🎉 The finale of Season 4 of Kinda Different is here!  And there is perhaps no guest more fitting to speak on innovation and making dental care more human than Dr. Pamela Maragliano-Muniz. In addition to owning her own practice, Dr. Maragliano-Muniz is also the host of another amazing dental podcast, Dentistry Unmasked, the Chief Editor at Dental Economics, and the Chief Development Officer at Cellerant Consulting. Listen in to their wide-ranging conversation to get Dr. Maragliano-Muniz's perspective on where the dental profession is headed - and how we can help shape the journey!

🙏 A special thanks to all of our listeners for joining in along the way. We'll be back with a special episode this summer, and then Season 5 will get started in the fall!

Watch below or listen in on Spotify/Apple Podcasts!

You can find more about Dr. Maragliano-Muniz at the following places:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/drpamela_maragliano/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dentaleconomicsofficial/?hl=en

What is up, everyone? Welcome back. I just hit my mic, like, right as we started.
Welcome back to another episode. Not only another episode, the final and last episode of season four of Kinda Different, a podcast where we talk about innovation and dental care. We connect with some of the best people that are out there, and today is absolutely no exception to that.
And we talk about how we all together can make dental care more human, because it is a team effort. I am Dr. Matt Allen, CEO and co-founder of DifferentKind, and your host for Kinda Different. And I am thrilled, I think we've had maybe one other guest here, Pam, that fits this kind of realm, but other podcast hosts as guests.
It's really fun, because they're obviously used to being in front of the camera, talking a lot, generally leads to really fun conversations. So I am thrilled to have Dr. Pam Maragliano-Muniz with us today, who is not only a podcast host at Dentistry Unmasked with Dr. David Rice, if I'm correct there, but also she is a board certified prosthodontist and a practice owner at Salem Dental Arts in Massachusetts. She's the chief editor of Dental Economics.
You may have seen her work there. And she's also the chief development officer for Cellerant Consulting. So wearing a lot of hats, Pam, thank you so much for taking the time out of your obviously incredibly busy schedule to join us today to close out season four.
Would you just tell us a little bit more about yourself? Give us a little bit of color beyond just those many titles that I just mentioned.
Sure, of course. Well, thank you so much for having me and thank you so much for letting me be your season four swan song. I'm so excited.
Yeah. I hope I can live up to it. Geez.
Yeah. So no, I think I'm like many other dentists where my primary occupation is in the office and with patients and I'm a practice owner, so I get the struggle with a lot of people and what they're doing. My office is a relatively small practice.
It's four operatories, but we pack a lot into those four operatories. I've got 1.5 associates and I have a few, I've got four hygienists and I've got three assistants and so we sort of have a crazy day. So I feel like in many ways, even though people don't believe me, I live the life like every other dentist that's out there.
But I do split my week with the magazine, so I do love that on a day like today, for example. I finish up around noon with patients and then I'm here to do hygiene checks and work for the magazine and record podcasts and do fun things. So I do that.
And then I do travel a bit. Try to travel for fun, which is what I ideally would love to do, but I go to a lot of conferences, which is fun and interesting, especially talking about innovations and new products and technologies that come out. And then to be completely honest with you, on any given day, I would just rather be with my dogs.
I'm like... There's something really comforting about coming home to your animals, right? And having them, no matter what kind of day you've had, they love you, so...
Absolutely. There's nobody happier to see you at the end of the day, especially as being a dentist when nobody really wants to see you when you see them every day.
There you go, yeah, exactly. Yeah, you can always count on your dog to be happy.
Awesome. Well, thank you for giving us a little bit more color. I'm super excited to dive in to some of these questions I have for you today, because I think, given the many roles that you have and the many different windows I would say that you have into the profession and just the industry in general, the ecosystem, I'm really excited to hear your perspective.
And so, let's start with innovation. And I think one of the things that I always like to hear from guests when we talk about innovation is just, you're obviously involved in a lot of innovation. What are you most excited to be working on right now?
So, that could be a specific thing. It could be a project. It could be a general area.
What is most exciting you when it comes to innovation in the dental space right now?
Gosh, there's so many things that are interesting right now. And I'm one of those people, I guess it's almost like, I don't know, like squirrel. Like you see the next thing and it's like, oh, that's really cool.
But I'd say digital workflows are incredible. So whether you like dive right in with both feet, or if you're just like sort of like taking one step at a time, I think that it's our responsibility to try to stay up to date on the new technologies. And I find that it makes your practice easier, it makes the patient experience better.
And nowadays, that is almost like not almost more important, but the patient experience and their perspective, I mean, we live in a world now where reviews matter, and bad reviews could kill you. And so making sure that you meet the patient where they are. And in a lot of ways, I love to be able to exceed their expectations with technology.
And for me, digital workflows is certainly one of those. But you can't ignore AI. I mean, that's becoming such a thing.
And so, I don't know, I think I'm ready to get a demo and maybe consider bringing that into my practice too.
Totally. Well, yeah, there's so much, right? There is so much out there.
And I think just, but it's interesting to hear you just in general saying like, hey, the adoption of technology in general, you know, can make a big difference. And just thinking about digital workflows that may not have been digital in the past certainly sounds like has been a game changer for you.
And dental hygiene practices too. You know, I feel like as dentists, now I used to be a hygienist, so I'm a little biased, but I feel like having, you know, we get in our like our little box and we go to CE and we get excited about the things that we can bring to our patients as dentists. And yet the dental hygiene appointment hasn't changed in like over 100 years, which is crazy.
And there's new technologies that can really revolutionize that. GBT, for example, is a great one, but it's interesting. I'm gonna say it.
I would say that I did not give my patients the credit that I think that I know that they deserve. So I bought a practice that was 32 years old. And so I was a little scared to bring in some new technologies.
I was like, oh, are they gonna like it? They're used to things the old way. Like, are they gonna leave?
Are they, you know, what's gonna happen? And I'll tell you that if you're excited about something, anything almost regardless of what it is, if you can unapologetically explain why this is important to your practice and your patients, your patients are gonna be on board and they're gonna be so impressed by what you're innovating in the office. So regardless of where your interests are, I think if you just lean into it, I think it's something that will only benefit you, your patients, your practice, your team, everybody.
Yeah, that's such an interesting perspective. And let's like, I wanna piggyback on that kind of, because I think you're mentioning patient experience and you're talking about like, how are the patients gonna perceive it? Innovation is not a one-sided thing, right?
Patients actually have a role, I would say, in innovation, because in any good, I would say, healthcare relationship, it's not a like, hey, we're gonna do this for you even, it's we're gonna do this with you, right? And it's the same way with innovation. So what is your perspective on like, what role do you think patients have in innovation?
And that could be specific in like a chair, or it could be like, hey, here's how I think patients can continue to help push the profession where it needs to go when it comes to innovation. So take that question however you want, but what role do patients actually have in innovation?
I think they absolutely have a role. I mean, we live in a consumer-based society now. And so, you know, you don't want to be that person that patients say, hey, I read this somewhere.
What's that about? And you're like, I don't know what that is. Like that's just not a good look for anybody, especially as a professional, and you're supposed to be the expert.
So I would say, you know, everybody has a cell phone. Everybody uses their cell phone. Everybody is used to photos.
You know, things that are just kind of standard now, you know, photography is a perfect example. You know, right now, if it didn't show up on Instagram, didn't happen. And if you don't have a photo of it, nobody will believe you.
And so if you're still trying to do like the whole tap dance to explain what a cavity looks like, you're losing your patient because people are just more visual now and they need to see it and seeing is believing. And you know, I don't like to sell dentistry. I know most dentists don't want to be that used car salesman, but patients have specific needs.
And if they get to see what you see, all of a sudden they're asking for dentistry. They want dentistry or they want to have health, you know? And so everybody wants to be healthy.
It's the same thing, oral systemic health. I mean, if you start having that conversation with people, there's 57 systemic illnesses that are exacerbated by poor oral health. And so inevitably everybody is either related to or have an illness that's exacerbated by oral health.
So now is such a great time for us because the need is so there and we just have to empower ourselves and get excited about it.
Totally. Yeah, I think it's the kind of, you know, there's this idea, I think that dentists have always kind of been myopic, right? Because we put on our loops and we get down to this like really small field.
And we, I think as dentists and as a profession, you know, not just dentists and all hygienists and everyone involved in our profession probably needs to take a step back and realize, right? Like what you're saying of, hey, there's all these other factors that's connected to all these other things. Let's like actually have that conversation with the patient, right?
Because we get used to just kind of focusing on the things that maybe we always have focused on. And this, it sounds like, you know, certainly what you're saying is that there's an opportunity for us to step back and kind of look at, you know, the entirety of the patient, the entirety of their health, the entirety of, you know, their humanness, I would say even as well. So I think that, you know, that's a really good perspective for us to keep as a profession in general.
That's not easy, you know, always, but it is important probably.
I think it's fun. You know, I think about, you know, I've got some patients that are super motivated and they want to do bacterial testing and they want to do retesting and they want to see if the interventions worked and they're just so analytical. And those are the fun ones because then we get to be a nerd out with them as well.
But then there's people that like kind of don't care, but like sort of care. But like once you tap into what's important to them, all of a sudden they care a lot. And so I guess another thing is making sure you have the time to investigate those things and giving your team time to figure out, to create value for your patients.
And I think that they appreciate that when they have that opportunity to learn about their own oral health. Gone are the days where you like look in, you're like, looks good, and you just walk away and nobody really knows what's going on. I mean, that's just not dentistry anymore.
At least that's how it shouldn't be.
Totally. Yeah, I mean, when we see our data, that is often that value perspective, I think is something where a lot of dentists struggle in terms of ensuring that patients feel like they received good value, right? And I think it goes to a lot of what you're saying in terms of, yeah, like if you're only gonna spend three seconds in the room, why did I come today, right?
But if you're gonna say, hey, look, let's talk about how all these things fit together and how we could help you move forward to your goals. What are those goals? We should know those, right?
Yeah, for sure, I do agree with you. I think that is the fun part. Okay, I think we're gonna get back to some innovation later as we talk about making healthcare more human and making dental care more human, but would love to just learn a little bit more about you.
And in this section, we always talk about like, hey, we wanna know things that aren't on your LinkedIn profile or whatever. So because you have so many things that you do and because you have just a really varied experience, I'm curious what you're most proud of. I was in the room a couple years ago when you received the Denobia Award for like lifetime achievement, you know, type of thing.
You've done a lot of things, you've won a lot of awards, you've held a lot of positions. What are you most proud of? And that absolutely does not have to be something in dentistry.
It could be like, hey, I'm most proud of, you know, something that's completely unrelated to dentistry. So we would just, I would love to hear that answer.
Oh my gosh. Well, unfortunately for me, dentistry is my hobby and my job. So I feel like that kind of, I identify as a dentist.
So, you know, I would say probably, and it's not like I don't share this, but it doesn't really come up that often. I'd say professionally, what I'm most proud of is my board certification in prosthodontics. I think we all have that negative voice in our head that thinks you're not good enough or you can't do it or anything like that.
And I definitely had some challenges, you know, letting life get in the way and letting lots of time happen from residency to taking my exam and all of those things. And I was just not gonna do it. And it was disappointing because there were people who were achieving their boards and I was helping them, but like I didn't have it.
And they would, you know, asking me to look up articles for them or explain something to them. And I could, I just didn't do it for myself. And so it took me 12 years after residency to finally face that last part of my boards.
And honestly, Dr. Kenny Malamant, I don't know if he's ever been on here, he's awesome. He was like, you have to do this. And I feel like I signed up for the last part just to get him to stop talking and just get off my back.
And honestly, to finally pass that and to get my certificate in that, and that's obviously something you get to hang on to forever. And for me, it was sort of like, you know what? After I have this, I don't have to prove myself to anybody anymore.
I'm not gonna take any more tests. I'm not gonna do any more things. If the PROS board thinks I'm good enough to consider me board certified, I'm going to just embrace that and go with it.
So that was a big one for me, and I really let that one go for a long time.
Yeah, I love that. I love, you know, it's three words, right? Like board certified, PROS, Adonis, and we start off by saying it.
And there's so much journey there, and I love this section of the podcast specifically, because you start to understand that everyone has that journey, right? Of, hey, it's not just here's the linear progression of growth that you might look at from the outside, and be like, oh, wow, look at Pam. She's just crushing it in every single way possible.
And you're like, no, like there's ebbs and flows, and everyone has those, and those are the beautiful, I think, moments in any story that we get to learn about. So thank you for sharing. It's awesome to hear, and congrats on like, you know, finally getting to that point where you're just like, no, I'm doing this, and it's, you know, like, I'm gonna make it happen.
I love hearing that, so that's awesome.
Thank you. You know, I would say, I mean, we all have that, and whether it's on a small scale, or maybe it's an exam, or something you're trying to achieve, I think it's easy to kind of beat yourself up for different things, and I'll tell you, I was going to yoga all the time, and I just had to kind of breathe through it, and I feel like that was such an important part of me just kind of like dealing with stress, and it was also cool because, I don't know, the day before, a couple days before my exam, I was on the phone with Dr. Malamand, and he said, you know, we all have great cases, and even despite that, there's always something you change a little bit. So nobody has a perfect case where they never change a thing.
I mean, if they have that, they're probably not looking close enough, to be real. And he said, like, just own it. Like, just be like a normal person.
Like, don't have a meltdown because you're not, you know, you're a little bit less than perfect. Just own it. And I take those words with me kind of everywhere I go.
So, like, if I'm nervous for a lecture or if I'm late for something or whatever, I just feel like, you know what, just, like, we're all humans and we just have to accept our imperfections. You don't have to, you know, use them as an excuse all the time, but just own it and take a deep breath and, you know, keep moving and it's all gonna be okay.
I love that, it's great advice. My next question is kind of related. You've talked about people, you know, somebody here that obviously has already inspired you and has been, you know, kind of a close relationship there to, you know, professionally to help you achieve your goals.
Who's inspiring you right now? Who's somebody that you're looking up to that you're saying, wow, I, you know, I've been working with this person or talking with them or even just admiring them from afar and saying, like, I'm just really, you know, inspired by what they're doing. Would be curious who you are looking at because I'm sure a lot of people are looking at you saying, wow, like, I want to be like Pam when I grow up, you know, like, she's amazing.
Who are you looking to for that inspiration right now?
This answer is going to sound kind of cheesy. And I don't mean it to sound this way because I do work with him really closely, but David Rice, I don't know if you know him really well, but he is one of the most amazing people. He, like, he's made a, like a mission of his to empower others.
And I feel like that's probably one of the best gifts you can give somebody, you know, you know, we all try to, you know, we're all in, you know, swimming along with each other. But I mean, he goes out of his way to empower young dentists around him. And the other thing that I think is so amazing that a lot of us forget, I forget, because my work-life balance is, like, awful.
He really educates people and tries to encourage people to prioritize themselves and, you know, to find what makes you happy and make that first. And then everything else sort of falls in place around it. And so I just admire his gift of always, like, acting like everything's okay, never seems overly stressed, but also, you know, really prioritize work-life balance while raising up all these amazing people around him.
So, you know, I look at, you know, people ask me all the time, like, how do you do what you do? And I'm like, ah, you just work a lot and it's fine. But, you know, you look at somebody like David, who, you know, does work a lot, works really hard, but works hard to elevate these amazing people around him.
And they could be people that, you know, other people are inspired by and don't even realize because he's such like a dark horse, he doesn't even, you know, take credit for half the things that he does. And so I just, I truly admire him. I love working with him.
And, you know, if I could be him someday, that would be a win.
I love that, I love that. That's great. Shout out to David.
And yeah, certainly, yeah, hearing the why behind that of, hey, like, you know, working to empower other people and really, you know, listening to them and having, I think you're talking about kind of the idea of integration. I consider it, you know, people talk about like, we're like work-life balance. And it's like, yeah, like we're all whole people, right?
So it's like, can you live that integrated life of your work and outside of your work and your dogs and all of those things, right? Like whatever it might be for whoever's listening. So I love that, that's really great.
Thanks for sharing. All right, let's move on to making dental care more human. Excited to hear your answers to a couple of these questions.
We've already talked about patient experience, obviously something that we care a lot about at DifferentKind, something that I deeply care about, you know, as a dentist and as somebody who kind of was raised in the like, hey, patient communication changes the world, you know, type of mentality. We always try to make certain parts of our podcasts, you know, really practical. And so if you can make the answer to this question practical, I'd love to hear your perspective, because you obviously are seeing patients, you know, on a daily basis or, you know, a lot of the time.
When you think about patient experience, there's a lot there, and we could have a whole podcast just on like, hey, there's this umbrella term that people are talking about, it seems like a lot right now, and what does that really mean? And I think everyone uses it differently, which I think is a problem. But what's one factor that you think is really important but overlooked?
So, right now, I think a lot of, like you said, people are talking about AI on them, and they're like, oh yeah, I'm just gonna use this. So, but what is something where you're like, hey, this is something that I've really seen makes a really big difference, but a lot of people aren't talking about it right now.
I would say comprehensive communication. We say communication, but what does that mean? If you have a dynamo answering the phones, they can reel the person in, and then if you don't have your hygienist who's in my office, usually the first person that the patient sees clinically, and if the hygienist isn't excited about what they're doing or educating the patient, and then I come in and drop this treatment plan on people, like you have all of these opportunities, but if they're missed, they become a big miss, and you look at reviews, and most of them are about poor communication.
You know what I mean? It's really what they usually come down to. And so I feel like doing that comprehensively and making sure everybody's on the same page.
For me, for example, I know this sounds, again, kinda cheesy, but it's 100% true. I don't, like my number one job requirement is that I want you to want to work here. If you just wanna work anywhere, and here's not a special place for you, I don't really want you here.
And so everybody in my practice wants to be here and likes being here. And so when you love what you do and you have this opportunity to make somebody's life better and you make them healthier, or sometimes just listen to them, or whatever it is that they need in that moment, I feel like it's magic. And what it can do for your bottom line, it's amazing.
Just your overall work environment and everybody's general happiness and work ethic and team efforts, it's just incredible. But it all comes down to, I think, communication. If you come in and you're having a rough morning, you need to tell somebody so that somebody else can kind of pick up your slack for you.
Or, so I feel like it has to be comprehensive. I think sometimes practices, and I know it's tough because obviously we're in the middle of a staffing shortage and all of those things, but you can't thrive when you have one or two really good people and then like a few duds. It doesn't work that way.
And so I feel like for patients to really feel like they're getting what they're here for, part of it is just listening. And things that make us awkward, we have to kind of put that on the shelf. A great example is, I'm in Salem, Mass.
It's pretty liberal here. We have a lot of patients that are in the LBGTQ Plus, if I missed a letter, I'm sorry, community. And so we ask them their pronouns.
And before we didn't, but we weren't sure, and it was kind of awkward. Now I'm like, lead with that. Start with the medical history and be like, hey, I see you use they, them, and they say yes.
And you're like, all right, cool. Just so you know, if I misspeak, just know it's not out of any form of judgment, it's just because I just misspoke. And they're like, don't even worry about it.
It's no big deal. But yet we might be so uncomfortable and trying to be so careful to not say the wrong thing, that if you just lead with, hey, I'm gonna mess this up. And when I do, I don't mean anything by it.
They're just like, awesome, cool, onward. And then you just have a great appointment and you don't have this like little elephant in your head.
Totally, yeah, you've kind of recognized something that obviously matters. And you've said, hey, let's talk about that, right? And I think that that, yeah, obviously is a great way to lead in any appointment, whether it's, hey, what is important to you, right?
All of those things and finding that. I love that idea of just comprehensive communication though too. I think there's a ton of metaphors that we can use to help kind of unpack that, right, if we wanted to.
But I would say, regardless of any of those metaphors, if someone is dropping the ball somewhere, that's really all it takes for the patient to be like, wow, that just wasn't, it didn't quite live up to what I thought it could be. And so that's a hard thing, right? Because you're not just trying to ensure that, yeah, one or two people are really great.
You are really trying to ensure that every single person on the team is crushing it. And that takes a lot of focus. It takes a lot of intention.
It takes a lot of caring, right? To know that when someone is having a bad day, maybe they're not saying something, but you can read that, right? And your team, it takes a lot of emotional intelligence, I would say, as a leader.
So just love that idea. I think that's a really, really great way of thinking about it. So thank you for sharing.
Love it. Last question. Our company is called DifferentKind intentionally, right?
In terms of, we hear lots of people say, I wanna be a different kind of dentist. What does that really mean? And so, kind of saying, hey, there's both in type and in kindness, right?
And so, my question to you is, how are you specifically making dentistry different and how do you feel like you're making it kinder?
Well, I would say that, and I don't know how different it is, but I think it should be, is that we really prioritize prevention. And I mean, I'm a prosthodontist. I should wanna prep full arches all day long.
And trust me, I'd love it if I could. But if I can prevent them from seeing me in the back of the office, then that's where I'm doing my job. And that's where the relationships are about.
And so I think that not overwhelming patients is a real big thing, and trying to read them as you meet them. Some people come in and they just already know what they want and they wanna do all the things. And then there's some people who haven't been to the dentist in 15 years because they're scared and they might need 10 crowns.
But if you tell them right then and there that they need to do all of this stuff and it's gonna cost all this money, you're gonna scare them away. And so I think, you know, individualized care shouldn't be different, but I think it is kind of different. And, you know, obviously I'm not saying don't do things that aren't necessary, but sometimes you have to, you know, start with a maxillary tooth where the injection's not that big a deal, you know?
And like kind of ease them in to make them not so scared to see you. And I think that it really comes down to prioritizing their comfort and, you know, all of the things that we know we should do, but we need to really take the time to do that. I also think another thing we all should do is have like a quiet, I know it sounds crazy, but I did it on the plane.
I took the time to decide what was really important to me in my practice, and I created a mission and a vision. And that is literally like the Bible in the office. Like every action, every word that's shared, every way that you treat a patient has to be upholding this vision and this mission.
And if it's not, then we failed in that moment. So, you know, I think that sometimes as dentists, we expect all kinds of things, but don't tell people what we want and what we need and what's important to us. And I think when you take the time to define what's important to you, you share that with your team and that will transcend to your patients.
And all of a sudden, the patients that come to your practice become your kind of people. And you don't have to mold into what you think they think they want as a dentist. You get to just walk in and be yourself and they look forward to seeing you.
And I feel like it allows me to be a better dentist and it allows me to do a better job, communicate better, be happier, be more comfortable, and just have more fun.
I think that's a great way for us to tie up season four of Kinda Different in terms of talking about, yeah, you know what's important to you and that in turn comes down to your staff, that comes down to your patients, that changes everything when you're able to have that kind of guiding light. You don't always live up to it, like you said, but if you don't have that, where are you going, right? We're all going somewhere, but if we don't know where we're going, we're gonna end up somewhere where we don't wanna be.
So might as well define it and say, yeah, I'm gonna not always hit that mark, but we're gonna keep trying to walk back to that direction. So I absolutely love it. Thank you so much, Pam, for taking the time to join us.
Thank you for being our final guests here in season four of Kinda Different. If people wanna learn more about you or your work at Salem Dental Arts or at Dental Economics or at Dentistry Unmasked, where can they find you? Where should they go?
Like give us, you have a lot of, you know, rules. So help us to understand where to find out more.
Oh my gosh. Well, I mean, I'm on Facebook, I'm on Instagram. Certainly you can find me on Instagram at drpamela underscore Maragliano.
Certainly you could follow Dental Economics on Instagram at Dental Economics Official. There's lots of different ways to find me. I'd say Instagram's probably a great start.
And then if there's something you're like, oh, I wanna learn more about this, this or that, just hit me up and I'm gladly happy to share anything I can.
Awesome. Well, again, thank you so much from one podcast host to another. Thank you for taking the time to join us.
It really does mean a lot and it's just fun to hear your stories, fun to hear your take on life and your worldview. So thank you for taking the time to join us. Thank you to all the listeners out there as well for joining us in this journey on season four.
I think we've had some amazing guests. We're excited to come back. We already have one special episode lined up for the summer.
So keep an eye out for that. And then we'll be back in the fall with season five. So again, Pam, thank you so much for your time.
And we look forward to continue the conversation with you. Hopefully we'll see you at one of those conferences soon and we can share a cocktail or a drink or whatever it is in person to say thanks to you. So really appreciate you taking the time.
Pleasure's mine. Thank you.