Smiles of Katy – Katy, Texas | Dolores Mora, DDS
When Mother Nature releases her fury on a community, there are stories of families, neighbors, and businesses coming together. Dr. Dolores Mora and her general dentistry practice, Smiles of Katy, is one of those inspiring stories. At 62 years of age, Dr. Mora took a leap of faith and constructed a new dental practice right behind her existing building in Katy, Texas. The plan was to move into her dream office, built with 10 fully equipped operatories and a sparkling waiting area with crystal chandeliers and luxurious seating, and then raze the former building. However, Hurricane Harvey had different plans.
In August 2017, the storm blew into Houston and pushed its storm surge 30 miles further inland to Katy. Floodwaters filled the doctor’s existing office as well as the new one that sat behind it, four feet higher. Just two days after her new, state-of-the-art equipment had been installed—and before a single piece was powered up—the new office was submerged in six inches of water, destroying the floors and carpet, seeping up into the sheet rock, and soaking into the electric circuits inside her dental chairs.
When the doctor could finally get to her practice, she discovered that the existing office had several feet of water inside, but she remained hopeful that the new office built behind it had been spared….until she walked inside and the carpet squished under her feet. She was heartbroken. Even with her strong faith, Dr. Mora admits she struggled to understand why it happened.
“I immediately started thinking how we could undertake this huge setback,” said Dr. Mora. “Although I knew it would be difficult, I never lost faith that it could be done.” She had previously attended a Driven to Excellence seminar by Dr. Mark Tholen where she learned how to create a stellar new dental practice, and although she had felt prepared and confident throughout the process, it still had been a massive undertaking— and she wasn’t sure she wanted to do it all over again.
However, her thoughts returned to her dream and the desire to leave a legacy to her children and grandchildren, so she prayed, gathered her strength, and began making phone calls. One of the first calls was to her Henry Schein team: Field Sales Consultant Vanessa Muro and Equipment Sales Specialist Casey Schulin. “Without Vanessa and Casey, I don’t know what I would have done,” remembered Dr. Mora, who has worked with Ms. Muro for more than 18 years. “I knew if I fell, they would pick me up. Any time I turned to Vanessa, anything I asked for, she already had it in place.”
The damage to the practice was substantial, complicated by the fact that the doctor didn’t have flood insurance (she wasn’t in a flood zone, so she had opted out like most other businesses on her street). Now her dream sat under water, but not for long.
Top-of-the-Line Equipment Damaged
The 5,100-square foot office is a major upgrade from the existing office, which was just 1,500 square feet and had three operatories with an inefficient floor plan and a mix of older equipment. Patients are now greeted by a 300-pound sparkling crystal chandelier from Argentina in the middle of what the doctor calls the “guest room.” Luxurious soft couches, granite countertops, marble flooring, and a refreshment area surround patients in relaxation.
“After all of the offices I’ve been in, I knew I wanted my practice to have more of a relaxing spa-like feel to help take all of the patients’ nerves away!”
The high-end Pelton & Crane dental chairs, with plush leather and massage features, were selected to deliver on this patient-centric vision. Plus, they are also more comfortable for the doctors and staff. “When we walked in on the Monday after the hurricane, the first thing we noticed was all the dental chairs were laid back, all the way down to the ground, which is not how we left them,” said Dr. Mora. “When we took the panels off the motherboards, there was still water inside. Nine of the ten were fried.”
When Mr. Schulin and Ms. Muro found out the doctor had no insurance, they were just as devastated as she was. “You could see it in their eyes,” said Dr. Mora. “They finally said, ‘Let us see what we can do.’”
New Practice Rises Out of the Flood Waters
The first order of business was to salvage space in the old office so Dr. Mora could see patients during the months-long setback. In the new building, cosmetic repairs began…the lower half of the sheet rock was cut out and replaced, carpeting was removed and re-laid, and the floors dried out and redone. Meanwhile, Mr. Schulin and Ms. Muro got to work contacting vendor partners like Pelton & Crane, Planmeca, and KaVo Kerr to see about sourcing new motherboards and other parts to get the equipment back into working order.
“Some of the equipment was ruined; some could be repaired,” explained Mr. Schulin. “Our suppliers really stepped up, providing parts and their labor at cost. And our service technicians donated their time.”
Operatory equipment like the KaVo electric handpieces and intraoral cameras, which Dr. Mora “won’t do anything without,” were safe because they remained high enough to avoid water damage.
The doctor’s Planmeca Planscan intraoral scanner and PlanMill were the only items insured because they were financed through Henry Schein Financial Solutions. Planmeca shipped a new Planmeca Emerald intraoral scanner and PlanMill 40 S, and Henry Schein service technicians were able to get the old PlanMill 40 working, too.
“It has been a game changer!” said Dr. Mora, who does at least 10 in-office crowns each week. “We are so excited to introduce the latest technology in our office, including the new Planmeca Emerald which allows us to deliver same-day crowns to our patients. This gives our patients the ability to not take an extra day off work or take time away from their families for the delivery–it is all done in the same day! This is one of the many things that makes our office so special and unique.”
The doctor also purchased a NOMAD intraoral X-ray imaging system, which moves between the operatories, and an Instrumentarium OP300 3D cone beam imaging system for orthodontics cases, which she usually recommends as a first step before veneers.
“I am a fan of naturally straightened teeth,” noted Dr. Mora. “I believe in saving our own enamel when we can.” The doctor handles many veneer cases as well, and through them she discovered an opportunity to expand her practice into a dental spa model, offering Botox injections, high-end fillers, chemical peels, treatment for spider and varicose veins, and massages.
“Women are taking care of themselves more,” said Dr. Mora. She noticed once her patients had veneers, they wanted other cosmetic treatments to enhance their look. By mid-summer, the doctor will be offering these services in-house through a partnership with a local aesthetician, massage therapist, and several doctors. “I’m training our staff to offer massages to patients either before their appointments or while they wait for their crowns.”
Now, many months later, the hurricane is a distant memory and the practice is busy, drawing in many new patients who are amazed that such a spectacular dental spa exists in Katy. The exterior has been the talk of the town, and visitors stop by just to sneak a peek at the interior.
“Ninety percent of visitors turn into patients,” explains Dr. Mora. “We offer them a tour of the building and in return they tell someone else about their experience and that creates a possible referral.”
The interior, too, aligns with the doctor’s superior focus on aesthetics and personalized attention, which has made patients more willing to move forward with treatment planning. “More patients are accepting treatment a lot faster,” remarked Dr. Mora. “I feel a sense of confidence in them. There’s a thirty percent increase in new patients.”
For the doctor and her staff, the working environment is something they waited a long time to enjoy, and with more room to move, they no longer bump into each other or stand aside in hallways so someone else can pass by! With 10 operatories available, they can take as long as needed with each patient.
“Because of the additional space, it is easier for us to answer any questions or concerns the patients may have,” noted Dr. Mora. “Giving patients quality time, care, and attention has always been my number one priority.”
Despite the rocky start to opening her new practice, the doctor would still encourage other doctors to follow their dreams and to do it sooner than she did.
“I am very blessed,” concluded the doctor. “Regardless of our trials, I’m thankful for our patients. They are like family to us, and everything we do in this office is for them.” ♦