Podcast Episode 4 | The Sleep Better Dentist

With Dr. Erin Elliott, Post Falls Family Dental and Sleep Better Northwest

About the Prosperous Doc Podcast

The Prosperous Doc podcast by Spaugh Dameron Tenny highlights real-life stories from doctors and dentist to encourage and inspire listeners through discussions of professional successes and failures in addition to personal stories and financial wellness advice.

Shane Tenny, CFP® is our podcast host and Partner at SDT. He has lectured numerous times for hospitals and physician groups and, most importantly, helped hundreds of clients develop strategies to navigate through turbulent times toward their financial goals.

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Intro: 00:02 From Spaugh Dameron Tenny, it's White Coat Wellness, a show for doctors who are ready to improve their financial wellness. We know you work hard to help your patients, but you can't be at your best if you don't have your own finances in order. In White Coat Wellness, we highlight real life stories from physicians and dentists to educate, encourage, and inspire you to personal, professional, and financial wellness. Now, from Spaugh Dameron Tenny, please welcome your host, Shane Tenny.

Shane Tenny: 00:31 All right. Well, it's not often that I get to interview someone with more energy than me, but today, I'm really excited to welcome Dr. Erin Elliott to the podcast booth with me. Dr. Elliott is a general dentist in Post Falls, Idaho I think near Coeur d'Alene, and is a specialist in solutions for sleep apnea and snoring, and is passionate about running an exceptional practice, and I'm excited to have her share with you more about her passions. I know she's excited because it's 6:00 AM her time as we're recording this, so Erin, thanks so much for being with us today.

Erin Elliott: 01:02 Thanks for having me. This is exciting.

Shane Tenny: 01:05 Yeah. Well, it's going to be a good time. Now, first, do you need an extra coffee refill before we get rolling here?

Erin Elliott: 01:10 It is the Pacific Northwest. We are known for our coffee, but some of this energy is actually natural.

Shane Tenny: 01:16 Good, good. All right. Well, let's just dive in. Tell me a little about yourself and just your journey, early journey into dentistry.

Erin Elliott: 01:24 Well, I will make this pretty short, but I am a practicing general dentist, a regular old family dental practice in Northern Idaho. Like you said, it was very... It's very beautiful here, but there's also a lot of dentists here. I still do fillings on three and four-year-olds, and dentures on people. I started my life in Orange County, California, and there's a little bit of a stigma about all the Californians moving here, and so I usually tell my patients I grew up South of Boise because that's not lying, but I did take off. I hadn't even turned 18 yet and went to undergrad on a soccer and academic scholarship to Houghton College in very rural Western New York.

Erin Elliott: 02:13 I don't think people can realize how rural it is there, really small Christian college kind of in the middle of nowhere, and met my husband there, and then I kind of already... I always knew I was going to go into the healthcare field, and my dad was a dentist, and so when it came time for dental schools, I applied to a bunch of state schools and realized my residency was like, "Is it California? Is it in New York?" It was kind of... and my family had moved to Washington State at that point, so I decided to apply to some private schools, and I saw that Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska was the cheapest private school in the country at the time, and so I applied and got in without even an interview, and so I figured that was pretty obvious that's where I belonged, and I absolutely loved it there, and then I've been... graduated in 2003, and I've been here at Post Falls Family Dental since then.

Shane Tenny: 03:09 Awesome, and tell me a little bit about once you started in practice, decided to... Well, I guess maybe back up. How did you find the practice in Idaho there? What brought you there? Then, I know once you graduate, you start. You get a job, a contract.

Erin Elliott: 03:23 Yeah.

Shane Tenny: 03:23 There's a lot of enthusiasm, but I know that it's always not smooth sailing. Talk a little bit about maybe some of the early struggles.

Erin Elliott: 03:31 Yeah, so I... As a senior dental student, you're like, "Oh, crap, this is the rest of my life. Where are we going to settle?" With my husband being from the East Coast, he's from north of Syracuse in a great little town that I know I would be successful there because I have the Elliott last name. Everyone knows the Elliotts.

Erin Elliott: 03:49 My family had moved away from my hometown to Vancouver, Washington, which is right outside of Portland, Oregon. My dad did a startup there. He had a beautiful practice. It's just that Vancouver wasn't home to us, and so we decided we're going to settle where we want to spend the rest of our life, and I had bought a car in college, and we drove through Coeur d'Alene once and fell in love, and so I interviewed with about five different dentists that I had found through the Burkhart Supply rep because they kind of have their pulse on the dental community a little bit more so than just reaching out to random dentists, and so I interviewed with like four to five different offices.

Erin Elliott: 04:31 When I walked into Post Falls Family Dental to meet Dr. Lynn, the associate that he had at the time was one of my friends from dental school, an upperclassmen, and I was like, "Whoa, Tim Casey?" He's like, "Wow, Erin." He's like, "This is a great practice. I'm just going, moving on to do my own thing." He did a startup, and Dr. Lynn was just so laid-back. He's like, "This is how you'll get paid, and this is our practice." It was kind of my culture, kind of my feel, just family-friendly, down-home, fun, yet professional. It just felt good, and I started as an associate in this little crappy office.

Erin Elliott: 05:13 Then, in 2007, we built a brand new tenet practice, and I say we, but I still wasn't an owner, so I didn't have that burden of taking on the loan and all those things, but I still had that ownership mentality and really joined in to help, and I acted as if I was a partner because Dr. Lynn let me kind of be that way and drive my own... build my own practice, but I couldn't buy in to the practice as a partner because there wasn't a whole lot of value with when you buy... when you build a million-dollar building in 2007 when there's like no... The economy really went down. We were like, "Okay. How are we going to pay these bills this month?"

Erin Elliott: 05:58 For me to buy in wasn't the right timing, so I was an associate for eight years, and then started a seven-year buy-in process in which I didn't go to the bank, and we were able to do the buy-in, and I finally did my last payment last November, but from the beginning, seven years ago, we were 50-50 on paper, and we treated each other that way, so it's been an awesome journey.

Erin Elliott: 06:24 I also wish that I had bought in sooner, but I had a young family and I didn't... I'm risk-averse, and like I said, I didn't have to go home at night stressing. I did stress, but not the same way that Dr. Lynn did in how to pay the bills, and filling up the loan papers, and all of those things, so part of me wishes I had bought in sooner, but I think the timing was right for my journey personally. I am the female of the family, but I'm also... I was the sole breadwinner. My husband and I decided for our family that he was going to stay at home, and that's... In 2003, that was unusual.

Shane Tenny: 07:01 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Erin Elliott: 07:03 But that's kind of me in a nutshell as far as the practice ownership part of things.

Shane Tenny: 07:09 Yeah, that's good, and would you say that because your dad is a dentist and owned his own practice, that that was kind of a foregone conclusion for you entering the field, or was that an area where you were not sure if it was going to end up materializing or that sort of thing?

Erin Elliott: 07:25 Actually, my dad had the thoughts that we would... he would own the practice for the rest of his life and he would have associates work for him. He never wanted to give up ownership, and he never even had an associate for the first 30 years, but because of health issues, they discovered a 20-pound tumor in his abdomen, and he got it cut out three days after my dental school graduation. He barely made it out to be able to hug me in my graduation ceremony, and that's when he brought on his first associate ever, and I would actually fly over to Portland, from Spokane to Portland every other week and work two days because one of him had to equal two of us.

Erin Elliott: 08:15 Even though he didn't work in the practice, he always owned it and managed it, and that... He loved the business side of things. He's like, "Be an associate. There's advantages to that." He was always trying to sell the advantages of associateship so that he didn't ever have to give up ownership I think, but I knew I wanted to be an owner. I worked that way, I thought that way, and I absolutely love the write-offs.

Shane Tenny: 08:41 Indeed. I think you and everyone else in your profession.

Erin Elliott: 08:44 But I have to say when my kids were young, there was something about being able to just show up to work and go home even though I was never that type of dentist because I am not capable of that. There is something to be said that you don't have that extra burden. You can just work, and there is a huge advantage to that, especially as a woman having young kids that you get to be the mom at home as well as the professional, but I knew that wasn't in the cards for me. It might've been my dad's brainwashing, but I knew I was going to be an owner.

Shane Tenny: 09:14 And so somewhere over the last 16 years, you had the YouTube sensation breakout role as the Queen of Good Air.

Erin Elliott: 09:23 Yes.

Shane Tenny: 09:23 Tell me where you developed your your passion around the snoring, and sleep apnea, and that sort of thing. Where'd that come from?

Erin Elliott: 09:30 Yeah. About 10 years ago, I went to the Idaho State Dental Meeting, and there was a sleep physician who was speaking, and I was like, "What is this about?" because I love to sleep. My mom said I was born an old woman like I would give myself naps and put myself to bed. I just love sleep, and I was just fascinated by it, so as soon as I found out that we as dentists could help our patients on a journey for a better night's sleep, I was sold like I was all in, so I set out to find a course, and my dad decided that he wanted to come with me.

Erin Elliott: 10:07 He wasn't practicing at the time, but he just loved dentistry. It was his hobby, and he passed that onto me, and so he's like, "Well, I'm going to come with you," and I said, "That's fine as long as we get different hotel rooms," because my dad was the worst snorer in the world, but that's what my dad did. He snored. Ultimately, I am frugal or cheap. I did share a hotel room with him, but it was miserable because no matter what, my dad snored. But as part of the course, we did a home sleep test or a hotel sleep test, and it was discovered that my dad had moderate to severe sleep apnea, and then as part of the course, we made appliance, and his average heart rate when he was sleeping was 87 beats per minute and 60 beats per minute is resting, so his heart was working over time.

Erin Elliott: 10:55 My mom was miserable. He didn't know he was tired because he's kind of always felt this way. It was like a slow progression. He didn't know what a good night's sleep was until he had one again, and so his snoring was actually his airway collapsing over and over again, and so as soon as I saw how it could affect him and my passion for a good sleep and feeling good, it was a perfect storm for me to dive in.

Erin Elliott: 11:24 At the time, like there was... It was kind of the Wild West, and it still is 10 years later. Even my partner kind of discouraged me. He's like, "You know, this doesn't really work in dental practices." We got a denial, "See, it doesn't work," and I was like, "Yes, it does. Yes, it does. Yes, it does." I found my why early on. My why is that I like to sleep, and I may snore too.

Erin Elliott: 11:46 In fact, in my course, I play a video of someone snoring, and I was like, "Isn't this awful?" and they all agree, and it's me. My husband and I also built our relationship on pranks, and one of his favorite pranks is to post pictures of me sleeping on Facebook, so fast forward to me working on a patient.

Shane Tenny: 12:07 Nothing breeds endearment like a public posting of shaming videos.

Erin Elliott: 12:13 Yeah. I know. So many people are like, "Oh my god, my wife would kill me," and I was like, "Eh." It's humbling. I'm good with it. I get him back, but I was working on a patient one day, and I just started laughing to myself. My assistant is like, "Oh, great. Now what?" They're used to this kind of stuff, and I said, "I just thought of something," and that's where I was inspired by the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to change the lyrics to the Queen of Good Air, and it was a lot of fun coming up with the lyrics and recording, and I do share that when I lecture. I was like... This is how I introduce. I'm like, "You guys already know I'm crazy. Now, I'm just going to prove it."

Shane Tenny: 12:53 I like it. I like it. Now, educate me for just a minute. Is sleep apnea... As a layperson, nonmedical background, sleep apnea I often think of as being something that is predominantly with folks that are overweight.

Erin Elliott: 13:06 Yeah.

Shane Tenny: 13:06 Is that a correct mis- Is that a correct presumption or that incorrect, often present with folks that are regular build?

Erin Elliott: 13:13 No. It's totally incorrect, and that is why it's my mission to educate even our medical world. It's one in four men, one in 10 women, and 50% of the population over the age of 50 has sleep apnea, but I'd say 80% to 90% remain undiagnosed, and that's because weight is only an issue in about 60% of the cases, which means there's a whole bunch of skinny people running around with sleep apnea. It's anatomical, really. No airway as a child, you breathe through your mouth. There's not proper growth, and development, and expansion. Everything is constricted. If the tongue is constricted, the airway can be constricted.

Erin Elliott: 13:55 If you think about someone with a skinny neck, skinny airway, and it's also physiological. Is your airway strong and sturdy, or is it like... You can think about just different straws even like McDonald's has a nice wide, but also collapsible straw or even those more sturdy coffee stir straws. We're not even going to talk about paper straws right now, but if you think about it, like even a big airway can be collapsible, and it's not just about weight, and so we can see so many dental signs and symptoms.

Erin Elliott: 14:28 Sleep apnea has so many health consequences that we have the patient's health history at our fingertips. We know them. They see us more than once a year unlike medical doctors, and it's not on healthcare professionals' radar. They can give them high blood pressure pills, but not ask, "Why do you have high blood pressure?" I even have patients that have had three heart attacks and never gotten a sleep study, and so we're in the perfect position to screen, identify, get them tested to see what we're dealing with, and treat them.

Erin Elliott: 15:02 It's not just about snoring. I treat... In menopausal age women, sleep apnea becomes equal to men, and it's a hormonal thing too, so progesterone and estrogen help keep our airway open. Obviously, at menopausal age, that goes... diminishes, and all of a sudden, this insomnia that women are having, they chalk it up to insomnia. They're given a sleeping pill when really it's... 91% in this recent study, 91% of it was moderate to severe sleep apnea and not insomnia.

Shane Tenny: 15:33 And so you... With your dad being I guess your first test patient in the sleep work, you... It sounds like you're... You just instantly or quickly believed and knew, "This is something that I want to specialize in."

Erin Elliott: 15:45 Yeah. Yeah.

Shane Tenny: 15:45 What was the... Oh, you go ahead. You had a comment on that?

Erin Elliott: 15:48 I was just going to say, yeah, my mom thought he was dead the first night because he was quiet for the first time. It worked.

Shane Tenny: 15:55 So when you came back and talked to Dr. Lynn and said, "I think we need to introduce some sort of a treatment for snoring, and sleep apnea, and that sort of thing," what was that discussion like? I know you ended up kind of setting up Sleep Better Northwest I guess a separate practice or... Talk a little bit about that arrangement, kind of your thought process and decisions there.

Erin Elliott: 16:16 Yeah. I was an associate at the time, but like I said, he was really laid back, and I'm sure he... When I came back all excited, he rolled his eyes and said, "Okay, here we go again. Erin's got a bee in her bonnet," but he also let me run with it. I did not expect him to implement, integrate. As an associate, one of the things I regret is not having CE funds in the contract, so everything was on my own, so I paid for the course, and when I came back, I'm like, "There's couple supplies I need."

Erin Elliott: 16:47 Fortunately, he was very supportive of that, so I think he was like, "As long as I don't have to do it or deal with it, go ahead." But then, when you come across some hurdles, he's kind of like, "Yeah, let's just kind of forget about this." I was afraid to ask the team to help me. I did it all on my own, but as soon as I got the team involved is when it really took off and just continuing to tweak the systems and learning how to integrate it. That's why I feel like I can teach now because I can fast-forward at least five years of the learning curve that I had because there's one thing to learn, the head knowledge, which is still fascinating to me, but I know a lot of overeducated dentists who don't help patients because they haven't figured out the workflow.

Shane Tenny: 17:35 Mm-hmm (affirmative), and so elaborate a little bit then on... It sounds like initially, the core or the path was, "Let's just start introducing this to our existing patients within Post Falls Family Dental," but now I understand you've kind of segregated it to a different office location, that sort of thing.

Erin Elliott: 17:52 Yeah.

Shane Tenny: 17:52 Talk a little bit about that.

Erin Elliott: 17:53 Well, it's not a different office location, so I have Post Falls Family Dental and I started... I was the only one around doing it, and so I know... It's a small town, so I know physicians. I went and talked to the sleep physicians, and they're like, "Oh, good." There was a guy in the town next door who retired, and he was the only sleep provider, and his new owner didn't want to do sleep, so he basically handed me his practice of sleep, and I never even met the guy. I still haven't, so some of it was good timing, but saying that, I was getting referrals from physicians, and what I say now, the way I teach it is that you need to earn the right first within your own four walls.

Erin Elliott: 18:34 Yes, we are screening our own patients, but I was also getting referrals from physicians, but the patients weren't coming, and I was like, "Okay. Why?" They were like, "Well, I like my dentist," and so that's when it kind of the light bulb moment where I'm like, "Oh, people think I have... they have to transfer to me as their dentist to be seen for this," and that's not true. So then, other dentists were calling me like, "How do I do this?" I'm like, "Well, it's a little bit more than a five-minute conversation. Just refer them to me. I promise I won't take your patient," so I created Sleep Better Northwest.

Erin Elliott: 19:09 Also, the reason why I did it is because people thought dentistry and sleep like you're crazy. They looked at me like I had two heads when I brought up sleep to them, so it created kind of this psychologically and marketing-wise a different program where they didn't have to transfer to me as a dentist to be seen for this specialty.

Erin Elliott: 19:29 Secondly, the other reason I did it is again psychologically. The patients keep thinking that dental insurance covers this, but it's not. It's medical. It's a dental solution to a medical problem, so there is a medical code. Medical insurance acts differently. You have to meet that minimum deductible before it kicks in. It's stricter policy stuff, and so it changed their mindset of dental and switched it to medical.

Erin Elliott: 19:59 Then, lastly, the other reason I did that is because it's a very team-driven program in my practice. I have a sleep... dental sleep medicine champion. Brie is her name. She is almost like a mid-level provider, and when you go to your physician, you don't always expect to see your physician for the full time. You're used to dealing with a mid-level provider or the nurse versus all doctor time, and so yes, I am involved. I do the consults, but I don't do the deliveries, the follow-ups, things like that. I'm there overseeing it, but I'm not present all the time, and so that I think has changed the patient's mindset to where they don't expect to see me.

Erin Elliott: 20:40 It is not a separate tax ID number. We bill medical under Post Falls Family Dental, but Sleep Better Northwest has kind of been my branding I would say, and as far as branding goes, it worked. I ran into someone in the hotel in Seattle, which sounds random, but leave it to me to run into someone I know, and he's like, "I was just talking about you." He goes, "Someone told me I needed to talk to you because they just... I just spent the night in the hotel room and they couldn't sleep because of my snoring, and they said, 'You need to talk to Erin Elliott. I don't know what you do, but I'm supposed to talk to you." That's my branding.

Shane Tenny: 21:20 Well, it sounds like the word is getting out then.

Erin Elliott: 21:22 Yeah.

Shane Tenny: 21:23 That is really interesting. I'll tell you what. We're going to take a quick break, and then I want to hear the rest of the story.

Erin Elliott: 21:30 Yeah.

Will Koster: 21:33 I'm Will Koster, and on this episode's White Coat Wisdom, let's talk about deductibles. Your deductible is the amount that you would have to pay before your insurance company pays a claim. For example, if you backed into your mailbox with your car and caused a thousand dollars' worth of damage and your deductible is $500, you would have to pay the first $500 of the cost before your insurance company helps you out.

Will Koster: 21:56 Now, my main point of this segment is to ask you. Why is your deductible so low? The lower your deductible, the higher your cost of insurance. Typically, it's not advisable to just file a claim for a small accident like backing into your mailbox because when you file a claim, the insurance company may raise your monthly rate. Likely, you will just pay the thousand dollars yourself and the insurance company would never know, so my question is, "Why would you have a $500 deductible when you wouldn't file a claim unless the damage was over a thousand dollars? Bottom line, consider your threshold for a claim and set your deductible around that amount. For this episode's White Coat Wisdom, I'm Will Koster.

Shane Tenny: 22:39 All right, so let's talk a little bit about... Speaking of branding and your passion for taking not just the clinical knowledge and the head knowledge, but integrating it into business systems that work, can you talk a little bit about your involvement with 3D Dentists?

Erin Elliott: 22:53 Yeah, so when I think people discovered that I was a young female that could put some sentences together, mostly, I think they realize, "Wow, I want to learn this too. How did you do it?" So it was just like... It just kept popping up that there was these opportunities for me to help others, and so I spent an entire winter putting my two-day course together like everything I knew plus the secrets to the step-by-step process, a cookbook per se, but I didn't really have a home, so I was going to different offices and training them in a two-day program. I was bringing my assistant with me as well.

Erin Elliott: 23:33 Then, I was on someone's podcast, and then this person's podcast, and this gentleman named T-Bone, we affectionately call him, his name is Tarun Agarwal, and he is a force to be reckoned with, but he called me, and he said, "You need to come train my office," and I said, "Okay." He was very demanding, and I was like, "Who are you?" He's like, "No, I want you to come out here," and he goes, "You know what? I have this training center. Let's just go ahead and do a course," and I said, "Okay," still unsure of who he was, but we... He has a teaching center called 3D Dentists.

Erin Elliott: 24:09 You don't need to own cone beam to do sleep or come to my course, but he's like, "I want you to share this with others," and he teaches other courses, but he didn't have any sleep component, and he wanted to... He had sleep in his practice. There was turnover, kind of just became a backseat kind of thing, and he wanted to reinvigorate it, and he just has this passion for teaching as well.

Erin Elliott: 24:37 Anyways, I taught my first course with him about three years ago, and I called my husband immediately, and I said, "I'm home. I found a home to share my passion with others and for others to come and learn from me," and so that's kind of how it evolved, and one thing you'll learn about T-Bone is that you quickly become family. There is some tough love involved with that, but I can handle it, and he's really pushed me and mentored me in my own dental journey as well as in my teaching journey, and I've just been able... I just have loved being able to go share this message with others even though public speaking is my least favorite thing. Believe it or not. I just believe that we as dentists should be sharing this with our patients because no one else is doing it and we need to.

Shane Tenny: 25:26 For folks that are listening to this and thinking, "Well, that sounds kind of interesting," where are those sessions given geographically? What do people need to do to get involved in that?

Erin Elliott: 25:37 So T-Bone's dental practice is located in Raleigh, North Carolina, and he has a teaching center up above. The reason why I love it is because it is kind of intimate. We go to his house for dinner and things like that, and we get to interact with the people. Sometimes with CE, you're like, "Okay, so let's all go hang out," and everyone does their own thing, so this is... It truly is family, but we've also taken this on the road because I'm like... People on the West Coast think there's this invisible wall at the Mississippi River, so we've done some West Coast centers as well or courses.

Erin Elliott: 26:13 Then, of course, I do little things at meetings, and AGD, and that sort of thing, but really, the meat is the two-day course where we do home sleep test. We teach at a level where your team members get excited, and again, that cookbook step-by-step is... I give you a roadmap as much as I can. You actually have to drive though.

Shane Tenny: 26:34 As part of your registration fee, is everyone gifted with an orange tracksuit? That looked like kind of a prerequisite from the bus tour video I saw.

Erin Elliott: 26:43 Yeah, so the bus tour that you're referring to is... We are part of the Dentsply Sirona family. We have chairside milling in our practice and CEREC. Dentsply Sirona World is this destination, and so we decided that we wanted to make dentistry fun again. It was kind of our tagline, and just as you know, we want to make America great again, so we set out on a bus tour. We've visited dental offices along the way from Raleigh to Orlando. We visited a dental school. We saw the dancing dentist, really wanted to create almost a spectacle across the country, and yes, tracksuits came along with the uniform.

Shane Tenny: 27:28 Now, Erin, before we've got a couple of minutes left and since our podcast here, White Coat Wellness, touches on this concept of overall wellness, but certainly financial wellness, can you talk a little bit about just maybe what that means in your life? I guess I was thinking in particular what maybe you observed about or learned about finances both as a child growing up and then kind of what you brought into your early career as a dentist?

Erin Elliott: 27:54 Great question. So I told you how I was frugal or cheap. My dad could have spoiled us I think a lot more than he did, and this is a struggle I'm having with my own kids right now. I opened up about how I don't understand how my kids don't have a work ethic like I do, like doesn't it just automatically happen? I've always been a hard worker because of that. Every dollar means something, and so I also... I would not say I'm a financial whiz. Again, I'm risk-adverse and all those things, but what I did... what did resonate with me is seeing compound interest and the difference it can make, so I started putting away for retirement at an early, early age as soon as I started, and my husband kind of spends what I take home, and so I will just sock it away before he even saw what I was putting away.

Erin Elliott: 28:49 When you're first starting out, you're like, "Yes, I'm a dentist. I'm going to make all this money," but we still lived very frugally for a long time so that... I made that sacrifice to put it away for retirement, and investing in a practice is a big risk, but I see this as my future as well. As far as financial planners go, I... It's a very intimate thing, kind of opening yourself up to someone and I... You want to feel safe, and I get that feeling from you, by the way.

Erin Elliott: 29:21 It's very vulnerable when you see yourself on paper, when you see how much student loans you have, how much practice debt you have, and then you want to live too and enjoy your life and the fruits of your labor, and so really working alongside someone so that you can have that balance of putting away for the future, living within your means, but also, enjoying life as well. I think that it's important to learn at a young age to not start saving for retirement. You pay yourself first. Pay your savings, your retirement first, and then live off of that.

Shane Tenny: 30:01 Yeah, there's no question. We talk within our team all the time that there's an element in our office of that that is not dissimilar from a medical office where you've got to strip down and open the kimono to have the... to be able to see, and that takes a lot of trust and... Yeah, it's not easy.

Erin Elliott: 30:19 Vulnerable. Yeah.

Shane Tenny: 30:19 Yeah, vulnerability. Yeah. Thanks. As you look back now on the last 15-plus years, are there... As you look at your own horizon, what financial decisions come to your mind as either things that you might say, "Oh man, I would definitely not do that again or I would advise me to avoid that type of decision," or do you look and say, "It's been pretty good, and the thing I'm proudest of is..." I guess maybe you already mentioned, saving from an early age or something.

Erin Elliott: 30:49 Yeah. I think you need to know yourself because I didn't... When I first got out, Facebook didn't exist. The social world didn't exist. I knew the people around me and the ones I went to school with, and so there wasn't any comparison game. So now, if I'm a part of this dental investment group, I see all these dentists, even T-Bone has hotels and all this real estate, all this passive income, so I feel like I missed out on that kind of game, but I don't want to take on more work.

Erin Elliott: 31:18 I want that balance of... I want to be home with my kids hanging out and doing family stuff, not working on another career, so the part of me wishes I had something for a passive income, but I also... My dad was always a dentist, and worked hard, and lived a great life, and so there's part of me too that's like, "Just be happy with what you have saved for the future." I put it away in my retirement, and that's okay too, so I think you need to know yourself if you... My husband is not business-minded, so it would be on me. I don't know if that answered your question, but that's kind of... Sometimes I feel that regret of, "Why didn't you do more?" But then, I'm also okay with not doing more.

Shane Tenny: 32:05 Yup. Well, I think now there's been an acronym designed around that, the FOMO, fear of missing out.

Erin Elliott: 32:11 Yeah, yeah.

Shane Tenny: 32:12 You're right. I think it's definitely propagated by social media, but oh, I feel like I'm missing out, and so I think it's commendable and self-aware on your part to just be able to say, "Wait, wait, wait. I don't need that in order to accomplish the goals that are really important to our family and in our lives."

Erin Elliott: 32:27 Yeah. Exactly.

Shane Tenny: 32:29 Do you see... As you go around, and teach, and interact with different folks, and stumble into people in Seattle hotel lobbies, what do you see on this theme of financial wellness as maybe the biggest gaps that are still out there for dentists entering the profession?

Erin Elliott: 32:46 I'm not going to make this a millennial thing because my assistants are millennials and they are some of the most hardworking people I know, but I think there is this instant gratification. I thought that I would be making more than I did when I first started. I thought that all of a sudden life was going to get easy and I was going to be able to go buy the coffee that I wanted to.

Erin Elliott: 33:08 Like in dental school, I would reserve... I would buy a fancy coffee one time a week. That was like my gift to myself because it was $3, and I made a promise to myself I'm going to get coffee whenever I want when I'm a dentist, so that was like my one splurge. It wasn't getting a super nice car. It wasn't getting the biggest house on the block. I think that is something that I thought would happen, that life would get easy, but it didn't. I think you need to set the mindset that it's not going to be instant. You still have student loans, all those things.

Shane Tenny: 33:41 Yeah. Yeah, yeah. To get where you want to go is going to take some focus and effort. It doesn't just happen to you.

Erin Elliott: 33:47 Yeah.

Shane Tenny: 33:49 You across the graduation stage.

Erin Elliott: 33:51 Yes. That's what I tell my son. I'm like, "You want to get muscles? They're not going to just jump on you sitting on the couch," so it's not just like you have a degree, therefore you are... "I'm going to make all this money." Right?

Shane Tenny: 34:03 Yeah. Great. Great analogy. Well, Erin, if someone listening to this thinks, "Oh my goodness, she sounds captivating. I've got to learn more about her story. I want to connect with her, learn about sleep or 3D Dentists," what's the best way for somebody to get in touch with you or track you down?

Erin Elliott: 34:18 Really, Facebook, to be honest, Erin Elliott, DDS. Two Ls, two Ts, two Ds. My email is the same, erinelliottdds@gmail.com. I love to interact with dentists who love dentistry and want to be better, and so even though I'm just a regular dentist too, I didn't really have that mentor that I have in T-Bone, so I love to help other dentists too if I can at least. I haven't done everything perfectly, so I don't really feel like... but I think I can help people along the way. The other thing I see in young dentists too is a lack of confidence, and so if there's anything I can leave is when you talk to patients, when you talk to ownership, you can do it. Just believe in yourself and act like you know what you're doing.

Shane Tenny: 35:06 Well, Erin, it's clear that you more than act, that you know what you're doing, but you've got a lot of good things go in, and I love your energy, so thanks so much for sharing a bright and early morning with us this morning and for being with us.

Erin Elliott: 35:19 Thank you.

Will Koster: 35:24 I'm Will Koster, and on this episode's White Coat Achievements, a segment that highlights noteworthy achievements by your friends and colleagues, we're going to take the opportunity to give a shout-out to a dentist who has a growing and flourishing practice in our great state of North Carolina. Dr. Chris Durham is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who graduated from my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Go Chariots.

Will Koster: 35:48 Dr. Durham and his team of over a dozen at the Oral Surgery Institute of the Carolinas, operate out of a brick building that Dr. Durham purchased in late 2017 in North Greensboro, North Carolina. The Oral Surgery Institute of the Carolinas has actually partnered with Guilford County Schools to recognize four teachers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics field to make sure that they have the tools they need to continue the great work that those teachers do. So far this year, they've given over a thousand dollars to teachers to make sure they have the supplies they need in their classrooms. Dr. Durham was also featured in the Triad Business Journal's 40 Under 40 Awards in 2018.

Will Koster: 36:28 As always, if you know someone who is wearing a white coat and is achieving something noteworthy, please drop us a line. We'd love to hear about it, might even feature them on a future episode. But again, this episode's White Coat Achievement goes to Dr. Chris Durham and all that he's doing in the Greensboro area.

Shane Tenny: 36:48 Well, thanks so much for listening to this episode of White Coat Wellness. You can stay in touch with other colleagues, dentists, and physicians interested in financial wellness through our White Coat Wellness Facebook group. The link is in the show notes below. If you have any ideas, or questions, suggestions for topics, or guests, please drop me an email directly at shane@whitecoatwell.com. Thanks, and we'll see you here next time.

Outro: 37:16 This episode of White Coat Wellness is over, but you're not alone on your journey toward financial wellness. Spaugh Dameron Tenny has been helping physicians and dentists with their financial planning for over 60 years, and we'd love to answer any questions that would be of help to you. Visit sdtplanning.com today and take your financial wellness to new levels. Once again, that's sdtplanning.com, and we'll see you on the next episode of White Coat Wellness.