Orthodontists spend most of their waking hours in their practices, so they usually don't get many opportunities to see what it's like inside another doc's office. Orthotown magazine's recurring Office Visit profile offers a chance for Townies to meet their peers, hear their stories, and get a sense of their practice protocols.
In this issue, we introduce Dr. Michael Fesler, the Murphy, Texas, orthodontist whose name was selected from all the Townies who cast their vote in the 2016 Townie Choice Awards. In addition to appearing on the cover of this issue, Fesler also received a $1,000 prize from Orthotown.
What was the path you took to becoming an orthodontist?
My parents encouraged me to become a doctor from a young age. I was volunteering at a hospital while an undergrad at Baylor University and decided then that I didn't want to become a physician; later that school year I stumbled upon the idea of dental school. I'd always enjoyed going to the dentist, so I investigated that option.
While pursuing my health science studies major I interned at a dental office in Waco, Texas, and was sold on a dental career. I was accepted to the excellent program at the Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas. I never wore braces as a teen but still had interest in orthodontics. I was able to spend some time in the orthodontic department during my third year of dental school and decided to apply to ortho residency. I was able to stay in Dallas and get my orthodontic certificate as well as a master's at Baylor. (And I did finally become an orthodontic patient at age 35!)
How is your practice laid out? What's the workflow like?
We welcome new patients to the office with a large reception area and ample seating. New patients get the benefit of our private new-patient exam room so they can get all their questions answered in a one-on-one setting. For our active treatment patients, we have an open bay with six treatment chairs. When it's time for radiographs, our Planmeca S2 is only a few steps away.
What's your practice philosophy?
We strive to deliver excellent orthodontics, on-time, with great customer service. A staff who believes in the practice is key to it being successful. If the entire staff desire to treat our patients and their families with respect and wonderful service, we're all working toward the same goal. If the customer service is there, then all we have to do is treatment-plan appropriately and follow our in-office systems to create a winning experience and result for our patients.
What do you do to help set the practice apart from others?
I'm not afraid to tell people that it's not time to start treatment yet, or that orthodontics is an option but not a must. We've earned the trust of the parents and families in our community and make honesty our top priority.
What are your favorite marketing techniques? How do you get the word out about your practice?
Our best marketing is the goodwill in the community we've earned over the past 12 years. Of course, we do reach out in other ways—we actively support schools, sports and other community youth events. We try to support as many individual requests as possible. We also have two forms of more traditional advertising we use regularly: We have an ad on the back cover of a local mailer, and a billboard that reminds those driving home to the neighboring town that we're just down the street.
What do you think is the biggest problem orthodontists face today?
I think we have a twofold issue. First, I'm concerned about the rising cost of dental and orthodontic education. A second issue is the influx of orthodontists to big cities. Unfortunately, we are graduating doctors with large amounts of debt, who then all head to the same saturated areas to compete. Sometimes these pressures together can lead to treatment decisions that aren't always best for patients.
What's your patient philosophy?
I believe that treating our patients at the most opportune time for their individual needs is important. I don't believe that early or interceptive treatment is necessary on all or even most patients, but there is a place for it.
Similarly, on the other end of the ortho timeline, it's not always required for all permanent teeth to be present to start treatment. The key is a personalized plan for each patient, along with protocols and systems in place to ensure smooth treatment.
What's the greatest advancement or change you've seen during your tenure?
Because I was able to start my practice with digital radiography, I'd say the biggest leap is the introduction of intraoral scanning in our day-to-day orthodontic practice flow.
What can you not live without?
A well-rounded, grounded life—spiritually, physically and mentally. I'm very thankful for my faith, my family, my community group and my health. These priorities have to be in place so that we can effectively practice orthodontics as well as realize the true purpose of our lives.
Describe the most successful or rewarding experience in your professional life.
Orthognathic surgery is not a procedure that patients in our area decide to move forward with very often. So the opportunity to play a role in the treatment of not one but two patients that have received condylar replacement surgeries has been very rewarding. The aesthetic changes, the functional changes and the emotional/psychological change for these two patients not only made a major change in their lives but affected my staff and me in such a positive way.
What are your favorite features of Orthotown, and how have they affected your professional development?
I enjoy both the website and the magazine. It's great to be able to reach out to a group of orthodontists with a question and get a wide range of different opinions, thanks to the diversity of docs. The other is tossing out my own opinions, ideas or experiences to younger or newer docs. Let's be honest: We all like to talk about our practices.