Office Visit: To Serve Others by Benjamin Lund, Editor, Orthotown Magazine

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
Staff: 35

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 orthodontic problems.

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

In your opinion, what are the biggest problems facing orthodontics today?
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, Howard Farran.

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 their practices.

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
topsOrtho 3M Unitek Forsus Springs Sesame Communications Ortho Select Planmeca Digital Pan/Ceph
When did you start using it?
2006 2006 2006 2009 2006
Why can’t you work without it?
Practice management
Convenience and results Patient reminder system Digital study models Fast, super high-quality
When do you use this item?
Every day Class II patients Every day Every patient Every patient (initial,
progress and final records)
How do you market this item to your patients?
Convenience and efficiency Parents enjoy the ease
of use
Directly in the office and
via e-mail
Accuracy and secure storage Safety and quality


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