When Hurricane Harvey roared through Texas and Louisiana four years ago, Dr. Katie To learned a lesson she now applies to her patients: You can’t over prepare.
Upon arrival at The Center for Integrated Wellness and Cosmetic Dentistry in Katy, Texas, new patients don’t merely sit in the chair for an initial cleaning. Instead, Dr. To and her staff take the time get to know their history.
“When a new patient comes in, we normally get to know their medical histories and dental histories; very detailed,” she explained. “The first question we ask is (about) nutrition. What was your breakfast, lunch, dinner the last three days?”
Good dental health, she explains, is about much more than teeth. It’s about what you eat, how you sleep – even how well you breathe. That’s a lesson she learned the hard way to find small-business success.
And her solution is the mark of a true entrepreneur.
Dr. To has a thriving practice that evolved over time as she transitioned from traditional family dentistry to biological dentistry – the result of her own personal health scare.
A few years ago, Dr. To developed mysterious rashes after giving birth to her son. Symptoms also included swelling, especially of her face, yet a diagnosis wasn’t readily available until she visited a functional medicine doctor who linked the lead and mercury used in her practice to her new illness.
Instead of leaving her practice, she decided to change how she approached things.
Biological dentistry looks at what goes into your mouth, how your body responds, and creating a more friendly environment for patients – many of whom are nervous about being there in the first place.
And, in some ways, it started with Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane that made landfall in August 2017.
With the storm approaching, she knew she had to have everything that could affect her family – passports and personal documents, medicines and banking information – safe and secure. For her business, it meant being prepared for the long term with ample supplies of PPE.
When a global pandemic erupted in 2020, Dr. To offered her surplus of N-95 masks and gloves to other dentists and medical practitioners running short.
“We stock all of that in the practice, so we got to share back with the medical community through donations,” she said.
Now, Dr. To grows her small business by focusing on the overall success of her patients in creating healthy lifestyles. She’s concerned about more than preventing cavities.
“We’re able to talk about not only physical wellness, but emotional and spiritual wellness, also, because that’s affecting the whole body,” she said. “We’re encouraging people to do meditation, to do work out, (or practice) yoga — any movement that helps with the circulation.
“That’s what wellness dentistry and biological dentistry is about. We don’t look at the patient with just teeth; we look at them as a part of the whole body,” she said.
Learn more about Dr. To’s business in our latest Good Company.