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Dr. John Kois, Kois Center

Published on: Aug 17, 2023
 By: The New Dentist
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Dr. John Kois started the Kois Center 25 years ago because he wanted to offer a learning experience that wasn’t yet available in dentistry. He used his passion for education and the learning process to create a graduate program for practicing dentists, complete with a structured curriculum based in science.

“I was focused on being a game changer, not an expert on repackaging other people’s material,” Dr. Kois said. “To do that in a meaningful way we had to be science based, not opinion based, which is the root of the center’s growth. That was the motivation behind the center and what makes it different. It’s completely private. There are no corporate sponsorships whatsoever.”

The center, which first opened in 1994, also has evolved into a family business, Dr. Kois said. One of his sons, Johnny Kois, serves as the CEO while his other son, prosthodontist Dr. Dean Kois, teaches at the center. Even their wives are involved.

Over the years, the center’s independent research has helped its students achieve more predictable outcomes, which is one of the draws for newcomers, Dr. Kois said. The center’s structured, deliberate teachings help dentists become more efficient and to improve the care they offer their patients. The center also uses research to reduce incidents of adverse events in every day practice, making the work their students do even more rewarding.

“One of the most frustrating things dentists deal with is failed restorations,” Dr. Kois said. “It’s very hard for dentists to separate the reasons for failure. Was it something the patient did to the restoration or was it something in the way the restoration was fabricated that led to the failure? When you can’t separate the two, unfortunately, the failures become personal. The research helps dentists really understand why things fail so we have an opportunity to correct those things before we do the dentistry.”

The Kois Center is the only dental continuing education program in the country that conducts and publishes its own research. Dr. Kois is proud of the work the center does and of the students who graduate ready to achieve their goals.

What it takes to be a Kois student

All Kois Center students have the same primary focus: to provide optimal dental care to their patients. Many graduates have gone on to become leaders in their communities, Dr. Kois said, as well as lecturers, presidents of major dental organizations, dental school faculty members and dental journal editors.  

Successful students have similar goals and attributes as the center, and their alignment with the center often continues even after they’ve graduated.

“Graduates actually come back to the center to help out and facilitate some of the classes,” Dr. Kois said. “They don’t get compensated but they come for two reasons. One is to give something back to the center because they’re very grateful, and second is to help other dentists achieve the levels they have achieved. That’s very exciting. They’re helping younger dentists achieve extraordinary levels they didn’t think were possible.”

A global community

The Kois Center attracts dental professionals from all over the world, with 25 percent of students traveling from outside the U.S. to attend classes with materials available in 15 different languages. Because of this, students develop a more global perspective, which helps them grow as clinicians.

“Having dentists come from all over the world allows me to have a better pulse on what’s happening in dentistry,” Dr. Kois said. “It gives us access to the newest trends and technologies, which many times are developed outside the U.S. I feel that has become a very important growth opportunity for the center.”

What attracts international students to the Seattle-based learning institution? The same as what attracts dentists from across the U.S. These dentists want to provide patients with exceptional care, and they take pride in doing so. They know the Kois Center can help them do that.

The classes

Class sizes are kept small, with a 37 student maximum. Dr. Kois teaches most of the courses, using the center’s research as well as the most recent evidence-based findings to structure the materials. Dentists often bring their lab technicians and team members to be part of the learning experience.

Core courses are either presented in a three day or five day format. Students work very hard no matter which option they choose, Dr. Kois said, but the five day option does give students more time to build relationships that “enhance the learning environment.”

“It’s really hard to educate the mind unless you educate the heart,” Dr. Kois said. “By having a longer format, it’s easier for relationships to develop organically between myself and the students, the students and each other, and the students and the supporting mentors.”

Dentists should walk away understanding three core concepts after their time at the Kois Center: how to use a risk based decision making protocol; where teeth should be positioned in the face for optimal esthetics; and how to enable proper tooth function with minimal adverse events. Dr. Kois will hit on these three concepts as part of his talk at the Dental Influencers Alliance annual meeting in December.

“If dentists can manage these three core aspects of treatment, all the more product driven or procedure driven or technique driven aspects will be more sustainable,” Dr. Kois said. “This is why I believe people come to the center. They come to learn those things more than anything else.”

Once students complete the curriculum, they’re considered graduates and are invited to attend the Annual Symposium, where they can network with other Kois Center graduates and learn about the yearly curriculum updates.

Social media

Social media has become an important part of dentistry in recent years, especially when it comes to promoting oral literacy, which is something Dr. Kois strives to foster through the center. 

“For me, social media has been very positive for dentistry,” Dr. Kois said. “It helps educate the public as well as other dentists, so it has a peer to peer benefit and a peer to the public benefit.”

Dr. Kois also sees how social media can be used as a marketing tool for dental practices. Potential patients are more educated about oral health topics and how keeping their mouth healthy can improve their quality of life—making them more likely to seek treatment. Of course, social media also can be used to perpetuate myths and fears about dentistry, Dr. Kois said, but the positives it provides far outweigh the negatives.

A commitment to research and his students

Dr. Kois has what he describes as a relentless work ethic, and is committed to staying up-to-date on the most recent dental research so he can keep his evidence-based courses current. He reads 28 journals a month and infuses the most recent research into course materials and the center’s annual symposium. Everything is constantly changing and updating. That, combined with his personal commitment to his students, is what makes the center so successful.

“What I like best is seeing the students grow and seeing the transformation they go through,” Dr. Kois said, “and to know that when they leave the center they’re a different dentist than when they started.”

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