After lecturing on her own for years, Dr. Amanda Seay decided she needed a change.
She was tired of traveling to different study clubs and groups all the time, especially when some of the dentists attending her talks were only there for the free lunch. It just wasn’t rewarding, and it was eating into time she could be spending with her family. So, when she met Dr. Adamo Notarantonio, who shared similar frustrations and career interests, they came up with an idea: Why not develop and teach a continuing education course together, and have dentists come to them?
Their first course sold out in two months, Dr. Seay said, with no advertising. That was two years ago, and through im P.R.E.S., the pair continues to teach hands-on cosmetic courses that cover esthetics (the SYNTHESIS series), adhesive dentistry (the NEXUS series) and dental photography (the COLLIDEoSCOPE series).
“It’s so exciting when people get on a plane, book a hotel and come out to see you,” Dr. Seay said. “The initial feedback we had was so good we decided to try two more courses.”
Right now, they have five courses slated for 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina, and at least two more that will be hosted by a third party.
The Power of Social Media
Social media is the only form of marketing Dr. Seay and Dr. Notarantonio use to promote their courses, and it’s been huge. Their Instagram accounts help make them relatable, which is why most of Dr. Seay’s classes are filled with women dentists who are also mothers, and Dr. Notarantonio’s courses usually appeal to young male dentists.
Dr. Seay has used social media to build her brand and to grow attendance at her courses, and part of the reason it works so well is her willingness to mix in a little bit of her personal life into her posts. That’s how she’s able to really connect with her audience.
“It’s just mind blowing to me the people out there who are fixated with how many followers they have. In my opinion, it’s not about the number of followers,” she said. “My content has been carefully curated. I post about dentistry and a little bit of my personal life as it relates to dentistry, instead of posting what I ate for breakfast that day.”
Dr. Seay also uses social media to attract patients to her practice. On these Instagram and Facebook accounts, she avoids the dental jargon and clinical images you might find on her lecturing accounts, and focuses more on sharing before and after photos of successful cases and other dental-related items patients might find interesting. Her Instagram tends to attract younger patients, while her older patients (who have more money to spend and are more likely to accept treatment) are more active on Facebook.
The Benefits of Photography
Dr. Seay has always had an interest in the arts, including sculpting and photography, and that interest is one of the reasons dentistry proved to be such a good career choice. Dr. Seay’s love for dental photography, as well as her talent for it, not only helps when assessing patients, it also gives her an easy way to promote successful cases both on her office walls and on her website.
All the photography she displays is her own work—something Dr. Seay said is important for every cosmetic dentist.
“A lot of cosmetic dentists will use stock photography of models,” Dr. Seay said. “It’s misleading if patients see a beautiful model with beautiful teeth on a dentist’s wall but the clinician didn’t actually perform the dentistry.”
It takes a lot of time and effort to get to a place where you can capture beautiful clinical images, Dr. Seay said, and there are a lot of courses (including hers) dentists can take to hone this practice-building skill.
“It just depends where you are in your journey,” Dr. Seay said. “Some people have never really taken dental photography before and others have been doing it for a long time and want to learn how to do more portrait photography. What we try to do in our course is teach dentists how to take good clinical diagnostic photography first. We teach the more fun artistic photography on the last day.”
And while it’s helpful to have a DSLR camera with a 100 millimeter macro lens and a twin flash system for basic photography, it’s really more about knowing how to use the camera than it is about the camera itself, Dr. Seay said.
Choosing the Right Products
If Dr. Seay is going to recommend a product during one of her esthetic courses, it’s important to her that she knows the science and R&D behind it, and that it’s a product that will help her students practice better dentistry. It’s easy to be wowed by the latest and greatest, but dentists should keep in mind that just because a product is new or simplifies the process, that doesn’t mean it will lead to better clinical results.
“You need to know what you’re using and why you’re using it,” Dr. Seay said. “Take fourth generation bonding agents that only have one or two steps instead of three, for example. Every time you shorten the bonding process you’re losing something, so you have to understand what you’re losing and how the agent becomes more technique sensitive. People are always looking for the easier, faster way but that’s not always the best way.”
The Value of a Good Mentor
Dentists shouldn’t be afraid to seek out mentors, Dr. Seay said. As a young female dentist, she was hesitant to reach out to potential mentors when she first started her career. Now she realizes there’s no shame in admitting you don’t know everything, and how valuable it is to look to others for advice, whether that means talking over a case with a mentor or hiring someone to help in a specific area. She wishes she would have hired a consultant a long time ago, for example, to help her with the business side of practice ownership.
Dr. Seay has had a lot of mentors over the years, she said, but Dr. John Kois, founder of the Kois Center, has been the most impactful.
“Honestly, I don’t even know where I’d be if I’d never gone to that center,” Dr. Seay said. “It has given me the knowledge, wisdom and skillset to do the dentistry I do today.”
It also has led to incredible networking opportunities, Dr. Seay said, giving her a tribe of people she can master mind with, and that’s been invaluable.
Dr. Seay also volunteers her time through both local and national organizations. She spent more than 10 years volunteering with Our Lady of Mercy Wellness Center, a clinic that serves a nearby community’s under privileged. Many of the patients she saw there had never been to the dentist before, Dr. Seay said. She had the opportunity to educate them about dentistry and how to take care of their teeth—an often challenging yet rewarding task.
Dr. Seay also treats domestic violence victims through the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Charitable Foundation's Give Back a Smile program. She’s taken on four or five of these cases, including one large case that took two years to complete.
“When these patients come to us, they’ve recovered in the sense of being removed from the physical abuse, but the remnants of the abuse is still evident in their mouths. They have to see that every day,” Dr. Seay said. “We’re able to change that for them.”
As a mother of four, it’s important for Dr. Seay to balance her time practicing, teaching and volunteering with family time. It’s easy to get caught up in work and lose sight of what’s most important but having a plan in place helps keep Dr. Seay focused on meeting her goals while still enjoying her family.
“You have to prioritize what you want most in your personal life and work backward from there,” Dr. Seay said. “As much as I love my career and am passionate about it, it’s important for me to have time with my children while they’re still young. You have to write out your goals and figure out how it will fit into your personal life so you can give time to yourself and to the people who matter most.”