Ozarks Preferred Dental Group has seen quite a bit of change since its inception in 1919.
The 100-year-old dental practice, now operated by third-generation family member Dr. Robert Reynolds, has not only adapted with the times, but also in the last year has gained over 2,000 clients from a merger and added a fourth-generation dentist.
It all dates back to 1919 when Charles Wade started a dental practice in Springfield. With an office in town, Wade also would strap a chair to a wagon and travel to smaller communities nearby to provide dental services, Reynolds says.
Reynolds’ father, James, followed the footsteps of Wade – his uncle – and graduated from dental school in 1943. Reynolds caught the dental bug, too, and joined his father in 1989.
Dr. George Vincel, Reynolds’ godson, joined the practice last year after graduating from A.T. Still University in Kirksville.
“Even though he’s not blood, I consider him family,” Reynolds says. “We’re now in four generations.”
Today, the group offers preventive care, repairs and cosmetic treatments, including fillings, cleanings, root canals, extractions, crowns, bridges and dentures. Some clients have been with the practice for several decades, Vincel says.
“We have a lot of patients that say they remember seeing Dr. Reynolds’ dad,” Vincel says. “I think it’s a special deal how long this practice has been in Springfield. ... Most of these practices, they start it up and sell it to someone else.”
When Wade first started the practice 100 years ago, Reynolds says dentists used foot-pump powered drills and mainly focused on denture services. Today, almost all restorations are done with composite materials instead of traditional silver fillings, he says.
“Dentistry has come a long, long way,” Reynolds says. “It’s all about staying up to date on current treatments.”
For example, he says dentists can now treat sleep apnea and use lasers to address periodontal disease.
“That’s a very large area of growth right now,” Reynolds says of sleep apnea treatment. “The traditional treatment is a CPAP machine, but 50% of patients either can’t or won’t wear it, so we now have a dental appliance that will open the airway physically. It’s a great alternative.”
The oral appliance lowers the jaw to open the airway, instead of inflating the airway like a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine does, says Reynolds. The appliances typically cost patients $1,000-$3,000, he says.
Vincel will start training in the sleep apnea treatments, but also cranium facial pain treatments, which Reynolds says targets headaches and migraines from temporomandibular joint disorder. The dentists plan to offer the new services next year.
Reynolds also plans on taking a residency in 2020 at the Misch Implant Institute in Michigan to refresh his implant surgical skills, which he says also is becoming a popular service.
“Nobody wants to wear dentures. Dentures don’t fit well,” he says, “and our implants have improved so much in 10 years that the stability of an implant is much better than it used to be. The drawback is that they’re very expensive, but the benefit is phenomenal.”
He doesn’t know yet how much the practice will charge for implants.
Dr. Daniel Kessler, president of the Missouri Dental Association, says dentists are required to have 25 hours of continuing education each year.
Kessler says some of the hottest trends in the industry are the move toward implants – which he says requires a lot of research and education – sleep apnea treatments and 3D printing of crown materials in-office.
In order to stay on top of the treatment trends, Vincel says the practice is considering buying a dental cone beam computerized tomography machine. It provides dentists with a 3D image of the patient’s teeth, rather than the traditional 2D imaging.
“It makes dentistry much more predictable and makes difficult diagnosing easier right now,” Vincel says.
The CT machines can range from $30,000 to over $100,000, according to Renew Dental, a dental equipment supply company.
Reynolds says dentistry has become a crowded profession.
“We have an abundance of dentists right now locally and nationally,” he says.
With over 3,000 dentists practicing in Missouri, there are roughly 50 dentists per 100,000 residents in the state, according to 2018 data from the American Dental Association.
“There is a saturation in Springfield, and a lot of your bigger cities have a lot of dentists,” Kessler says.
Kessler, a Springfield native, practices at Kimberling City Dental Center. He says he chose the Table Rock Lake area after graduating from dental school because of the high numbers in Springfield – and rural cities tend to have trouble attracting dentists. When they do, he says the practices often don’t make it to a second generation or owner.
Ozarks Preferred Dental has about 4,000 clients, Reynolds says, and half of them came through a mid-2018 merger with Wade Warren, DDS, LLC. Coincidentally, the now retired Dr. Wade Warren is the grandson of Ozarks Preferred Dental founder Charles Wade.
Before the merger, Ozarks Preferred Dental generated 2018 revenue of $900,000, and Reynolds says the practice is on pace this year to reach $1.5 million. In 2020, he’s projecting an increase of 20%-25%.
When Reynolds first joined 30 years ago, he says the practice had roughly 700 patients. The client base has generally grown organically, he says, noting the practice doesn’t spend a lot of time on marketing.
“If you have a certain number of patients, it’s self-perpetuating with word of mouth,” Reynolds says.
He says many dental practices have gone the route of specializations and refer clients out-of-office for some services, but Ozarks Preferred Dental does not.
“I still pride myself on being old-fashioned. I don’t refer very much out. I still do lots of surgery, extractions, fillings, dentures, root canals,” Reynolds says. “I feel like I want to provide all those services, and patients like that.”
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