve sought out people both in and outside of dentistry over the years to train.  Literally shut the doors to the office and flown 15 people to whatever city we needed to so we learned together.  And still to this day even though we have a lot of background information on it, we study it every week as a team.

Q. What do you think is your number one marketing thing that you’ve done in the business that’s been successful?  

A. You know what?  We developed our core values as a team.  Who we are, what we want the community to know.  And then everything we’ve done with marketing has simply been an extension of that.  So for inside of our four walls, our internal marketing strategy is getting our patients onboard with who we are and understanding how to ask them for referrals on the spot.  And then in today’s world, social media is huge.

Q. So social media, what are you involved with?

A. That’s a generational thing so for us, our largest demographic are boomers so they’re Facebook people for the most part if they’re going to be on social media.  I love LinkedIn a lot but I love LinkedIn more for professional relationships, so colleague to colleague.  Patient flow-wise, Facebook right now is still king for boomers.  If you have a practice where you’ve got a lot of Gen Y, maybe the younger side of Gen X, Instagram is absolutely where it’s at.  We do Twitter as well and that maybe just connects the dots for us.

Q. Who does that?  Just people designated inside your practice or do you do it individually?  

A. That’s a great question. It’s a combination.  We’ve hired somebody who spends the time to do all the research because whatever we put out and whatever medium it goes out on, it needs to be extremely timely. I can’t just talk about a dental topic today that maybe was in the news last month.

Q. So let’s talk about Ignite.  What was the purpose of starting Ignite?

A. You know I never had anyone in dentistry first in my family, no friends, just kind of tripped into dentistry accidentally.  I worked out well thankfully.  However, my mentors were very, very limited.  And my goal with IgniteDDS was simply to take the missing pieces of dental school that I had – which are still missing today and may be even more glaring now than they were then – practice management, some of the clinical stuff and technology the schools are missing and in today’s world, debt.  And to bring those three major buckets of information to dental students around the country. Right now I probably travel to 40 different dental schools a year.

Q. And what’s your main message to this group?

A. My main message, my overriding goal for all of this is that the traditional private practice is alive and well and if you have the skill sets, both clinically and with people on a communication scale, you can be highly successful.  You can do the great dentistry you’re learning in school and you don’t have to compromise.

Q. What do you do outside the practice, what do you like to do?

A. Travel.  The good news is – Ignite, my business is to travel but what I enjoy thoroughly doing now is tacking on a day or two, exploring whatever city I’m in and whenever I can, I’m going to hop on a plane and scoot around someplace and learn a new culture, catch up with old friends, meet some new friends.

Q. Where have you been?

A. In the last three months, I’ve been to New York, Boston, Texas, San Diego, LA, Minneapolis.  I’m headed to Puerto Rico, that’s going to be a fun combination trip.  Headed to Greece, that’s going to be pure fun.  It’s all over the place.  I try to time it best I can with weather but you know dentistry, we do things at strange times.

Q. What is it that would surprise people about you?

A. I write a lot, non dental.  I write a lot.  I wrote a book that I turned down three publishing houses to publish because they wouldn’t do it my way so I’m going to hang on until I find somebody who can and will.  I write a lot of poetry, kind of off the wall for people who don’t know me.  That’s just more for my own enjoyment, I guess. It’s called Sleep on the Couch and Play Golf.

Q. What’s your favorite toy?

A. Cars.  I love my M3, it’s my favorite toy.  I never was a car guy maybe till about a decade ago and a good friend of mine who was convinced me to – he’s like you don’t just go buy another BMW like you’ve done in the past, go get yourself something fun.  No matter how bad your day is or what’s happening in your life, you’re going to sit in that car and you’re going to enjoy it.  And he was right.  All these years later, I just sit in my car and I love it.

Q. Let’s go back to the traveling.  What do you get out of traveling?  Why is that important to you?

A. I think a lot of it is the freedom.  I love the fact that I can pick up and go and explore.  Life’s an adventure in my eyes.  Don’t get me wrong, I love home, I love my family and my core group of friends but I love finding new cities and meeting new people and hanging out at a restaurant with either my girlfriend or if I’m solo on a trip and just meeting other travelers and kind of hearing their story.  I really like hearing people’s stories.

Q. So where are you going to be in five years?

A. On a beach.  In all seriousness, although I’ll keep my practice here in East Amherst, I will fly and come into work.  I travel so much now that that doesn’t really seem too difficult to me.  So home base will be on the beach somewhere, I’m not sure if it’s going to be east coast or west coast yet, we’ll see where life brings me.  IgniteDDS will be my primary job, running that company and teaching.  I love that most of all.  But I do love clinical dentistry so I’ll absolutely keep my hand in it. Ten years from now if I look back and I see all the people that we’ve reached out and extended the olive branch to, if they’re doing the same to other people then I will consider my life to have been well lived.

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