Q&A with POS Founder Dr. Don McGann | How I launched my orthodontic career

Posted by POS Course Adviser on 5/17/18 9:35 AM

POS founder Dr. Don McGann began his career in a time when there were limited orthodontic opportunities for dentists. In Part 1 of this interview, Dr. McGann shares how he broke into this exclusive field.  Watch Part 2 here.


MILES MCGANN: Hi, I'm Miles McGann and I'm the CEO of Progressive Orthodontics. Today we have a very special guest. This is my father, Dr. Don McGann. He is the founder of POS. I'm sure most of you know him. He's back in town this weekend and we're going to have a little conversation about orthodontics, his career, as well as where he sees orthodontics going in the future. So welcome, Dad. Thank you for being here. First of all, let's talk about how you started POS. What prompted you to want to get into orthodontics?

DR. DON MCGANN: I was not taught orthodontics in dental school, just like everybody else, and that bothered me. Especially when patients were asking advice on their kids and I didn't know the first thing about it. So then I started learning orthodontics from USDI back in 1977. Then I started teaching for them in 1980. Well there was a turning point. It was in Kansas City and I was teaching the last seminar in their series. The students didn't really know what they were supposed to be doing. On the plane home I was thinking about what happened at the end of the seminar. There were 6 of them trying to get me to go to their location to teach them starting again from the basics and I refused. I had too much going on with two practices. So at that moment I decided I'm going to take on the challenge to make a curriculum to teach these six and who knows who else. I didn't know their names I didn't get their contact, but I was going to take the challenge to raise the education level of orthodontics for general dentists because it was a laughingstock. General dentists were not highly regarded for their orthodontic skills.

MILES: So when you first decided to start learning ortho, did you envision ortho being a big part of your practice or just part? Because you've always been a big comprehensive guy and so when you first started out you kind of thought, ‘oh I have a hole in my education I need to fill the hole in the education.’ Did you intend it to become a huge part of your practice or just more of a let's fill in something, I don't like having a hole.

DR. MCGANN: I just don't like having a hole.

MILES: I know you don't.

DR. MCGANN: I enjoyed all aspects of dentistry and I'm not sure I really would have enjoyed being a specialist only doing one thing. The comprehensive part kept my interest and orthodontics, it just fits into everything that you're doing in dentistry. It just spread throughout my practice to where I wanted to focus on that.

MILES: Could you imagine doing dentistry without ortho?

DR. MCGANN: You can do it. I did it for three years or something, but you make misdiagnoses. You don't see a lot of things. If you don't know anything about it, you don't see it. I guess I always wanted to feel like I was doing the best job and without ortho, I couldn't do the best job. It's just that simple. There's a blinder and you don't see a lot of things.

MILES: I know you're a huge proponent of expanding your skills because you've always said “the more that I know the more that I see.” I think with ortho that becomes really relevant, where a lot of people that don't know ortho don't even realize how much they're not seeing.

DR. MCGANN: They don't see the options. They don't see you could do this instead of that. They see a chip on a front tooth, they want to put either a composite or a crown. I'll see composite, crown, or let's do some ortho, extrude it, make a new incisal edge on some of the most simple things that we do. People try to put veneers on crowded teeth and have a tough time making them look right. I say after ortho maybe they need veneers but let's do some ortho first, let's first create alignment and then we can do a better job on the veneers and you'll have a happier patient, happier dentist.

MILES: And it'll last longer.

DR. MCGANN: You're not having to compromise all the time.

MILES: So ortho being a primary part of your practice because you look at it as a foundation of everything, did you realize when you first started ortho how many patients you had that needed ortho?

DR. MCGANN: Oh no. No.

MILES: Because I hear that all the time. Students think ‘I want to learn ortho but I don't know if I really have the patients.’ One of the things that I've learned over the years is once people get a basic understanding of what orthodontics is, all of a sudden they see ortho everywhere in their practice. Was that the same with you and your practice? I know it was a long time ago...

DR. MCGANN: Oh I can remember that well because I had two practices. One of them was a very mature practice. I had bought it from a retiring dentist, Dr. Perry Davis, and he didn't accept any children. That adult practice turned into a bigger ortho practice then than the other one that had kids. Who would ever guessed? So I had probably at least half of my ortho patients were adults and in those days adult ortho was just barely starting and it was everywhere.

MILES: So really anybody that says they don't have ortho in their practice just doesn't know what they're looking at.

DR. MCGANN: They don't see it. It's right there in front of their face but they don't see it. They haven't been trained to even see it.

MILES: I remember one time you told me “in my practice 99.9% of patients need ortho. Now I'm not gonna do ortho on all of them, but everybody needs it at some level.”

DR. MCGANN: At some level. At some level they would like it. Even the ones with straight teeth. If you ask them they say I'd like this, I'd like that, and you go well that could be done, but you don't have the typical case that people think of that you need orthodontics. But as soon as you start saying well I can fix gingival display, well I can fix this, I can fix that, I can widen the buccal corridors, there's just endless things that you can do, especially if you have the skills to back it up with restorative and perio and all those things. So you make people so they are happy about their teeth. They will then start taking care of them. They'll be proud to smile. It changes their life and it changes your life when you can see all those things. So even just at Seminar 1 people come back at Seminar 2 and they go oh my god there are cases everywhere and all they had to do is say “gee we've been doing a lot of stuff maybe you'd like to straighten your teeth? 'Oh really of course I would! I didn't know you did that.' I just started doing it how about that.”

Watch part 2 of this interview now! 

Topics: POS Instructor Tips, B. Donald McGann, POS Family

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