Identifying Marketing Opportunities, Strategies, and Tools for Dental Offices in Different Regions

Paul Gruensfelder, Vice President of marketing for Select Dental Management, on making practices stand out locally, tools for attracting and retaining patients, and creating messaging for 38 unique locations.

DSOPro: Tell us about your background.

I have been in healthcare marketing most of my career and in leadership positions at various-sized DSOs since 2017.

After spending the first 6 years of my professional career specifically in digital marketing, around 2016, I made the difficult decision to not focus solely on digital marketing for the rest of my career. I was interested in traditional marketing and creative messaging and decided to venture out a little bit into more generalized marketing roles.

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After a brief stint at an ad agency, I began working at a startup DSO called Smile Exchange, which was in the Philadelphia area and consisted of six de novo practices. I think the oldest was 18 months old and the newest was 4 or 5 months old when I started there in 2017. I did some of my best work from a media-buying and ROI standpoint with them.

From there, I went to what was Dimensional Dental and later became Eastern Dental. They had 62 practices with 14 brands across 4 states. After a series of transactions, I was later shifted into Eastern Dental, which had 22 practices located in New Jersey.

I started with Select Dental Management in June 2021, and since then we’ve grown from 22 practices to 38.

Our practices span 8 states and Washington, D.C. throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic and combined see about 140,000 patients a year. We have over 700 employees, with more than 120 dentists and 150 hygienists in our organization.

DSOPro: Tell us how Select Dental was created.

Select was formed by two lifelong friends, Elliot Zibel and Dr. Jonathan Mason in 2018. Elliot saw Dr. Mason make some simple, yet significant changes in his own practice and Elliot suggested they package and scale that partnership platform to other practices. And that’s how Select Dental Management came about.

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DSOPro: What is your role and what are your goals?

I measure success in essentially four buckets: practice growth, practice efficiency, patient satisfaction, and team engagement. My role is to add value to our practices throughout the four success metrics.

When Select partners with a practice, my goal is to figure out how to add value. If they are doing new patient marketing with agencies and vendors they trust, and are driving strong results, I look for ways we can find additional cost efficiencies or do better reporting to optimize what’s already in place.

If a practice has not done much new patient marketing before and we have identified the opportunity to add appointment capacity by adding staff, then our goal is to determine how to fill the practice’s schedule. I often start with robust hygiene reactivation efforts. My philosophy is that because it costs about 10 times more to attract a new patient than to retain one, starting with keeping existing patients in regular re-care is typically a good way to fill the schedules.

Of course, the counterargument is that new patients typically spend more in their first year with a practice than during their ongoing years, so you do have to balance that.

Without a steady flow of new patients, at some point most of the restorative dentistry has been done. If you’re seeing patients consistently two to three times a year, you’re catching problems before they manifest. This necessitates working with each practice individually to find the balance between retaining patients to keep their hygiene schedules full and driving new patient volume that will create that front load of production.

DSOPro: What are your strategies and what kinds of marketing are you doing?

While it varies from practice to practice, in almost all of them we have some sort of consistent patient reactivation going on. All our practices utilize some type of patient relationship management system that sends email messages and reminders to patients overdue for recall. We also partner with an external company called Reach (formerly CallForce) that handles our hygiene re-care reactivation calls.

When it comes to driving new patients, each market is different. First, I assess their online presence. The goal is to have a solid website with the tools to provide patients with education on the procedures and services your office provides, the payment options you take, and to help make patients feel comfortable with the practice. For many practices, we also try to provide a seamless experience booking their appointments. That breaks down the major barriers to people seeking dental care: fear, cost, and convenience. When we anticipate our patient’s needs when they’re on our website, we see increasing conversion rates, and it’s a better patient experience.

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Once we have a solid digital foundation, then I typically deploy some of the paid digital marketing, like Google Ads or paid social media, so we capture additional demand. This also requires ensuring that the front desk has the tools needed to appoint as many of those new patients as possible. That involves training and working with them on scripting and bullet points or helping them manage missed-call rates with an overflow call solution, or AI-assisted measurement/training from a company called Patient Prism.

We also leverage traditional marketing for practices if it makes sense. One community may have strong readership of a local lifestyle magazine that aligns well with a cosmetic practice. One of our practices runs a pretty high-frequency schedule on cable TV. Other practices leverage direct mail when we do special events like an Invisalign night. Some practices have experimented with radio and local print. Ultimately, it is based on what’s right for the practice and the goals that we’ve set forth for them combined with the predominant medias in each marketplace.

DSOPro: What is Patient Prism?

Patient Prism is an AI tool that listens to new patient calls and then identifies areas of opportunity if the call didn’t convert to an appointment. Within minutes of the phone call ending, it sends a follow-up email and text message with a link that goes to the team members who can act on the missed opportunity.   


Patient Prism accurately and quickly identifies the areas that need improvement. The instantaneous alert includes a thoughtful analysis of the call along with recommendations for the agent/receptionist and more importantly, a mechanism where you can call back the patient who didn’t schedule and potentially recapture that opportunity. You can do all of this without listening to the call and that, too, within minutes. This is a game changer for us.  


The system does three things for me: It gives me the front-end measurement of how the offices are performing; it provides the training materials to help our offices succeed, so we don’t have to generate those from scratch; and it provides a platform to manage going outbound on the missed opportunities to see if the offices can recapture them. We are using this in about 30% of our practices, and on average, we see them converting over 70% of legitimate new patient opportunities, which is a marked improvement.


DSOPro: How do you determine what technologies to use and how to customize them to various offices?

We invest in several different tools and technologies for different reasons. Some may be to enhance our patient experience; some may help with operational efficiency; others may be able to give our operational leaders the insights they need to make decisions.

Select does a good job operationalizing and executing on those sorts of things so we are able to affect change at scale.

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DSOPro: What are the most important strategies for reaching and retaining patients?

We do an exercise about every 6 months where we map out our patient journey and identify what, in a best-case-scenario, are the tools, technologies, and tactics we should use to optimize that journey. We want to make it incredibly easy for people to find our practices and understand that practice’s value proposition against the hundreds of others that are likely in the market.

We have remarkable clinical and office staff teams. Few things are more important than the patient experience. Patients post reviews about how great their hygienist was, how friendly the front office staff was, and how gentle the dentist was. That can’t be understated. I’m proud to work for a company that takes patient care so seriously.

The result of a remarkable patient experience is high patient retention. We have practices that do very little new patient paid marketing because they provide such a great experience, are involved in their communities, and are able to thrive off patient referrals, nearby doctor referrals, and in some cases, insurance acceptance. Additionally, focusing on treatment acceptance and reappointment helps to retain patients within our practices.

DSOPro: What kinds of trends are you seeing in the DSO space?

How AI and automation will at some point play a much larger role in the patient experience. For example, AI chatbots are getting better and better. Within a few years, I believe we will see fully automated digital experiences on dental practice websites. We’re pretty close now. The live chat we use, Simplifeye, is 24/7 human powered. At some point, the live chats on all our sites will likely be driven by AI with deep integration into practice management software and patients being able to pick preferences.

You should be able to go to a chatbot on a website and say, “I have Delta Dental Insurance. I am available Tuesdays after 2:00 pm. I have a toothache and I want to get in right away” and an AI-powered chatbot should be able to take you through that process. I’m also bullish on being able to use AI to scale our patient-education efforts through email marketing, social media, and website copy.

DSOPro: What else would you like us to know about your company and marketing priorities?

I think it goes back to the fact that there is so much data available and the importance of discerning what is meaningful. “What is the 20% of effort that is going to get you the 80% of results?” We use that quote that a lot.

There is so much consumer choice in dentistry, it’s really a commodity. The factors that determine whether people see a dentist are fear, cost, and convenience. Those are the barriers we are working to break down. If a patient overcomes the fear and realizes the cost is necessary, then it comes down to deciding who to contact among the dozens of nearby dentists. That’s when having a strong brand, engaging website content, and a robust reviews profile helps differentiate us from other practices offering the same services.

We are always trialing different technology to improve our efficacy, efficiency, and patient experience. We’re currently looking at AI-assisted imaging to give our dentists a second opinion or use as a treatment presentation tool. We do have to be careful with how we message technologies, though. For instance, “CEREC 3D crown milling technology” may not mean a lot to consumers. However, if you advertise that you offer single-day dentistry, you don’t use the disgusting goop that makes patients gag anymore, and they can leave with a new crown without coming back two weeks later, that’s the benefit statement. Technology is very important, but it’s only a differentiator if the patients truly understand what the benefit statement is and what’s in it for them.

Select’s success is directly related to the people we’re working with, the collaboration, the shared accountability, the shared decision making, and truly being a partnership organization. Instead of decisions funneling down from one person, we have leaders at all levels collaborating and leveraging their expertise to give our patients the best experience and outcome. If you ask our employees what they attribute Select’s success to, it’s our people-centric partnership model and how we work together to achieve our shared vision, and to make our teams, patients, and practices healthier and happier.

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About Paul Gruensfelder


Paul Gruensfelder is an award-winning, experienced leader with over a decade in healthcare marketing and advertising. Through his roles, he has managed teams of varying levels, conceptualized and carried out multi-million-dollar campaigns and, under his leadership, has increased company revenue and overall performance. With a strong focus on ROI and analytics, Paul is strategic in his marketing efforts and keeps his finger on the pulse of new marketing solutions, applications, and platforms.

Select Dental Management

Select Dental Management is a Dental Partnership Organization providing dental management services that currently supports 38 dental practices in 8 states and Washington D.C. from the Northeast to the Mid-Atlantic. Select has more than 100 dentists and 700 employees providing care to over 140,000 patients each year. To learn more about Select Dental Management visit www.SelectDentalManagement.com.

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