Kelly Barnett remembers when she first integrated digital radiography at her dental practice. Use of the technology resulted in Barnett Family Dentistry being featured in the early 2000s in a national publication as the first dental practice in southwest Missouri to use digital radiography.
Fast-forward to 2018.
Barnett and her business partner and husband Marc retired in 2014, and the practice now operates as Excel Dental. Current co-owners, Drs. Tracy Davis and Nick Matthews, last year integrated a 3-D X-ray machine and portable scanner to digitally map teeth. They’re considering adding a 3-D printer soon, as well, for their roughly 6,000 patients.
“To watch Nick and Tracy continue that cutting-edge philosophy of growth and integrating all of the implant technology and cosmetic techniques, the continuing education that they take and the new skills they are incorporating and applications – it’s just mind blowing,” Kelly Barnett says, reflecting on the business.
The Barnetts met while in dental school at University of Missouri School of Dentistry and, after graduation, Kelly worked at a practice in Springfield while Marc began his own in Nixa.
“We knew we couldn’t both afford to start brand new practices because he bought land, built a building and opened up his doors and hoped people would come,” Barnett says. “Once the market was doing well about a year later, I opened my practice in Ozark.”
Seventeen years later, Marc sold his practice in Nixa and he became a partner at Kelly’s practice, which they renamed Barnett Family Dental in 2000. Investing $1 million, the couple constructed the original office at its current location, 1427 W. State Hwy. J in Ozark, east of Lambert’s Cafe.
From grads to partners
In 2004, the Barnetts hired Davis immediately after she graduated from UMKC. Only three years later, she was a one-third partner with an $800,000 buy-in.
Becoming a partner so soon after graduation is rare, Davis says. However, this career path apparently isn’t abnormal for Excel Dental doctors. Matthews, also a UMKC graduate, joined the practice straight out of school in 2012.
The new doctors’ practice began slowly – seeing about two patients a day. Yet, both say the Barnetts immediately began grooming them to someday take over.
“You learn a lot of things at once,” Davis says. “We didn’t really have bad habits. We didn’t have habits yet.”
Kelly Barnett says she knew early on Davis and Matthews would have what it takes.
“We didn’t hire her as an associate. We wanted her to be a partner,” Barnett says of Davis.
She says it was a similar case with Matthews, but the dentists had to wait a full year for him to graduate from dental school.
“We heard great things about him and we were so impressed with him that we decided just to wait another year for him to come into our practice,” she says.
These days, the Excel Dental dentists have a patient docket of about 2,000 each. While they do a variety of work, Davis says she most enjoys cosmetics.
“It’s my passion,” she says. “I love watching someone’s face come alive.”
Matthews, on the other hand, says he could do dental implants all day.
“It’s people that basically don’t have teeth, fully functioning at least,” he says.
The majority of their practice is restorative and the “bread and butter” of dentistry: fillings and crowns.
Evolving technology has impacted industry worldwide.
In 2017, Excel Dental spent $250,000 on new technology – most recently, a Planmeca 3-D imaging device, which captures 3-D scans of the maxillofacial mouth region or the entire skull. The machine costs $68,800 from Planmeca distributor Global Imaging Resources, and they can go up to six figures, Matthews says.
The practice also in the last year purchased a Sirona Cerec AC scanner, which captures 3-D scans using a hand-held wand. Four assistants are trained in using the device, which costs $24,900 from Global Imaging Resources.
The device scans 3-D images of teeth, which can be manipulated on a portable screen to then create implants and caps in an in-office lab.
Excel Dental’s technology wish list includes a 3-D printer.
“You take a 3-D scan and turn it into something useful and clinically sound,” Davis says. “There are a couple steps before it is streamlined.”
A printer runs less than $5,000, Matthews says, and the practice is actively researching one to purchase.
Davis says patients positively react to the efficiency of the technology and the ability to complete an entire procedure in one day, rather than having to come back once an implant or cap is finished being made.
From digital radiographs of the 2000s to 3-D imaging of today, that summarizes the goal.
“We wanted the best for our patients,” Kelly Barnett says. “When you’re practicing with the best equipment and the best technology, then you can offer your patients so much more. They deserve that.”
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