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The Barbershop Dentist: Draw on Past Experiences

Dr. Jacob Berger of Smiles at Lakewood Ranch in Florida has fun in his dental practice, and he owes his ability to do this to his years of cutting hair for friends and then professionally. “I began cutting hair when I was thirteen years old,” says Dr. Berger. “Before I knew it, I was cutting the hair of my friends and their dads and eventually turned it into a business. That was the start of my love affair with entrepreneurship that has carried over into entrepreneurship in dentistry.”

A barber down the road gave him the keys to his place and told him he could have a chair for $100 a week. While going to school, he would cut hair and converse with clients. “It was cool,” says Dr. Berger. “We had a TV playing in there. We'd watch movies on Fridays, we'd have pizza, and I would interact with my clients on a whole different level than just a haircut. It wasn't just a $15 moment.”

In his  Heartland Dental-supported practice, Smiles at Lakewood Ranch, Dr. Berger has incorporated the camaraderie that he enjoyed during his first job.

“What I do is have fun with my patients as if they were in a barbershop,” says Dr. Berger. “I put their chair back just like you would in a barbershop setting. I ask them what they want. I let them know we're going to get started, and I try to utilize past experiences from the barber shop. One of the cool stories I have with barbering was about a gentleman that came to the barbershop with his wife, and she had to wheel him in on a wheelchair. When I got the chance to work with him, I pushed my big barber chair to the side and rolled his wheelchair up. They hadn’t had that type of care before. I was just taking care of another human.”

That extra bit of service was so appreciated that they talked about Dr. Berger to others in wheelchairs and others with special needs. He so enjoyed this he began going to special needs camps and the Special Olympics to cut hair. This, too, has carried over to his dental practice, as he provides dentistry at special needs camps and on mission trips.

“I know the business side of dentistry is important, but there's the heart side of it. If your patients see that side of you, they’ll make mental note of it. I learned from an old barbershop lesson that I can move aside an operatory chair to wheel in a wheelchair.”

Whatever your past experiences or favorite pastimes may be, these can be related to the interests and needs of your patients. “Maybe hobbies can be used in your practice every day,” says Dr. Berger. “It can be a way to show your patient you are a real person and you have real things that you love to do.”

No matter what your previous experiences, there are “nuggets” dentists can utilize or share as personal life lessons. “Utilize that and have fun with it,” says Dr. Berger. “Your patients will appreciate it.”

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