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The PPM guide to naming a dental practice

July 1, 2017
What's in a name? Here's what we found out when we asked our readers how to best name a dental practice.
Chris Salierno, DDS, Chief Dental Officer, Tend

It begins with a name. Your brand is the summation of your personal practice philosophy, style, and vision for oral health. You plant your flag as a health-care provider and as a business, and declare to the world who you are. Your practice logo, website, interior design, marketing materials . . . all of the things that make up your brand begin with one tough decision—what is your name?

If you’re starting your own practice or looking to update the brand of an existing one, you’re likely pondering this very tough question. So, we sent out a survey in our Principles of Practice Management e-newsletter on practice names and heard back from almost 200 of you. Thank you to all who took the time to walk us through your creative processes and rationale for how you’ve designed your brands. It’s my pleasure to make some observations on the survey results and share with you some of the best concepts we’ve seen.

First and foremost, there was quite the divide over the issue of whether a practice should be named after the dentist. Many of you felt that it would be too cutesy or unbecoming of a health-care provider to call a practice anything other than the dentist’s name. This is certainly the traditional path and does give an air of professionalism. Larry Jack, DDS, named his practice after himself because, “ . . . anything else just would not fit in with the small community. I am the only dentist in our mountainous region for miles and miles.”

But there are many of you who did choose to create a brand that extends beyond the provider. You reported that you wanted to stand out from the crowd. You wanted to convey an emotion or a concept to your potential patients. Or perhaps it was a more practical matter. In the words of frequent Dental Economics contributor and sleep apnea guru Erin Elliott, DDS: “Don’t name it after yourself. You’ll sell one day.”

For those who looked to create a brand, the most popular strategy by far was to be inspired by the local geography. The name of the towns, major roads, bodies of water, and regional nicknames dominated this side of the aisle. It certainly helps your SEO and Google rankings to use a local name for local search. In the words of Andrew Zucker, DDS, of Sandusky Dental Partners, “Geography matters! Weird abstract names rooted in esoteric themes mean nothing to patients.”

But still there were others who thought that playful and truly unique names were the way to go. Where do you begin if you’re not using your own name or local geography as inspiration? The name can mean something personal, like Finish Line Orthodontics. David Holsey, DDS, explains, “I have been a nationally ranked age group triathlete for over 20 years. I was on Team USA and competed in the triathlon world championships in 2013 and 2015.”

We heard from respondents who used multiple brainstorming sessions with team members and consultants to think outside the box. But after you’ve let your creativity run wild, it’s recommended to have a careful vetting process to narrow down the list.

Reshma Dhake, DDS, of Forever Dental tried to have a unique name but ran into a problem. “We used to be Complete Care Dental, but patients kept calling us Complete Dental Care. Plus, there was already a Complete Dental Care a few miles away, so we actually had vendors confuse us. Make sure your name is unique enough that you won’t be mistaken for another office.”

Although having a brand that isn’t tied to a particular dentist can certainly be an advantage for a transition, the strategy could also backfire. Teresa Poorman-Maaske, DDS, a pediatric dentist, clearly had fun choosing Tooth Fairy P.C. for her practice, but she admits a potential male buyer in the future might not be too keen on it.

If you’re looking for a practice name that is not based on your own or on local geography, here are four complete concepts that might inspire you. The dentists themselves share their rationales.

The Practice|Beverly Hills Boutique Dental

We wanted to brand the office instead of just the doctors’ names. There are three doctors in the practice and we wanted everyone to appear on the same level to let our patients understand that we all provide top quality care regardless of the provider. We also wanted a name that stuck out as unique. And lastly, we do not necessarily want to only be dentists forever. When the practice is named after the dentist, then people only want to see you. With a brand, it allows you to bring other dentists in and still make the patients feel comfortable with the office’s care.

We are an upscale practice in Beverly Hills, California. It’s very competitive here and unique branding and logo helps to set office apart. We also want to have a feeling of being “the” practice to go to.

As Seth Godin recommends, “Be the ‘purple cow’. . . stand out from the rest if you want to be noticed.”

- Dustin Cohen, DMD

Kiss Dental

The corporation we bought was LB Dental, which were the initials of the former owner. I took the first letter of my last name (Klos) and of my partner (Spirtovic) and quickly said the two letters and it sounded like kiss. I should say we arrived at the name with the assistance of alcohol. It’s cute and catchy. Pick something that says you, and is not lengthy or difficult to understand.

- Chet Klos, DDS, and Larisa Spirtovic, DDS

Archway Dental

Arches are symbolic of transitions or new beginnings. They are a shape that can represent our anatomy, and they start with letter ‘A’ for the phonebook. An arch crosses over the road right at the location of our office. We came up with a list of about 10 names using possible keywords to include in different variations, and narrowed them down with people I trust in the practice, not a consultant. After narrowing it down, I made the final choice based on a gut feeling about its potential to be used effectively in marketing and ideas for the logo.

- Eric Bellis, DDS

Endless Smiles Dental

We were forming a partnership and we wanted a practice name that didn’t use our own names. We envisioned the practice lasting well beyond the career of the original partners who founded it. We live and practice in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. We thought it would be a play on that descriptor of where we live, along with the concept of providing ongoing smiles for our patients.

- Fred Lally, DDS

Personally, I think any of the three approaches can work. Traditional, geographic, and unique practice names all make sense today. I think it depends on your practice’s business model. If you’re in a competitive environment such as a major city and you’re a pediatric dentist, you’re probably more likely to use a quirky name to stand out and effectively communicate with kids and their parents. If you’re in a rural family practice, a quirky name might seem unprofessional to your patients. There isn’t a right or wrong here, just what makes sense for your vision and brand.

Before we finish, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the one name that made me laugh out loud. Robert Trager, DDS, has office locations at LaGuardia and JFK airports in New York. The name of his practice . . . The Smile High Club.

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