The Way We Work Now is a series chronicling how people’s lives and careers have fundamentally changed because of the pandemic.
Dr. Richard Lam, 30, is the founder of Refine Dentistry in Stafford, Texas. He spoke with Mai Tran about gaining 40,000 followers on TikTok to help attract new patients during the pandemic.
I was thinking about opening my own dental office for a while. I signed the lease in the beginning of 2019 and started planning and designing it. I opened for three weeks in March of 2020, then the government placed a shutdown in Texas, and we closed the whole month of April. My employees were able to get unemployment, but the office wasn’t able to get any government stimulus because we didn’t have a history of income.
Before the quarantine, business was pretty slow because we were new. When we reopened in May, we saw way more patients because people were working from home and had more time to come in. A lot of patients called and asked what precautions we were taking. Masks are mandatory, and we give them a hydrogen peroxide mouth rinse to decrease their bacterial load. We also utilize a dry shield, which is a piece that goes inside their mouth during cleaning or treatment and sucks up all the aerosol, so it minimizes what travels in the air. Patients are pretty comfortable because the office itself is brand new, so everything’s clean.
I didn’t expect Covid-19 to happen, but it was kind of a blessing because I didn’t know much about opening a practice, and it gave me time to work on the business side of things. I always wanted to do Instagram to show all my dental work and patients’ before-and-afters. I also downloaded TikTok during quarantine, and it gave me time to watch a lot of videos. I never thought about actually posting one until I was stuck in the office in May with the new employees I had hired. We tried doing one and uploaded it.
I try to find what’s trending and recreate it with a dental twist, mostly skits and funny videos.
I started from scratch and kept on being consistent, posting almost three times a week, showing pictures of the office and doing giveaways. A lot of my followers were friends at first, but then I did a parody of the WAP dance that made me go viral. In the beginning, I did dances with the employees to show the fun side of being a dentist, but those take a lot of time. Now that I have more patients, I’ll just look at the app whenever I’m free. I try to find what’s trending and recreate it with a dental twist, mostly skits and funny videos. It’s a lot of thinking, more work than you would expect.
We get a good number of clients from TikTok and Instagram. I think 30–50% of patients saw us on some type of social media and were like, “Oh yeah, I want to go here.” The patients from TikTok are usually in their mid-twenties to thirties. I had a patient yesterday who came from Humble, which is about an hour away. I also have some people who message me on Instagram, saying they’re coming into town from California or other places, and they’re like, “Can I come in during that time?” Aside from social media, I’ve sent mailers and postcards to the houses around my office in a two- or three-mile radius, and that was pretty good at getting more of the families and older clients.
Considering the pandemic, I think the number of clients we have right now is pretty good. A lot of patients are scared of going into the dental office, and nothing can change their minds about it, but we always ask questions and do contact tracing. With masks and our technology, we keep everything clean, and we have all the protocols to be safe.