Madison Family Dental Associates fosters healthy attitudes
Lori Veerman (left) of Madison Family Dental Associates and her assistant, Valerie Boyer, were among the volunteers at the Wisconsin Dental Association Mission of Mercy at the Alliant Energy Center earlier this year.
As anyone who’s ever owned a set of teeth knows, the only thing more boring than flossing is hearing your dentist talk about flossing. And while both the act and the exposition may seem to make time go infinitely more slowly, the truth is they may actually add years to your life.
Lori Veerman, owner and CEO of Madison Family Dental Associates, knows this all too well. As a recipient of a 2012 Dane County Small Business Award and a current contestant in In Business magazine’s Fittest Executive Challenge, Veerman has a keen interest in both her patients’ and her own health. But while elaborate exercise regimens and healthy diets are indisputable keys to longevity (Veerman herself has successfully completed a marathon and several half marathons), going to the dentist and taking care of your teeth are among the easiest ways to keep yourself upright for years to come.
But don’t take her word for it. Just ask the Mayo Clinic. On its website, the clinic notes that oral health may affect, be affected by, or contribute to various conditions, including cardiovascular disease. And the link isn’t minor or simply a scare tactic your dentist uses to get you to do another distasteful chore. In fact, some research reveals that people with gum conditions such as gingivitis are nearly twice as likely to suffer from coronary heart disease.
Of course, that may be part of the reason why Veerman is so interested in providing dental health care to as many people as possible.
“Certainly there’s plenty of people who don’t have access to medical care and don’t have access to medical insurance, but there’s far more people with medical insurance than there are with dental benefit coverage, and so I think, unfortunately, it tends to be lower on a lot of people’s priorities,” said Veerman.
Veerman and Madison Dental Associates are working to do something about that. To help people get a handle on their dental health, her company participates in the American Dental Association’s Give a Kid a Smile program; the Wisconsin Dental Association’s Donated Dental Services program and Mission of Mercy; and Team Smile, an event sponsored by the Milwaukee Brewers that provides dental care to 300 Milwaukee Boys & Girls Clubs members.
The clinic also lends its services to Touched Twice United, a church-led effort to provide free health and dental care to the needy.
“It is through a couple of churches in the area, and twice a year they have an event where people can come in and have various medical screenings and then they can also get dental care,” said Veerman. “We’ve been involved for a year now, and so twice we’ve had over half of our staff who give their Saturday. Essentially, they bring busloads of people over to the office, and we provide as much care as we possibly can on that day, and so we’ve been providing care for an average of about 50 to 60 patients any given day when we do that.”
So is the life-saving potential of dental care at least part of the motivation for giving back to the community?
“Absolutely,” acknowledged Veerman. “And I do think they’re relieved. They can be really suffering with tooth pain that really affects the quality of their lives in that regard, but then also just their overall general health, and I do think there’s a lack of awareness [of the general health benefits of oral health]. People are becoming more aware, it’s getting more press, but I still there could me more.”
A family affair
In addition to her community efforts, Veerman says it’s important to give back to her employees. The business was co-founded by Veerman’s father in 1981 and has grown tremendously in the last 30-plus years. The practice now treats 15,000 patients, has 46 full-time employees, and earned revenues of more than $7 million in 2011.
Still, says Veerman, the business is able to maintain a personal touch – with respect to both its customers and its employees.
“Number one is, I think we’ve always been really careful to treat our staff like family, and I think that’s translated to a lot of longevity with many of our employees,” said Veerman. “And so I think our staff, by being well cared for, takes very good care of our patients, and so I think that’s something that we’ve always done.”
While putting the “family” in Madison Family Dental Associates means providing good benefits and allowing employees some flexibility in their schedules, Veerman says there are opportunities for togetherness that come along once in a blue moon. For instance, the entire office got together to see Wicked at the Overture in Madison and had so much fun they’re going back to see the hotly anticipated Jersey Boys in November.
But sustaining company morale also means dealing with the bad times.
“We’ve had some family tragedy throughout the years,” said Veerman. “One staff member lost her house to a tornado, another one to a fire, and everyone just kind of rallies around that person and provides them what they need. We just have a great group of people who really care about one another, and we all care about them, and I think it’s just worked really well.”
Still, there may be no better way to show you appreciate your employees than looking after their health. Veerman encourages her staff to stay active, and no doubt their dental health is far above average.
As for Veerman herself, many people just might assume her teeth are pristine and perfect.
“Almost,” she says, chucking.