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Transforming a Dental Practice, One Step at a Time–Sullivan Dental Center

Issue: Summer 2015
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The doctors at Sullivan Dental Center in St. Francisville, Louisiana, about 25 miles north of Baton Rouge, have been interested in cutting- edge technology since they graduated from dental school. As Dr. Candice Sullivan confirms, “If there is technology that we think will benefit the patient or our practice, we are buying it.”

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Set at the top of a rare hilly area, the practice uses a mix of rustic wood and modern accents to create the feeling of a luxurious lodge.
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That willingness to integrate technology, from intraoral cameras to digital impressions and cone beam imaging, has helped Sullivan Dental Center, a family dentistry and pediatrics practice, draw patients from hundreds of miles away. It has also propelled the growth of the practice from a single operatory to the beautiful 6,700-square-foot practice that today sits atop a picturesque hill overlooking wildlife.

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In the spacious operatories, outfitted with Pelton & Crane cabinets and delivery units, patients enjoy the greater comfort of impressions done with the 3M True Defnition digital scanner. The doctors enjoy its precision and ease of use.

From Trailer to High-Tech Office
What makes this office unique is not just its sophisticated, cutting- edge technology or the warm, rustic lodge-like ambiance that belies the modern dentistry it offers, but that this exceptional office is located in a small, rural town with just 15,000 residents. Of those, 7,000 are inmates in the Angola State Penitentiary nearby! How does an office that draws from such a small population find such massive success? Dr. Frank Sullivan attributes it to the investment they have made in technology that makes it possible to offer superior dental services to their patients.

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The pediatric room is a favorite in the offce, featuring three video game consoles and even an indoor basketball hoop where kids can practice their dunk.

A new dental school graduate, Dr. Frank opened Sullivan Dental Center in 1998. He and his wife, Dr. Candice, purchased land for a new office, but while construction was underway, they needed a place to see patients immediately. They reached out to Henry Schein Equipment Sales Specialist Mike Kabel to find a solution. The answer was to outfit a portable trailer and operate the practice from there temporarily while the new office was being constructed.

Dr. Candice remembers the emotion that accompanied that decision.

We don’t regret one piece of equipment or machinery we have purchased through Henry Schein,” asserts Dr. Candice Sullivan. “It has increased revenue, decreased doctor time,
and increased patient satisfaction.”

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Natural elements like the brick wall and the reclaimed wood beams that run overhead, contrast beautifully with the sleek technology found in the rest of the office.

“After all of those years of dental school, I couldn’t believe we were touring trailers to find our new practice,” she laughs. “I was crying, but Mike hugged me and told me they would make it beautiful, and they did. They were more than our representatives; they were our friends.”

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The trailer practice had a single operatory, a sterilization area, a small waiting area, and a restroom that Dr. Frank joked was the largest room in the trailer. He opened with just three patients—two were his parents! By the time he moved into the new building a year later, however, he had grown the practice to nearly 500 patients.

The new office plans were actually drawn by hand by Mr. Kabel, and he was intimately involved with the construction. The layout included three fully outfitted operatories with a fourth set aside for future growth; a year later, it was functional. A pediatric room allowed Dr. Candice to join the practice, and it was a wonderland of fun for patients. The open-bay layout was lined with four pediatric benches, Xbox and PlayStation® video games, an indoor basketball hoop for dunking, and a bright and cheerful space motif.

Although the space was brand new, the technology inside it was not. The practice was using traditional intraoral and panoramic X-rays, and patient information was organized in paper files tucked into file cabinets.

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Inspired by the offce’s beautiful outdoor surroundings, serene nature photos line the hallways and complement the rustic theme.

Gradual Move Toward Digital Imaging and Technology
In 2004, a LSU dental graduate, Dr. Clay Couvillon, joined the practice as an associate. Growth continued, and with the addition of another doctor, they decided to transform the second-floor attic into functional space. The business office and employee spaces were enlarged and a lab was added. With immediate space needs now addressed, the doctors now looked to their technology needs. They were already using a digital imaging system, but in 2007, they purchased DEXIS sensors and transitioned their two imaging units into digital systems. For Dr. Candice, the smaller, more comfortable sensors were a game changer in capturing images with her young patients.

“I could not practice dentistry without digital imaging,” she explains. “It is so quick and effective, and it’s easier for the children. I can capture images that I couldn’t before.” She notes that by seeing the images so quickly, it is immediately obvious if a wiggly child’s movements result in the need for a retake.

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The doctors added a second sterilization center to the practice with the new addition, and it was equipped with Pelton & Crane equipment and a Hu-Friedy instrument management system.

In 2009, Dr. Couvillon became a partner in the practice and the trio began talking about expanding once again. As they planned to add to the back of the office, they knew they would need additional treatment areas as well as dedicated space to house the equipment that came along with Dr. Frank’s new neuromuscular dentistry services, which he received after he gained fellow status at The Las Vegas Institute.

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Dr. Frank Sullivan, Dr. Candice Sullivan, Dr. Clay Couvillon, and Staff

In 2013, after moving 20,000 yards of dirt to shore up the cliff on which the office sat, the addition was complete, bringing the square footage to 6,700 with nine operatories. Instead of selecting a stationary X-ray unit, the new operatories use portable NOMAD Pro 2 X-ray units and DEXIS sensors. A second sterilization center, with Pelton & Crane equipment and a Hu-Friedy instrument management system, was added to further streamline the workflow.

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Left to right: Karen Lewis, Regional Operations Manager; Mike Kabel, Equipment & Technology Specialist; Dr. Frank Sullivan; Dr. Candice Sullivan; Dr. Clay Couvillon; Jerry Walters, Field Sales Consultant; Bob Martiny, CAD/CAM Specialist; Jody Rumfellow, Equipment Service Technician (Not pictured: Todd Carter, Regional Manager)

Another piece of equipment that’s integral to the practice’s success is the new 3M True Definition digital scanner.

“We use digital impressions all day, every day,” notes Dr. Frank. “They are more accurate, fast and patient friendly. We e-mail the images and work with our lab across the country pretty easily.”

Dentrix Maximizes Technology Benefits
Each piece of technology is impressive on its own, but by becoming interconnected through Dentrix Practice Management Software, every piece of equipment becomes that much more productive.

“The doctors purchased Dentrix a year ago once they saw the integration between DEXIS and Dentrix and all that Dentrix could do,” says Mr. Kabel. “It made the workflow much faster and they could see more patients because of it. There would be no way to do what they do now without that integration in place.”

Dr. Frank echoes that by noting the transition to Dentrix has been easy, and it offers many powerful benefits to the staff and the doctors.

“The compatibility with insurance has been night and day,” adds Dr. Candice. “It’s so easy to connect X-rays to insurance claims, which is the biggest advantage for our staff. We can use our mobile phones to access Dentrix while we are at home and do things like check our schedule for the next day. I can’t say enough good things about it.”

The Sullivan Dental Center is a remarkable success story.

“We don’t regret one piece of equipment or machinery we have purchased through Henry Schein,” asserts Dr. Candice. “It has increased revenue, decreased doctor time, and increased patient satisfaction. We simply could not deliver the high-quality dentistry we do without this technology in our office. It is worth four-fold what we’ve paid for it.”

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Sullivan Dental Center Floor Plan