Visiting the dentist tends to get a bad rap, to the extent that some people dread it. Dentists know this, as does Smile Brands. Cofounded in 1998 by current CEO Steve Bilt and CFO Brad Schmidt, Smile Brands aims to provide a better dental experience for patients and providers.
In addition to offering business support services to dentists, the company goes to great lengths to ensure its facilities are patient friendly. Such efforts not only attract dental care consumers, but also working dental professionals (who are in high demand). The firm provides a broad spectrum of business support services to nearly 700 affiliated dental practices in 30 states.
The company’s director of facilities and dental equipment management, Scott Graversen, oversees a staff of 4 people who handle 24,000 work orders every year—because there’s a lot of high-tech dental equipment within their offices requiring maintenance, repairs, or replacement. His team also oversees a constant flow of office refresh and renovation projects.
Graversen’s team handles so much that even hurricanes don’t faze them. “We get directly involved in those situations, of course,” he says. Many of his team members have clinical backgrounds and know firsthand the impact to patient care and revenue generation when the building or equipment are compromised.
Their mission is to keep the dental office operating whenever possible, ensuring patients are cared for and clinicians stay on schedule with appointments and treatments.
That ethos is at the core of the company’s values. The work it does allows dentists to efficiently complete their own work. With a smile in his voice—an important characteristic for someone in his job— Graversen explains that his team is rarely contacted unless its supported practices and dentists are burdened with a facility or equipment support need.
“Setting up a dental practice is expensive,” Graversen explains. Smile Brands leverages its scale to create welcoming environments for dental professionals to invest their careers. The company tends to facilities matters, making sure the complex and expensive equipment required in modern dental practice is kept in good operating condition.
In addition to facilities support, Smile Brands provides business services—lease administration, billing and collections, marketing, IT, and legal support as well—that allow its affiliated dentists to spend more time with patients. The typical solo dentist spends 60 percent of their time with patients; for Smile Brands supported dentists that number is around 90 percent.
Graversen has been with Smile Brands since early 2022, but has worked on the supplier side of the industry since 2001. Largely working in sales for equipment manufacturers, he was a familiar face with the firm’s leadership who also had deep technical knowledge.
They carved out a position for him that includes the full spectrum of building management—because the functioning of dental offices really has a seamless interdependency between buildings and equipment.
Those responsibilities begin where patients live and shop. Most Smile Brands locations are in retail settings, not the “professional buildings” where many dental offices were found in the past. This is where signage, access, and facility presentation matters, and where it just seems like a friendlier experience.
“It has to be welcoming, not overly sterile—but of course since the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing hygiene practices matters more than ever to patients,” Graversen says.
In addition to dental treatment rooms, offices are equipped with welcoming patient reception areas, employee break rooms and other amenities to make for an inviting environment.
While Smile Brands often opens its own offices, a significant number of its locations were existing dental practices that the company has partnered with. As a result, the looks of its facilities are as diverse as the communities receiving dental services.
The offices operate under many brands, some regional and many unique to the individual office location. Graversen says the company’s approach to the interior designs is to fit the type and age of the building (e.g., forcing a chic, modern interior wouldn’t work in a vintage building).
All offices are regularly updated on a schedule by refreshing paint, flooring, cabinetry, signage, and installing LED lighting.
Handling what Graversen calls the “break-fix” tasks—thousands per year, not all occurring during regular business hours—is done through a web portal (service channel) that works with a ticketing system.
Individual office managers upload photos and notes of what needs to be addressed, and in the case of common repairs it auto-dispatches the work to Smile Brands’ nationwide vendors partner network.
“We manually address the exceptions,” says Graversen, citing the damages brought on by Florida hurricanes in 2022 as one example.
Still, every one of those tickets, as well as the phone calls that often accompany them, mention that “something is broken,” Graversen explains. “Every work order is an opportunity to serve someone. But we always guide our teammates and express our gratitude. We fix things. ‘Smiles for everyone’ is our motto and filter to approaching our work.”
And that seems pretty consistent with the name this company chose for itself.