To Serve Others
by Benjamin Lund, Editor, Orthotown Magazine
Between seminars, consulting, his involvement
in Smiles Changes Lives and the
Rheam Foundation, Dr. Dustin Burleson
somehow finds time to practice orthodontics.
And it’s not a failed effort. He takes his
mission statement – to serve others – very
seriously. Patients love his accommodating
and likable spirit, and he enjoys the
company of patients and families who visit
his office. All this has helped him grow his
practice by 600 percent in the last seven
years. Orthotown Magazine chats with
Burleson about his practice management
techniques and all the reasons he loves
going to work each day.
Name: Dustin S. Burleson, DDS
Graduate From: University of Missouri-Kansas City
School of Dentistry, 2006
Practice Name: Burleson Orthodontics
Practice Location: Kansas City, Missouri
Dr. Burleson, why did you get into orthodontics?
Burleson: Ever since I was a child, I always wanted to be a
dentist. My father, brothers and many other relatives are dentists,
so I grew up in the profession. After working in an orthodontic
office in high school, I saw the amazing opportunity to
help transform the smile and confidence of so many patients
that I wanted to become an orthodontist. It’s truly one of the
most amazing professions in the world.
What is your practice philosophy?
Burleson: Our mission is simple. Three words in fact: to
serve others. We exist to help the patient and we bend over
backward and crawl through broken glass at times to see that
happen. I’ve witnessed employees driving retainers to a
patient’s home when the retainer wasn’t back from the lab in
time. I see them coming in early and staying late to help the
patient and I’m honored to work with such an amazing group
of professionals who truly understand that the patient is the
most important person in the practice. In person or on the
phone, our team is out-of-this-world amazing!
What is the orthodontic competition like in your
area right now?
Burleson: Our area has many choices for orthodontic
treatment, both with specialists, general dentists and pediatric
dentists. I’m actually a fan of competition. It almost always
results in better care and an affordable price for our families, and provides alternatives for patients who value convenience
and quality over price and insurance discounts.
How do you market to new patients?
Burleson: The majority of our marketing is internal. We
encourage patients and their families to refer like-minded
patients and families.
You practice orthodontics with your wife, Amy,
who is a pediatric dentist – tell us about that
dynamic! How do you balance work and home?
Burleson: Amy balances much better than I do. I come
from a long line of workaholics and my commitment to the
patient and the practice is, at times, a struggle for me to balance
with family time. I’m getting better each year and have learned
to block off family vacation time on January 1 for the entire
year. I’ve gone from literally no vacation to more than six weeks
per year. It’s not perfect but I’m getting better at it.
In what ways do you support your local community?
Burleson: Our practice supports a host of programs in our
community, donating to-date more than $450,000 to local charities.
We also have our own cleft lip and palate foundation, the
Rheam Foundation, for children in Kansas and Missouri who
cannot afford pre-bone graft orthodontic expansion or pre-surgical
orthodontic treatment. I volunteer at the school of dentistry,
teaching orthodontic residents and I’m on the medical
staff at Children’s Mercy Hospital and St. Luke’s Hospital to
help treat cleft lip and palate patients in addition to craniofacial
Tell us about your involvement with Smiles Change
Lives. How many patients have you treated through
SCL? How has it helped you and your practice?
Would you suggest other orthodontists should get
involved with this program?
Burleson: We’re very involved with Smiles Change Lives.
They had a backlog of patients in our area who needed treatment.
Most orthodontists take one or two cases per year. SCL
had a backlog of more than 120 patients and we said, “Send
them all to us.” They almost passed out on the phone and after
a long pause they asked “All of them?” and we said, “Yes, send
them all.” So, they’ve been sending them steadily now for a few
years and in the last 24 months we have screened or treated
more than 90 of these patients.
I absolutely suggest other orthodontists get involved with
this program! It makes pro-bono care very efficient for the doctor,
as the patients are pre-screened for need, they must visit the
dentist, keep their appointments and keep their teeth clean or
SCL will remove them from the program. It has, hands down,
been the most amazing experience working with SCL patients. A
big void would be missing in my practice life if I didn’t have the
opportunity to help these patients – it’s that meaningful for me.
What piece of technology has the biggest wow factor
for your patients?
Burleson: TopsOrtho, our digital practice management software.
What would you say has been the most rewarding
experience you’ve ever had as an orthodontist?
Burleson: Working with Smiles Change Lives patients and
seeing how overwhelmingly appreciative they are for the chance
to transform their smiles.
Outside of orthodontics, you stay busy as an author,
speaker, teacher and consultant. Tell us more about that aspect of your career? How do you help other
health-care professionals? How can other practices
get in touch with you to use your services?
Burleson: The coaching and consulting kind of found us.
We’ve been fortunate enough to build a large practice from
scratch in a very short amount of time (six to seven years).
Doctors starting calling and asking if they could observe. My
obsession with business and marketing was obviously intriguing
to these doctors who had really never viewed their practices as a
business. My coaching tools and strategic planning models to
help orthodontists build an actual business without stressing out
about every little detail of the practice operation. We now help
orthodontists all over North America. We host live seminars, sell
products to help treatment coordinators and write a monthly
marketing newsletter to help orthodontists peek “over my shoulder”
to see what I’m doing each month to grow our practice
(which we’ve done – more than 600 percent since 2009).
Doctors can find us at BurlesonSeminars.com
In your opinion, what are the biggest problems facing
Burleson: The biggest problems facing orthodontics and
general dentistry today are population trends and shifting consumer
spending into an aging population which controls the
majority of liquid assets in the U.S. In other words, the only
subset of today’s population that is spending more on dental care
are boomers and leading-edge seniors. That leaves more and
more dentists and orthodontists competing for fewer discretionary
dollars in younger populations. This trend will continue
to force competitive adaptations in the marketplace as we find
ways to help patients receive the quality care they deserve without
delays in treatment.
A significant piece of the equation in the future of orthodontics
is the expanding level of student debt for new orthodontists
entering the marketplace today. Those students who can find a way
to minimize student debt while in school and rapidly pay it back
after graduation will be the best-positioned to enter a successful
business model with banks who are being forced by the federal government
to carry more and more capital on their balance sheets.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking
about entering orthodontics?
Burleson: Look around at what everyone else is doing and
do the opposite.
Who are some of your mentors?
Burleson: Earl Nightingale, Dan Sullivan, Dan Kennedy,
How has Orthotown impacted the way you practice?
Burleson: Orthotown has given all of us the opportunity to
collaborate and come to the table with solutions to case problems
and practice problems in an incredibly efficient manner. I
hope every profession has something like Orthotown to support
What do you like to do when you are not working?
What gives you balance?
Burleson: I love to sail and spend time with my kids on the
water. It’s very relaxing and quite a bit of fun to see my young
kids develop their problem-solving skills on the water when the
wind picks up or dies down. It’s also a lot cheaper and quieter
than motor boating or jet skiing. I spend about $5 in gas each
season. The wind is free.
||Dr. Burleson’s Top Five
||3M Unitek Forsus Springs
||Planmeca Digital Pan/Ceph
|When did you start using it?
|Why can’t you work without it?
|Convenience and results
||Patient reminder system
||Digital study models
||Fast, super high-quality
|When do you use this item?
||Class II patients
||Every patient (initial,
progress and final records)
|How do you market this item to your patients?
|Convenience and efficiency
||Parents enjoy the ease
|Directly in the office and
|Accuracy and secure storage
||Safety and quality