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Dr. Jacob Berger of Smiles at Lakewood Ranch in Florida has fun in his Heartland Dental-supported practice. He owes his loyal and growing patient base to the barbershop-like experience he provides.


I began cutting hair when I was thirteen years old, and before I knew it, I was cutting the hair of my friends and their dads and eventually turned it into a business. That was the start of my love affair with entrepreneurship that has carried over into entrepreneurship in dentistry. I thoroughly enjoy every day in my dental practice and how I interact with my patients is the largest reason why. Together we have fun.


A barbershop experience is interactive and fun.

Barbershops are known for their comradery. While I was still in school, a barber down the road gave me the keys to his place and allowed me to use one of his chairs for $100 a week. While going to school, I cut hair and conversed with clients. On Friday evenings, I brought in pizza and interacted with my clients on a whole different level than just a haircut. They could hang around and watch movies on the TV. It wasn't just a $15 moment. 


…But a barbershop experience is more than fun.

In my dental practice at Lakewood Ranch, I put their chair back just like you would in a barbershop setting. I ask them what they want. I let them know we're going to get started, and I try to utilize past experiences from the barber shop to provide a customer service moment they will always remember. I strive to be totally present and listen to whatever conversation is important to them. I clear my mind of any personal agenda to be genuinely present for them and do whatever I can to serve them best, even if it’s being a listening and empathetic ear for what is happening in their lives outside of dentistry.


The most impactful experience may be a unique one.

One of the gentlemen who came to the barbershop had to be wheeled in by his wife. When I was given the opportunity to cut his hair, I pushed my big barber chair to the side and rolled his wheelchair to my station. He did not have to get out of the wheelchair. He and his wife had not had that type of care before and were greatly appreciative. I was just taking care of another human. That barbershop experience made such an impression on me and them that I now attempt to individualize the dental experience for my patients. This simply means I am always on the lookout to do something special that could mean a lot to a patient in any given situation.

That extra bit of service I provided in the barbershop was so appreciated by that couple that they talked about me to others in wheelchairs who also became my regular clients. I began going to needs camps and the Special Olympics to cut hair. This, too, has carried over to my dental practice, and I now provide dentistry at special needs camps and on mission trips.


The Heart Side of Dentistry

I know the business side of dentistry is important, but the heart side of it is important, too. If your patients see that side of you, they’ll make mental note of it. I learned from an old barbershop lesson that I can move aside an operatory chair to wheel in a wheelchair. My operatory is intentionally big enough to do this. I have also learned that people need to “let down their hair” and are healed through friendship and fun.

Whatever your past experiences or favorite pastimes may be, these can be related to the interests and needs of your patients. Maybe hobbies can be used in your practice every day or photos of your family and pets on the wall. These show the patient who you are as a real person and the things you love. 

No matter what your previous experiences, there are “nuggets” among them that you can use to help patients feel more comfortable … feel you really care. You may have stories from your own life you can share that will help lead patients to better health and overall well-being. Utilize or share personal life lessons and have fun with it. Your patients will appreciate this and tell others. No matter if you are in private practice, associated with a dental service organization like I am with Heartland Dental, or growing your own entrepreneurial DSO, if you do this, your dental practice can’t help but grow.

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