Thomas Ocheltree is an oral surgeon situated in Bloomington, Illinois. He is a part of the team at Drs. Doran, Capodice, Efaw, and Ocheltree, having joined in 2006. This dental practice restores confidence and smiles to their patients with everything from dental implant surgery, wisdom tooth extraction or even jaw surgery.
Dr. Thomas Ocheltree graduated from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois in 1993. He then went into the hospital system as an anesthesia tech/assistant, before going to dental school. He graduated Cum Laude from Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine in 1999, where he was an American Student Dental Associate Delegate for three years.
He was also on the Dental School Accreditation Committee and the Deans Summer Research Grant for one year. He did a three-years in the United States Navy, where he was stationed at the most significant recruiting depots for both the Marine Corp and the Navy. Thomas Ocheltree fell in love with oral surgery while here and finished his oral surgery residency in 2006, upon leaving the Navy.
How did you get started in this business and what inspired you to?
My dad was an ENT, otolaryngologist, so healthcare was part of my life from an early age. After I finished college, I knew I wanted something in the health arena and worked to have options for a specialization, which led to the Navy and oral surgery.
How do you make money?
The way I make money and sustain myself is simply by providing the dental care that my patients need. We offer many services, with wisdom tooth extractions being one of the most common areas.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
I joined an existing practice, so that’s a bit of a strange question. Regardless, by joining the practice, I’d have to say that I was profitable quickly. The clinic that I worked at was already performing well and I made sure to bring more value to the team upon my arrival.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted this would work? If so, how did you handle it?
I think there’s always a doubt, wondering if your skill set is up to par. Moving from dentistry to residency and then my oral surgery training, yes, there was doubt involved. I think all residents feel that at some point in training. I know I went through a great program and by the time I was Chief Resident I felt very comfortable and confident with all of my skills for this career.
How did you get your first patient?
There were already patients established here. When I joined the practice, I was assigned patients who were already coming here as well as new patients that came in.
What is one marketing strategy besides referrals that you’re using that works really well?
I think what works really well is moving from traditional hard copy media to digital media about eight to ten years ago. Aside from this switch, having a website for your practice was also essential. It’s another avenue and way for people to find us. Our market base is mostly referrals from a general dentist for my specialized area.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Explaining to a patient that they’re not a good candidate for the service they would like done. It could be for any number of reasons that the procedure isn’t right for them. I always try to have them look at other options, and that’s usually something their dentist can do. An example of that would be the patient whose dentures don’t fit properly. The patient thinks they need or want implants to help the problem. I have to get them to understand that not everyone is a good candidate for implants and why that is.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I learned in the Navy how to keep patients comfortable and relaxed through processes, where sedation wasn’t possible for procedures needed at the time. I would say I’ve carried that over and still have that ability, keeping people at ease. Any kind of extraction or surgery is traumatic and being awake for that it’s pretty tough.
What has been the most satisfying moment in business?
Too many to count over the years. I really enjoy the changes I see in people after restoring their smile or relieving whatever their issue may be. We’ve had a lot of restoration of smiles with dental implants, and that’s just great to see.
What does the future hold for your business, and what are you most excited about?
About three months ago we very suddenly lost our partner who actually started this practice. In light of that, we are bringing on a new associate and are excited about what that will help us achieve.
What business books have inspired you?
I’m actually a Stephen King fan, with It being my favorite. With business books, I would say Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink. It teaches you how to be a better leader both in business and your personal life.
What is a recent purchase that you’ve made to help with your business?
We’ve recently gotten a CBCT, cone beam computed tomography scanner. It’s basically a mini CAT scan for the jaw. It helps guide us during implant cases with things like knowing if there’s enough bone to work with. Another one, within the last year we’ve gotten an intraoral scanner. That gives us a digital impression of the jaw and again, guides us in different cases. These both are changing the way I do things in a positive way.
Are there any volunteer activities you’re involved with?
Our practice does a free clinic two times a year. It’s called the Dr. Gary Johnson Free Extraction Clinic (in remembrance of our great friend), and it’s for all residents of the county. Many of the local dentists take part in it. We probably see 100 to 150 patients every time we do it. These folks may not otherwise get their issues taken care of.
We’re also gotten involved with the Community Healthcare Clinic. We help with the dental portion for patients with low-income and/or no dental insurance. We provide extractions for those patients if restorative dentistry is not an option.