Lydian Dental, Aspiring to Reinvent The Dental Experience

By Anne Baer
Photos by Ivan Martinez

It may be unusual to find someone who truly enjoys a trip to the dentist, let alone someone who wants to hang out there because the environment is fun. But that’s precisely the vibe the team at Lydian Dental aims to create. Co-founders, Dr. Scott Connell, Dr. Josh Turnbull, and Clayton Nylander, have created the first Lydian location in Tempe, AZ that captures their vision for a place where both patients and dental team members want to go.

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Tell us about your background and how the three of you came to be Lydian Dental:

Scott: I’ve been practicing since 2004. Basically, I got out of the Dental College of Georgia and was looking to purchase a practice and become my own business owner immediately. I bought two different offices, but was never very happy about how dentistry operated.

I wanted to change the doctor/patient interaction and began looking at the new model of concierge health services. In that model, members pay an annual fee to join with a doctor and then have access to that provider’s dedicated care. I wanted to shift the focus away from procedure-driven and more to keeping the patient happy and healthy. That’s been my philosophy from the start.

Josh: I started in dental school at Harvard, but after the first two years, I took a year-long sabbatical to get some perspective on what I wanted from dentistry. During that time, I did a study at the Mayo Clinic that evolved into a study on the business of dentistry. That study was eventually published with Gordon Christensen in Dentistry Today. I learned a lot about the shifting landscape for dentistry. After returning to dental school, I continued my studies at Harvard Business School which is where I first worked with Clayton, collaborating on a project.

We started asking ourselves, “Why is there no brand of dentistry that, when I graduate, I’m high-fiving my colleague that I get to go to work there?” Our vision is to create the most aspirational brand of dental clinics in the country. We want to create a brand that dentists can be proud of. We are focused on the experience, not just for the patient, but for our entire team.

When I got out of dental school, I wanted to partner with someone who shared that philosophy. That’s when I met Scott and his approach to patient care. His philosophy on how he treats people was very consistent with what I wanted and what I envisioned creating. I got to know Clayton during my studies when we did a project in school, rolling out a brand of clinics in China.

Clayton: My dad was a dentist in the military, so we hopped around a lot. I met Josh when we were students at the Harvard Business School. We graduated in 2013 from business school. Josh and Scott partnered that summer—then I came in 2014.

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Why did you decide to move to this new location? Why did you select this particular site?

Scott: When Josh and I decided to team up, we wanted to work on his idea to create an “aspirational brand.” I had an existing office nearby, but we wanted to rebrand and move to a site that incorporated our new brand from front to back.

Josh: We want someone to walk in our office and say, “Wow, this is different! I just want to come here and hang out.” This site was also near some new corporate offices with people who are potentially more brand-conscious and attracted to a better dental experience.

When you decided to make the change, how long did the process take?

Scott: I’ve built a few offices, but this one was much more detailed. We started researching in 2013 working with Rapt Studios to flesh out who we were and what we wanted for the brand. In 2014, we moved ahead with rebranding my current office as Lydian and starting the process. Concept work for the office started late in 2014, and we moved in October 2015.

What impact has the rebranding had on your practice? What unique things can you share about the design? What has been the patient perception to the change?

Josh: The response has been amazing. To give some perspective, we chose “Lydian” as it was the name of a stone used to determine veracity of gold and silver. We see our brand as a standard by which other dental experiences are measured. Rapt Studios created an innovative feel unlike any dental visit. The experience is more residential than a typical clinic. To that end, things are hidden away, like all the delivery systems, hoses and sharps—all the things that scare people at the dentist.

We used bright color in spots throughout the office and warm touches like a chair sock (that covers the end of the chair). The entrance area feels more like a family room and reflects an open and inviting space. Our patients and staff love the bright feel and warm atmosphere.

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What was Burkhart’s role in your project? How did it impact the process?

Scott: I’ve done a few offices, but for this one, it was completely hands-off. Kip (Giro, Burkhart Equipment Specialist) would recommend what to order, and I would just tell him to do it. There was much more working through details with this one. I felt like they (Kip and Chris McCarthy, Burkhart Account Manager) were the ones calling me to make sure everything was going well and things were happening.

Clayton: Kip and Chris were solid guys and took very good care of us. They’ve helped us a lot in our new clinics. (Editor’s note: Lydian Dental is currently working on another office site in Arizona and two more in Austin, TX.)

Josh: The other day we had a call and we needed Kip on it, but he was in a meeting. I texted him and asked him to jump on the call which he did. Stuff like that really means a lot. They are there for us.

Any last thoughts as you build your next clinic?

Scott: There are lot of things that will evolve as we look at the next clinic. We’ll keep reinventing the brand with feedback from staff and patients. Whatever motivates the patients and makes them feel cared for will be incorporated into future clinics.

Josh: Our attributes of “fun and familial” will be dialed in to our future clinics. Our target patient group is more about what the experience is while they’re there and what their friends see. They are more focused on the perception.

Clayton: We are reinventing dentistry and doing so end-to-end. We want to be a true innovator in the industry.

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