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We’ve all been there… But what do dentists do all day?
Welcome to Part 1 in the 2-part “Not-acci-Dental” Series. In this episode, we’re going to experience a day in the life, hour by hour, of Dr. Alex Vasserman, a private practice dentist in New York City, so you can decide if this is a career you can see yourself doing! The dentist isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time but you’ll see how Dr. Vasserman goes to great lengths to make sure his patients are taken care of and feel right at home.
Mat [00:01:43] Dr. Alex wakes up and is out the door by 745 a.m. He then walks across Central Park over to his office. That’s on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. To no surprise Dr. Alex is a podcast lover and listens to all the latest episodes on his walk to work. Today on the agenda. Dr. Alex is seeing multiple patients making progress on an invisible line case attending not one but two emergency cases and going over inventory. Let’s meet Dr. Vasserman and continue on with the day as a private practice.
Krista [00:02:16] you said you listened a dental podcast. How important is it to stay informed as much as possible and what are other measures that you take to keep up with the times I guess.
Alex [00:02:28] I can’t imagine not staying in topic as technology is changing so quick. We’re not doing the same dentistry today as we were doing in the 90s. It’s crazy right. And then we’re not going to be doing the same dentistry in two thousand twenty two as we’re doing now. So that gap is becoming Smaller and smaller. So if you’re not on your new techniques and your technology development. You’re going to be that old guy that’s still doing the silver fillings you know. So continuing education is incredibly important so crucial to my craft to know how to use the best the latest.
Krista [00:03:10] So now it’s eight thirty and Alex arrives at the office before he sees his first patient, He huddles up with this small but mighty staff to go over the schedule for the day. What are the most common procedures that you do per day?
Alex [00:03:23] Wow it’s I its so restorative work I would say is my bread and butter. Fillings, crowns, Think of a crown as a as a veneer that goes 360 degrees around the tooth. A veneer is something just goes on the outside to improve aesthetics and the structure of the outside. Crowns, veneers composites are really my bread and butter.
Mat [00:03:51] the first patient of the day arrives at 9 a.m. sharp. This appointment was booked last night after office hours so they have to finesse the scheduling a little to accommodate.
Alex [00:04:00] so it was an emergency. She broke a tooth. We talked about restoring it with various materials in this situation. I think she’s going to be doing a veneer. Think of a veneer as a new layer of enamel. Right. So sometimes teeth get worn out either due to trauma, wear, discoloration. Think of it as you getting very thin layer of porcelain to replace the enamel.
Mat [00:04:24] Stupid question.
Alex [00:04:25] No such thing.
Mat [00:04:25] can you describe enamel.
Alex [00:04:27] a hundred percent. There’s two primary layers to the tooth there’s the inside layer and the outside layer outside layers like hard and white and what you see when someone smiles replacing sometimes they get beat up over time, worn. What you do is you basically replacing and it’s like the siding on the house.
Mat [00:04:51] so this was an emergency. Was it like a rush into the office and you didn’t know they were coming? Or like how does that work out.
Alex [00:04:58] typically what we do is my cell phone is always available on the outgoing message and on the email. This patient called the office after hours. She broke the tooth at around 8 or 9 p.m. earlier that night. She called my cell phone. I have the ability to check my schedule remotely. I picked up the phone. I talked her through it. I said let’s open up the office first thing in the morning and I was able to see her then.
Krista [00:05:27] so what if for this on the schedule that’s already set in stone you had a 9 a.m. appointment. What would you do in that?
Alex [00:05:34] Great question. I have more than one room. So while I’m taking care of one patient sometimes it takes me an hour to an hour and a half to do one procedure. There’s time where we’re waiting for the anesthesia to set anyways. At that point I can go next door and see what the emergency is and then does happen or what we typically do If it’s someone that’s understanding we could give them a call in the morning and say Do you mind coming in 20 minutes later we have an emergency and that’s where coffee cards are great. So we can say if you do you want to go get a cup of coffee or do you want. You know and sometimes people are understanding and sometimes they’re you know we can multitask.
Krista [00:06:19] at 10 a.m. Alex has a three hour appointment scheduled with a patient that’s in need of restoration work.
Alex [00:06:25] her front teeth were her main concern. She’s a chef at a really important high end restaurant. Her teeth basically got destroyed, not destroyed but they got worn away. She used to eat a lot of limes and lemons. The front of her teeth were really dark and destroyed and kind of beaten up. So we were able to restore her front teeth and she was super ecstatic.
Mat [00:06:50] you mentioned like acidic fruits right. Yeah. What are other foods like will do that to your teeth.
Alex [00:06:56] Acid is typically the worst. So things like soda really destructive to teeth. Sugar soda. It’s more so. Sugar causes the bacteria to create the acid that breaks down the teeth. Sugar feeds the bacteria. Got you. Not the sugar, it’s the bacteria that causes the acid to be produced by the bacteria in that acid is what erodes your teeth. So acidic things tend to break down teeth. In her case she would take a piece of lime and just like chew on it and hold it there. Right. So In her situation we were able to restore her teeth. There is other people that you know their habitual coffee drinkers. That typically won’t erode your teeth, it will simply discolor it. Smokers have discolored teeth right.
Mat [00:07:52] Yeah I was going to ask specifically about coffee.
Alex [00:07:55] Yeah. Coffee. Coffee is acidic. But I don’t see the same type of destruction.
Mat [00:08:03] at 1 p.m. Alex meets with a patient to restore his implant He placed a while back.
Alex [00:08:08] He’s a rock climber and broke a tooth and we restored. We placed an implant about six months ago and now we restored it so she got her tooth back.
Mat [00:08:18] so when she breaks a tooth is this thing in like half and she doesn’t have the other half. Or is it like a chip or.
Alex [00:08:24] Depends on how you break in in her situation and became really painful and she didn’t know why. So when she came in I had to diagnose and say you know you have a fracture in that tooth. That’s why it hurts so badly. Unfortunately we have to take that out. Sometimes people break especially the front teeth in an accident. That’s more of a fracture where it completely breaks off. The back teeth sometimes won’t tell you that they’re broken except that they become incredibly painful.
Krista [00:08:54] so you have lunch at 2:00.
Mat [00:08:56] a late lunch too especially getting in at eight thirty right.
Krista [00:08:59] Yeah. What we do is we cater to the people who are at lunch going to the dentist. So that’s why the 12 in the 1 slot is really popular slot because people can run on their lunch break and see the dentist, get their cleaning or get their procedure done. That’s why I take it at 2:00 and that’s when I take my time to make my phone calls. I call patients to see how they’re doing from previous procedures from the day before or go over certain paperwork et cetera. But I do try to take an hour decompress center myself.
Mat [00:09:34] I love the personal touches that you’re putting on all this all in these patients after all the time really cool.
Alex [00:09:40] All patients have my cell phone number. They can text me.
Krista [00:09:44] At 245. Alex shuts the lights off puts on some rain sounds and meditates for about 10 to 15 minutes. Alex likes to do this in the middle of the day to center himself so he can take on the rest of his day. So it’s 3:00 p.m. and you start an invisiline case. I want to hear all about invisiline because what is it that you would recommend invisiline versus braces and you know what’s the process.
Alex [00:10:07] Good question. So invisiline is clear Trace that are pre-programmed to move your teeth. Braces are wires so they do the same thing as invisiline does. But you could see it. Invisiline is virtually invisible. All right so it’s a different way to move teeth. New Yorkers don’t want to walk around with wires on their front with brackets on their front teeth. So the treatment of choice for adults is always going to be invisiline. You could treat some Adolescence and teenagers with invisiline. The issues that a lot of them are not going to be compliant. Why. Because they’re going to be taking. You have the ability to take off their tracks. Yeah. So that’s why for you know teenagers the old method, older method of brackets is still the preferred method but invisiline in majority of the cases the invisiline can do the same thing as wires.
Mat [00:11:12] is invisiline a one brand or is it just like a generic and there’s a bunch of different invisible line brands.
Alex [00:11:19] Great question. It’s invisible line. Basically heads there the at the forefront of clear braces technology, the clear trace. There’s other companies that provide clear trace but invisiline has a lot of patents and proprietary plastics that other companies cannot use. So although that although there’s other companies like smile direct club I don’t know if you’ve seen commercials clear correct is another company there basically are moving teeth using clear trays however invisiline is at the forefront of that. So invisiline not only 3-D prints these trays that are pre-programmed to move your teeth but they also provide the software for the dentist to choose where they’re moving teeth. So invisiline doesn’t decide where to put your teeth. I do but I use their software and once the software is used to pre-program where your teeth go then they 3D print the trays, every tray is a little bit different. So it moves your teeth to certain positions that I as a dentist or an orthodontist predetermine.
Mat [00:12:34] Do they provide you with that software Free or yeah for yes.
Alex [00:12:38] you have to take an initial course and then they give you the software you it up and then yeah they want you to use their product. Right.
Mat [00:12:47] it’s now three thirty and another emergency appointment for Dr. Alex. This patient was experiencing severe pain on her tooth that a crown was placed on.
Alex [00:12:55] Patient developed a large cavity that got into their nerve and they had a lot of pain throbbing. The patient I remember was very concerned about money. They had insurance but they weren’t sure. So Corey called their insurance company, got the breakdown, and was able to predetermine what they were going to cover what they weren’t going to cover. And it’s funny when someone’s in pain they’re still have a concern about cost. All right. So its some people’s is rough it. Yeah. You know so it’s I’m in tremendous amount of pain but I want to know how much but. And when it comes to making sure that we could fit it into our patient’s budget we have to provide various treatments. Right. We have to say well you could save this tooth but it’s going to cost you this amount of money or we could take this tooth out. And it’s going to be significantly cheaper. Right. Those are the services.
Mat [00:13:54] so if someone can’t afford things you can make do.
Alex [00:13:57] I can always get them out of pain no matter what. You go and give them antibiotics and painkillers. We can. There’s always a way to get someone off pain just while they end up keeping this tooth and what it will cost you to keep that tooth. That’s the question.
Krista [00:14:15] 4:00 p.m. Alex says a consultation appointment with the man who hasn’t been to the dentist in 20 to 30 years.
Alex [00:14:23] so when someone comes in and they have a lot of issues right they’ve been neglecting their teeth for many many years. Life gets in the way. Right.
Mat [00:14:32] People like that?
Alex [00:14:33] you’d be surprised. Yeah well maybe you wouldn’t be I don’t know.
Krista [00:14:36] Yeah I’m one of those people. It’s been like a year.
Alex [00:14:39] that’s what we’re talking about 20 to 30 years of never seeing a dentist never going to the having a fear of dentist. Fear is real. The fear is so real. And 20 30 years of putting it off putting it off. You know maybe going and getting a tooth out and then maybe having some kind of dentistry to patch something and get them out of pain and then another 15 years goes by life gets in a way or no one wants to go to it so. So all of a sudden you see these patients who are in their 50s and 60s. And now they’re just caught up to them right. And now it’s time to deal with it. Right. Now you can’t enjoy meal. You know. Painful can’t eat steak, embarrassed to smile in a photograph you know. And sometimes they sit there and they start crying. Right.
Alex [00:15:34] because it’s been it’s been a lifetime thing that’s. Oh you know and now it’s time to deal with it. So. This particular, and it’s not easy to discuss what the needs are and would what you know so you have to see what their chief complaint is. Right. Is it the fact that they don’t like the way that they look in photographs or is it a painful too. Or is it just the inability to chew. Or do you above all or comma. And do you want to fix one thing. Do you want to fix everything? What am I? So sometimes it takes many visits to come up with a plan. It’s just a construction or anything like that. You know you can fix one room. You can do paint job or you can knock the whole house down and you know so you have to see what it is that the patient needs and wants and how I can do that for them. What with many things in mind like budget. Like how many appointments how many visits how much time is it going to take. So it’s a lot of you know it’s a lot of back and forth and this 4 o’clock patient was one of them.
Alex [00:16:45] You know this is like 20 30 years of neglect is an older guy who’s in his late 60s and now he has to do something because he still has 20 30 years left.
Mat [00:16:58] so it seems to me that you are using this psychology degree or major a little bit maybe a little bit.
Alex [00:17:07] But honestly it just comes down to listening to someone you write and seeing where they’re coming from and what I can do to help.
Mat [00:17:14] so you’re putting a presentation together you say right. What is what that presentation is? Is it like slide shows?
Alex [00:17:20] OK what I do when it comes to these big cases that are very complex because you can restore certain teeth with various procedures. Right. Some of them could be more expensive or less expensive than others. So what I do is I my initial exam is we take photographs of all the teeth right. We photograph from various angles. Both portrait shots up close smiles and inside the mouth as well using mirrors and detractors. Then it kind of. We also take study models where I take a copy of your teeth. Corey looks our manager Corey looks into insurance and benefits and in cost options and maybe using financing etc. because some of these cases could be very expensive. And then I take my time and I sit and I come up with various different plans when the patient is at home when they’re away and I look at both the study models and the pictures and I come up with a key note Of different possibilities and almost use that digital design to show them what it could look like and how I could get there. So it’s almost like an architect can you show a final outcome before they built the building. This is my way of doing that.
Mat [00:18:40] at 5:00 p.m. Alex meets with yet another patient to replace two fillings of hers but not without the funds.
Alex [00:18:47] Yep. Replacing silver fillings. Incredibly anxious. We gave her Xanax about an hour before and a lot of the Times takes off the edge. Plus nitrous she likes the stories that was put up. Who doesn’t?
Alex [00:19:03] I know. Isn’t that ironic. And so we’ve put like her MTV Unplugged album you know said she was high on nitrous and Xanax and it went by very quickly. So a lot of the times you know it’s the experience of going to the dentist.
Mat [00:19:24] is that your normal procedure for calling people down. Do you see a lot of nervous people in there?
Alex [00:19:30] Well right at the initial. Interview consultation someone that’s very anxious is going to tell me Look I’m. I don’t want to be here. I had awful experience as a kid and that You know makes me want to help them by being able to create the type of experience where they will want to come back and I could basically sort of tell them you know what that experience was your old experience this is different we’re looking at we’ve got awareness more.
Krista [00:20:02] we’re rocking out. Yeah. Yeah. So she seemed to be very compliant it was like down with you know what you were prescribing her and like making her comfortable and stuff. Has there ever been a time where you’ve had like a super hostile patient. Like when you’re doing treatments and stuff like that and how did you deal with that?
Alex [00:20:22] you know residency, I saw some hostility. You do your best you know you speak to them. I treated a patient at a prison in under an undergrad. And his guy was a lifer. This is like a rotation and that was incredibly hostile. This guy was shackled and he came in and he said if you stick me with that needle I know I’ll kill it like all this stuff. So I started talking to him and I’m like where are you from. It turns out he was from Green point right. He’s from the right. And this is in Boston and I’m like. And at the time I was going back and forth so I knew the area. And I started oh where, He’s like Oh I grew up near the Bore ham factory. So all of us I connected it. He let me take out the tooth. You men you talk to them you see what’s going on and at the end of the day if they don’t want to be helped. What am I going to do right? Most of the hostility typically comes from the insurance end. They’re hostile because they got an unexpected bill or because the insurance didn’t cover something or because we quoted a certain price that the insurance was going to pay. And it ended up being something different. So that’s where 99 percent of the hostility comes from.
Mat [00:21:38] I’ve been in that situation. Yeah. Or it just hits you and you’re like what they told me I was going to be 2 grand now. Right. Four grand. What’s going on?
Alex [00:21:46] so this is this is the big challenge. This is more a bigger challenge than dentistry.
[00:21:54] your interest in insurance and the financial.
Mat [00:21:56] would you. I don’t I don’t know if you have any say on this but like third party payers I mean that jacks up the prices for anything especially if you miss a payment. Yeah.
Alex [00:22:07] I mean so that’s how they get. You know in my office that’s so. To do that I to be able to help a lot of people who can’t afford dentistry or is it in their budget at that point. I created a finance free payment plans. So even if it’s two years I want to make you able to afford dentistry. So like the patient that broke her tooth. The rock climber I mean she works at the local gym. She teaches rock climbing you know an implant crown and an implant. It’s like five thousand dollars right. We spread her payments over three years I think. Right. So she’s coming up with like a few hundred bucks a month. It’s an extra cell phone bill and I think most people could do that in New York City. Yeah right. So yeah I got rid of the third party.
Krista [00:23:03] It’s nice that there are dentists like Alex that are willing to work with you even if your insurance company won’t. Dr. Vasserman told us that a disruption in the dental industry is to no surprise. The insurance companies.
Alex [00:23:16] A huge issue is the fact that for some reason the insurance world doesn’t consider dentistry and medicine the same thing. So dental insurance and medical insurance are totally different things and people think that they have insurance but it’s really not insurance. It’s more like a gift card. I’m not going to bore you with the details but basically there is no such thing as dental coverage except for your routine care in this country. Right. And that I think people Think that they have it and then they get to an office expecting all you know. I had Trauma or accidents or whatever it is you know I have insurance. Well now it’s our job to tell them you don’t right and you have to come up with money to pay for your dental treatment and that’s and that’s a big disruption right.
Alex [00:24:15] because if you’re sick and you need medical care you can go to a hospital and most likely you can you can find some kind of care. It’s very hard for dentistry because you can go you can go to clinics you can go to residencies but it’s a major issue that’s really not addressed enough.
Mat [00:24:36] Dr. Alex’s his next patient came in at five forty five and had a clicking jaw that got stuck. That’s not necessarily teeth though. Right.
Alex [00:24:44] But it’s in my world right or where are you going to go if your jaw is stuck. Exactly. Are you calling your dentist and I don’t think of that right. I mean it’s connected right. It’s still my ROUND THE JAW JOINT the muscles the teeth. That’s still me. Her jaw gets stuck and there’s various exercises that I can do with them. Like right there at the chair to get it unstuck. And we did. I wanted to figure out not only how to help her but why did that happen. All right. The goal is to answer why that did. Why does your jaw hurt all the time? And what you know how we make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
Krista [00:25:24] After treating the last patient of the day Alex usually stays after everyone leaves at six to go over inventory pay bills review cases and answer emails. You know admin stuff like that. He’s got to keep the lights on and make sure the office is stocked with q tip, swabs compression material. You know dentist stuff on this particular day he was out by 7:00 p.m. So it’s six o’clock.
[00:25:46] this is where the business come down. Yes, stopped seeing patients at this point.
Alex [00:25:51] so If we have a true dental emergency. The thing is I can’t keep my staff for a really long time and say you know if it’s a true dental emergency and its past six o’clock and it’s once in a while my staff would stay to treat to get someone out but usually they go and I stick around and go over the Phone calls and answered emails.
Mat [00:26:16] Today Alex was home by 730 and work is always a topic of discussion at home with his wife who is also a dentist. She’s actually in her orthodontic residency. So they’ve got plenty to talk about. They love to bounce ideas off of each other and solve problems related to dentistry.
Alex [00:26:34] we both love it. So it’s like oh my god I did this and. Oh yeah. I’m doing this. You know so it’s never like. Oh I can’t believe that this happened. You know it’s always like this day I never like that. You know it’s like yeah. So it’s I don’t mind bringing it home and I’m actually really happy that I’m married to a dentist because she understands what I’m doing. And I could bounce ideas off of her.
Krista [00:27:03] so you just experienced a day in the life of a dentist. But how does one actually become a dentist much less a private practice dentist. In part two of the not accidental series, Join us as we go through Dr. Vasserman’s career journey and experiences leading up to where he is today. Alex is born into a family of dentists and surgeons but wasn’t sure at the time if he wanted to go to med school or dental school. You obviously know what he decided but you’ll find out how he decided it. Stay tuned.
Mat [00:27:32] at experience a day in the life where building an online library of content all focused on a ADITL or a day in the life of different jobs and professions across the world in all different industries. So if you want to share your ADITL, you can do so at XADITL.com/share/my-ADITL
Krista [00:27:59] Thanks for listening. Head over to XADITL.com. There you can find the show notes for this series and more a day in the life. Articles and you can get to know us and our guests more by joining our communities on social media follow at XADITL on Instagram and on LinkedIn by searching for Krista Bo and Mat Bo.
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In Part 1 we went through hour by hour a day in Dr. Alex Vasserman’s life as a dentist. In this episode, we’ll take you through his career journey so you know what skills and experience are necessary to land a job as a dentist. Alex is going to share with us what he had to do to get into dental school and how he grew his business so you can do the same!
Mat [00:01:10] Welcome to part two and the two part not accidental series in part one we went through hour by hour and a day in Dr. Alex Vasserman’s life as a dentist. In this episode we’ll take you through his career journey so you know what skills and experiences are necessary to land a job as a dentist. Alex is going to share with us what he had to do to get into dental school and how he grew his business from there. Let’s learn how he did it so you can too.
Krista [00:01:41] what got you into dentistry in the first place. Yeah I know you said you come from a family of.
Alex [00:01:46] Yes doctors dentists, my grandfather was a pulmonary doctor and my grandmother was one of the first surgeons in former USSR. My dad was an oral maxillofacial surgeon and a dentist. My brother’s a dentist. My in laws are dentist. So growing up I was around medicine all the time but then seeing the ability to work with your hands and also be that medical. And think on your feet and have kind of different things throughout the day. I kind of went in that footsteps.
Krista [00:02:23] you mentioned you liked the aspect it was dentistry that you work with your hands. Were there any other areas of interest that kind of sparked your art your internal thinking?
Alex [00:02:33] It wasn’t always just dentistry. No I was thinking that. So what I did in undergrad is I really thought about it and I said am I going to go into medicine or am I going to go into dentistry. So I spend a lot of time trying to answer that question and I and I worked as an orderly in the O.R. I cleaned up operation rooms and I saw surgeries. I worked as a receptionist in a medical office so to see what state day to day life I can actually put myself there I worked as an assistant in my family practice with my brother and my dad to see and I thought dentistry was a lot of fun. There’s a lot of art in it whereas unless you’re doing like plastic surgery those advanced TV shows there’s really not much of that in medicine. So I kind of like that art now in dentistry. I get to use digital design. I get to use models I get to play with wax so there is a lot of really cool stuff when it comes to that.
Mat [00:03:36] a lot of people just see you know they see the dentist from their perspective going into the office right the teeth cleaning, do the whole routine but they don’t see the other side of it. You’re doing. They don’t see the dentist playing with the wax. They don’t see the art side of it. So it’s really cool that you’re bringing that up in.
Alex [00:03:53] a lot of it is in the background. You’re right it’s in the lab it’s when it’s day after hour sitting in front of my MacBook doing the digital design then translating that into wax and then translating it into teeth because there’s so many different size and shapes to teeth right. So it’s very it’s you have to love it. Right. I do and I enjoy it.
Mat [00:04:18] I’m sure you can guess that getting into dental school isn’t easy to prepare. Some start as early as high school. But Alex told us that if you’re passionate about the subject and are willing to work hard you can really start preparing at any point. I’ve seen you know my buddy Corey, He was like a 30 year old guy in dental school. He did although he was in finance. He was and then he wanted to dentistry. So there is a certain truth to that but you can go into dentistry if you really like it and you’re passionate about it. And I did my due diligence to find out is this something for me. And I suggest everyone even second third generation dentist’s kids whatever answer that for themselves you know. Find out if you really love it because if you make the mistake of going into dentistry loving it it’s going to be pretty long 20 30 year career.
Alex [00:05:14] you know the thing here is you’re dealing with so. No one wants to go see the dentist. Most people don’t. Nowadays you get the cosmetics you get the whitening. But I would say 70 percent of my patients if they had a choice they don’t want to go to your office. All right people want insurance. People want other things so they go in to you know I mean they go into your office kind of like OK I guess I need a mortgage or I want a mortgage that’s where you want to be the hero A lot of the times where you get to get someone out of pain we get to fix the broken tooth where you get to say you know this years of neglect let me help you out.
Krista [00:05:55] Alex attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for undergrad and double majored in biology and psychology. A key component to remember when picking a major to suit dental school is pre requisite.
Alex [00:06:08] There’s different paths you can take. You have to in order to get into dental school you have to have a biology background chemistry physics. There’s a track now whether that’s premed pre dental or any other you know I know psychology majors. They just took their courses that they needed to get in. So as long as you have your prerequisites bio chem bio chem physics you can do anything. My major was biology and psychology at the same time. So I did both of those in case I wanted I wanted to broaden my horizon. But you know I know communication majors that took their prerequisites for dental school took their D.A.Ts which is the admission to dental admission test and then got in. So majors really don’t matter as long as you have those courses to get into dental school.
Krista [00:07:00] and then I also read in that same article that they ask for two semesters of calc. Is that still a thing and do you use calculus today.
Alex [00:07:09] I remove Calculus. Calculus is built up tarter. So that’s a dental joke. Sorry. No there is.
Alex [00:07:21] so the majority of the math that I do is very basic. Most of the math that I do has to do with running my books in terms of the business end. Really there’s not much math. I don’t know why they make you do calculus. I remember it. I was always good at math. So for me calc 1 and calc 2 was pretty basic. I really have no idea why they make you do that. I don’t even know why they make you do a lot of the stuff that they do in undergrad.
Krista [00:07:47] what are some other classes you think.
Alex [00:07:50] Well like bio chem you know on a certain you know degree it’s I wish that they taught you more business courses communication how to speak to people are actually listen to someone and be empathetic. Right. But it is what it is. Right. And you just have to kind of deal with it. And the good thing about most undergrad places is that you could take those courses on your own and I would suggest you do. No I do I did psych. I mean it was interesting to I apply psychology to my practice now. I mean just listening to people and giving them the ability to talk. That’s it. I don’t know why I did a lot of the things I did in college.
Krista [00:08:38] so what did your resume a look like in college in undergrad.
Alex [00:08:42] Yeah I was a dental assistant in my family’s practice part very very part time. They had an assistant but I would always shadow hang out. So I know the dental business aspect pretty well. But I did all those jobs you know I was a bleeder. I was a dishwasher. I was a caddy. I did landscaping. And the more jobs you do that in high school the better. It’s great. It taught me how to deal with you know the tough blue collar guys that are in landscaping with to knowing what it’s like to do really good. You. For my boss who expects all the dishes to be washed by a certain amount of time. So yeah. That’s my resume. I did all sorts of jobs.
Krista [00:09:28] Jobs like serving caddying landscaping can teach you invaluable skills like customer service multitasking communication and how to listen to direction and take criticism well all the skills that will be put to the test in job interviews job applications and day to day tasks on the job.
Mat [00:09:45] but as Alex said earlier you’ve got to do your due diligence and get opportunities that will test your affinity to the industry. You shadowed in your family’s practice right. Is it accessible for someone who doesn’t have any background family background in dentistry to approach a practice and say Hey can I shadow you guys can I just come in Observe and learn. Is that accessible to people. I you know I.
Alex [00:10:08] that’s a great question. Yeah I think most dentists are just your regular guys right who work with their hands who there. If you call them up and you said literally open up long there’s no more yellow pages anymore but. And cold call and say OK I’m interested. I don’t know. Do you need an extra pair of hands? Can I come in and I’m guarantee you someone will say yes.
Mat [00:10:37] after Alex graduated from UMass Amherst. He took two years off because his GPA just missed the mark to qualify right away. It worked out though. He attended Boston University to get his master’s in graduate medical science. Killing two birds with one stone he was able to develop his medical knowledge while boosting his grades for dental school. But it wasn’t easy for him. Life certainly got in the way.
Alex [00:11:02] I was very close to getting in right away but I needed a little bit more certain. My dad passed away during undergrad so my grades were not like the greatest. So I ended up taking my master’s degree to take some postgrad courses to show the admission boards that I have the ability to basically get good grades in dental school did great. This course is worked as a bartender the whole time work as a bar back in certain places. Took my undergrad. I actually also worked after undergrad in. This is where my psychology degree actually helped. I worked in a neuroscience lab at Boston University so I was able to take the post grad classes at half the fee so that was kind of cool. So I had my 9 to 5 job and then I would take the courses as well. Pulled out my grades was like very close to like 3 6 3 7 GPA and then in dental school once I was in clinic portion. You know I think I was top 20 in the in the school because I was able to use my hands my medical ability and etc…
Mat [00:12:17] so I mean for other people it gives people hope right and going out having bad grades and undergrad and thinking that like.
Alex [00:12:23] Multiple test multiple choice tests I I’m never secure enough in that. You know you get in that and then you look back on it. And you’re so like longhand essays. I could always do well but when you have one out of five and you can eliminate two and then it’s always between those two and then you change it like five times. Gosh yeah. It’s no way to test someone right. I agree.
Alex [00:12:52] so those you know and I was close I mean I left with like 3 3 3 4 something like that first interview. They were like you know you’re close. Just go take some courses come back and you know I was a shoe in at that point.
Krista [00:13:09] While getting his master’s Alex spent two years grinding working nine to five at Bq bar backing at night until 2:00 in the morning and taking on a full course load leading up to graduation. Alex applied to dental schools in the Northeast and ultimately stayed put at Boston University a nice transition from his masters to dental school. Alex says things to consider when applying for dental school is money and location.
Alex [00:13:35] some schools are as high as 60 to 70 thousand dollars a year. State schools like Stony Brook Yukon are significantly cheaper especially for in-state. So I would tell anyone if you don’t need to go into crazy debt don’t look at money first. If you want to be close to your family stay close to your family. If you have like I had connections at BYU because I was working there and taking my postgrad classes there so I knew the dental school I knew the professors. That’s why the second time I was interviewing it was a little bit easier to get in but where you go to school really depends on location and depends on money.
Krista [00:14:19] And then you said if you could just pick the schools that have that are cheaper but is there you know with like clout between different schools like does that matter the status of each school.
Alex [00:14:35] Yes. When someone is looking at your diploma maybe Columbia sounds a little bit better than you know Iowa. But at the end of the day people are going to come see you as a person. People don’t go to see what it says on the diploma. I’ve went to doctors and I don’t look where they graduated from. I go because someone referred them to me or me to them and because of their reputation you know if you’re genuine and a good person I don’t think it really matters in the long run.
Mat [00:15:05] Depending on your dentistry career path you could spend anywhere from four to eight plus years in dental school. Alex shares her dental school generally works.
Alex [00:15:15] When you get into dental school the first two years are generally spent in the classroom you’re learning things like physiology and anatomy. Second year you balance that with mannequin training so you get like these fake heads and you get to like practice on that certain schools vary. So like I know on the West Coast they get to see patients like second year. They get to train on real humans with us. Our experience of was third year. You get to start seeing patients very supervised very like you get to first practice in your class.
Alex [00:15:51] It’s a little bit then once you finish your curriculum you have in dental school what’s called requirements you’re required to do X amount of various procedures so you need to do certain mounds of crowns or amounts of extractions etc. Once you finish that curriculum you graduate you get to sign off. Then there’s also bore tests etc. You take all those tests to get your curriculum checked off or you get your requirements done and then you graduate certain people apply to specialties. During that fourth year certain people can apply a little bit later on.
Alex [00:16:27] my wife for example who we met in dental school she finished her pre doctorate she was a general dentist. She did her general dentistry residency. She worked as a dentist for general dentist for a year and now she went back to Columbia for her orthodontic training which is a three year program at that school. So certain specialties you can apply down the road sir. Some student like some dental students apply during that fourth year and then they go right into their residency which is gives them the ability to be a specialist pediatric residency certain residency or two years others a three. So you’re looking at about a two to three year commitment after dental school to be a specialist. It’s anywhere between two and four. Oral surgeon some of them could be up to six years or more so you get your M.D. DMD which means you’re both medical doctor and you can you know do surgical stuff.
Krista [00:17:32] after dental school, Alex did his residency at Wyckoff heights Medical Center in New York. He didn’t have to do a residency necessarily but he had a good reason to.
Alex [00:17:42] In New York you have in order to practice as a dentist in New York in the state of New York you have to have a one year residence. Other states you can take licensing exams.
Mat [00:17:53] so in Massachusetts on paper or is it like a trial test.
Alex [00:17:57] Yeah it’s a try. Yeah. Okay see you do certain procedures on patients. And then there’s also a written component. So for like Connecticut Massachusetts New Jersey you don’t have to have a residency you can just every state is different in New York you have to have a residency. I was going to do a residency regardless because it gives you see more procedures versus going right into private practice.
Mat [00:18:20] what was the process of getting the residency that you applied. Yeah.
Alex [00:18:25] so there’s the thing I don’t know if you know there’s a thing that’s called Match. Get applied to a bunch of residencies then the residencies rank you based on How much they want you and you rank them. It’s basically. I never heard of that. Yeah. And then you match. And on one on one day everyone goes to either the email or other lockers and you find out where you’re going. It’s called Match Day dates. Both popular and medical field and then and then sort things.
[00:18:53] so they bumble bears was a thank you.
Alex [00:18:55] Yeah exactly. Yeah. So they match. It’s called Match Day. You mean I matched week off. I applied to a few programs and then if you don’t get in it’s called postman. The reason why they do it is so one person doesn’t hold five or six spots right the top of the class person who is very desirable could say yes I’m going here I’m going here say yes to five places and then say no then four more to go. So that’s the reason why it was create.
Mat [00:19:26] Do you remember what you ranked them.
Alex [00:19:29] Wycoff was my number one. Oh yeah. Yeah. It was my number one because it’s a very busy hospital. You get to see a lot of different procedures there. Trauma to centers so you get to see a lot of trauma a lot. I really wanted to get that you know I wanted to get my hands cited no pun intended.
Krista [00:19:50] you decided to open your own practice. Yes. Then when picking different career tracks in dental school did you always want to open your own practice and is that considered the more entrepreneurial route when picking.
Alex [00:20:05] A really good question. It depends. It all depends on so certain people don’t want to go to our dentist right dentist are kind of geeky people right.
Alex [00:20:20] Thank you I appreciate it. But it’s not a bad thing. Yeah its people that you know we’re kind of nerdy we’re geeky we’re very competitive in terms of academics right. Some of us are very competitive. And you’re not you can be an associate where you come in 9 to 5 the offices of ready running the patients are there and the schedule is done you come in you drill you do your thing you feel you treat patients and then you leave. You don’t have to worry about billing insurance you don’t have to kind of come in. And then you leave. Other people want to have more control of the type of procedures you’re doing or the type of environment you want to set up. So the beauty of dentistry is you can create a lifestyle that’s good for you that works for you.
Alex [00:21:12] I want to I really driven to create an experience for my patients that I couldn’t do working for other dental owners. So I said I’m going to create my own experience for my patients where I get to create an environment that’s something.
[00:21:33] Autonomy was important.
[00:21:34] yeah exactly right.
Mat [00:21:36] I want to talk about actually opening the practice and then starting that. What that was like Were you nervous. How do you how do you do it even form. Did you have to go take out a loan or something.
Alex [00:21:48] so there’s two ways to start a practice. You can buy an ongoing practice or someone is retiring or they just and they have a patient list or they may have an office with working equipment and then you buy that practice from them much like buying someone else’s barbershop right. Or you can open your own barbershop. You can get a chair. You can rent a chair per day and say you know what I’m going to go and pass my cards out and start a Wix Web site. And do it kind of at a low cost. I decided to go the second route. I didn’t want to invest. I came out with almost four hundred thousand dollars in loans from undergrad and from putting a number on that for sixty four to be exact. Right. So I did not want to go into borrowing more money. So I as working as an associate meaning I would just come in nine to five. I was working at someone else’s office part time.
[00:22:46] I worked in my own practice I rented a chair one day a week. I could not afford at the time a front desk or an assistant. I did all my own phone calls. My buddy Joe was also a dentist he was in residence he was my assistant. He helped me out. I started a Web site. I printed some cards and now I have a full grown you know full time practice with a manager, like you know we have ours. Yeah. Yeah. We just did a massive construction we built the whole place on 69th and like so it’s there is that entrepreneurial, You know you start low and then you just kind of build from there.
Krista [00:23:35] Alex favors the power of word of mouth to grow his business. There are options of marketing and advertising like mailers and Facebook ads and things like that. But Alex prefers to do things the old fashioned way. He’s trying to create a quality experience with his practice that otherwise is not everyone’s idea of a good time. No one’s like yay time to go to the dentist. So Alex knows that if he tries to change that stigma it’s Alex his personality his friendly staff his office vibes and innovative expertise that keeps the clients coming. He believes word of mouth rather than other mediums of advertising yields to a much more authentic type of growth that leaves appointments penciled in and smiles from ear to ear.
Mat [00:24:17] that wraps up part two in the not accidental series. Huge thanks to Dr. Alex Vasserman for sharing his wisdom throughout this experience a day in Life series. If you haven’t already. Be sure to listen to part 1 of this series to experience a day in the life of a private practice dentist.
Krista [00:24:36] so they say you can’t get a job without experience but need experience to get the job. But luckily we have quite the experience. You can join our team and experience a day in the life of the jobs you want by applying to be a student editor regardless of your major or amount of experience. This is the perfect stepping stone into any internship or career. Find more info and sign up at XADITL.com/students. Thanks for listening. Head over to XADITL.com. There you can find the show notes for this series and more a day in the life. Articles and you can get to know us and our guests more by joining our communities on social media follow at XADITL on Instagram and on LinkedIn by searching for Krista Bo Mat Bo
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