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31 Mar 2012 | Australasian Dental Practice

news > Spectrum > Page 22

Zoom comes full circle for Dr Bill

By Joseph Allbeury

Whitening Teeth whitening

I first met Dr Bill Dorfman at the Zoom Extravaganza at Star City Casino in Sydney on September 4, 2004. Zoom was a brand new thing back then for Discus Dental that local agents Regional Healthcare were looking to get the profession excited about. Extreme Makeover was only just kicking off on Channel 9 and dentists were wondering why on earth marketing would ever be of relevance in their well-insulated microcosm. And as for teeth whitening, well why whiten when you can veneer!

Times change of course. Star City Casino is now simply called Star. Regional Health Care has become Henry Schein Halas. Marketing is about the most important thing a dentist can do these days and whitening is literally everywhere, including the local shopping mall.

For the chosen few at that first and only Zoom Extravaganza, Dr Bill availed us of what few would realise was on the horizon. One dentist at the dinner after the event said to me in all seriousness that the one thing they were taking away from the event was the immediate need to recruit a PR company on retainer to look after their public image.

For me, the part I clearly remember was Dr Bill delivering an impromptu stand-up routine after dinner and how, as a new graduate, he'd gone to work in the French speaking part of Switzerland during a heat wave. Inevitably he'd gone to the store in search of relief and rather than saying "I'm hot" - j'ai chaud - and looking to buy a fan, he made a totally different inference - Je suis chaud - that almost got him arrested.

So eight years on and I get a phone call one evening from Dr Bill sort of out of the blue. He's in Perth on matters unrelated to drill-fill-and- he's about to hop on a plane home. So I recount how I still remember that story as an icebreaker and we chat about how much the world has changed since.

Dr Bill is now the most famous dentist on the planet for instance. And, the company he started to bring teeth whitening to the masses was gobbled up by Philips Oral Healthcare in 2010, netting him a very tidy 8-figure sum.

These days, Bill only spends a small portion of his time on the tools and the rest of it acting entrepreneurially in TV-land, right now making a new dating show he's sold to Virgin; managing an a capella musical group called Pentatonix; and working with his LEAP foundation. The latter is the reason for the visit to Perth.

LEAP is a motivational leadership program for high school and college students and 40 kids from Western Australia have so far gone to the US to learn how to be successful including learning all about social etiquette, fitness and picking up a bunch of other skills you don't learn in school or uni (for more info see

And eventually we get around to talking about the new Zoom...

"The new Zoom Whitespeed with the LED light from Philips is phenomenal," he says. "Giving dentists the ability to control the power has proven to be a great feature. If a patient is having sensitivity, you can turn the power down and continue. We've been using it in my practice for a few months now and it's a winner.

"The new Sonicare Diamond Clean they've launched is also the absolute best power toothbrush on the market now and the new Air Floss is another great product, particularly for people wearing braces who have a hard time flossing.

"Philips are focussing on the core business and narrowing the range to just whitening and oral hygiene. Those products are the ones that always differentiated us from everyone else and made us very profitable. It's a smart move."

Even though whitening has become a commodity, Bill still believes that it's the one tool every practice must have.

"Whitening can be used by any dentist to open up the conversation towards more advanced cosmetic dentistry. It's essentially a foot in the door. When a patient comes in for whitening, what you really have is a patient in your office with a clear interest in improving the aesthetics of their smile. Whitening has started that conversation, but it's up to you to find out where it ends.

"You need to ask your patient what they want and then guide them to the most appropriate course of treatment to achieve the results they are looking for. Most of the large cases I've completed started with the patient asking for whiter teeth. You have to realise that they understand whitening in principle but what they're really saying is I want a better smile. It may be that teeth whitening will give them what they're looking for but they also may need something more."

Having said that, he also sees Zoom as more than just a tool for getting patients in the door.

"It still infuriates me that several of the leaders in dentistry have ignored all the research and still say that the lamp is a gimmick or just a sales tool," he says. "Independent research proves that a combination of the lamp and the gel is considerably more effective than the lamp or the gel alone. The lamp actually adds 1-2 shades to the result.

"In my experience, patients don't care if I have a lamp because they trust me as their dentist. I don't think that having a lamp sells the procedure; their friends seeing them and going 'WOW! I want to have that done' is what does it. The fact that Zoom delivers that is what has made the system so popular."

The success of Zoom and its incorporation into Extreme Makeover has turned Dr Bill into a global phenomenon and clearly demonstrates just how far you can go if you think outside the box.

"Dentistry has always been a fascinating field for me. When I go to dental schools, I tell students, dentistry doesn't need to be a life of just drilling and filling.

"I was sitting in my office one day and thought there should be a better teeth whitening system, so I put my handpiece down and went and did it.

"What differentiates me is that when I think something will be a good idea, I actually do something about it. I'm not afraid to stick my neck out there and I'm not afraid to try. So many people do the same thing every day and don't try anything new. I love to explore all these different opportunities and make the most of life."

And in these tough economic times, Dr Bill offers this advice: "People will always buy when they see the value. Dentists need to show their patients the value of a healthy, beautiful smile. Will they buy a better car, or a dress or jewellery or will they spend it on their mouth? At my practice, we really work on the customer experience - Disney said do what you do so well people can't resist telling people about it. Focus on the customer experience - show them state-of-the-art dentistry - make them feel special and catered to so they will like you more and trust you more and spend more money in your practice."

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