By Alison Werner | Photography by Amy Lane Albro

Profile OpeningImageWhen Jeffrey T. Kozlowski, DDS, entered college at Syracuse University, he was unsure where his career path would take him. He had grown up in the health care field—his mother an OB/GYN nurse practitioner, his father an orthodontist. The pull was there to follow in their footsteps. However, he also felt a pull toward a future in the corporate business world. In the end, it was a lesson from his mother on the power of interpersonal communication and making a difference in people’s lives that influenced his decision.

“For me, orthodontics was kind of the best of the medical and dental world, because I saw it as an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, but in a way that is always positive. As a general rule, we’re dealing with patients who want to be in our office and are looking forward to the outcome that we can provide through orthodontics. I realized that as an orthodontist I could help increase people’s self-esteem and well-being,” says Kozlowski, who received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1996 from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo School of Dentistry.

Still, Kozlowski decided to finish his undergraduate degree in economics, even as he took all his prerequisites to enter dental school, and it has given him a unique advantage in running his practice, or rather his business. “The fact of the matter is, when we go to dental school, we do our residency and we learn how to fix teeth, but we don’t necessarily learn all the things we need to know to run a business.” And without a business, he points out, no orthodontist can do what an orthodontist is supposed to do: help patients.

Practice Profile: Jeffrey T. Kozlowski, DDS

Practice name: Kozlowski Orthodontics

Location: New London and East Lyme, Conn

Office square footage: 3,300 and 2,000 square feet, respectively
Number of chairs: 7 and 5, respectively

Years in practice: 15

Education: BS in Economics from Syracuse University; DDS and ORTHO from SUNY Buffalo School of Dental Medicine

Average patients per day: 60

Days worked per week: 3

Top six products used: Damon System, Insignia, Invisalign, iTero, AdvanSync, OrthoTrac


“Ultimately, the business side is absolutely neglected in dental school education. We don’t learn how to navigate the legal aspects nor the state, federal, and IRS aspects of running a business, let alone the balance sheet,” says Kozlowski, who counsels high school and college students interested in the dental field to consider an undergraduate major or at least some courses in something that will help them manage the business side of health care. And while Kozlowski admits that orthodontists can be successful in spite of that relative lack of business training, he knows that having a business background allows him to focus more closely on patient care when he is in the office. “I decided to stick with [the economics and business major] because I knew it would serve me well later on. Dental school would teach me the biology and science I needed to know to be able to do my work; I might as well learn other things in the meantime,” he adds.

Building a Practice

After completing his residency at SUNY Buffalo in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics in 1998, Kozlowski entered an established group practice in which his father also practiced. The environment allowed him to get valuable experience, but ultimately it taught him what kind of practice he really wanted for himself. And while he enjoyed working with the group of four doctors in the five-office practice, after 9 years he realized the group environment wouldn’t allow him to do that in the way he wanted. Kozlowski’s dream was to build a practice that allowed him to develop a more personal relationship with his patients.

“In the group, the patients were the patients of the group and we co-treated all of them. On any given day, I would go into the office and see patients, some of whom I may have seen before and some of whom I may not have seen before. It really made it challenging for me to have that continuity of care and continuity of communication,” he recalls. As a result, Kozlowski struck out on his own and opened his own two-office practice, and set to work building a practice that allowed him to have a more direct impact on his patients’ lives and to cultivate those relationships.

Profile StaffKozlowski opened his first office in 2008, setting up his private practice in his hometown of New London, Conn. A year later, he set up a satellite office 6 miles away in East Lyme, Conn. He relies on his 12-member team to help him run the two offices, seeing patients 2 days a week at the main New London location and 1 day a week in East Lyme.

While the desire to build good relationships with his patients and have continuity of care throughout their treatment was key to Kozlowski’s decision to strike out on his own, he has also made a commitment to clinical efficiency and clinical effectiveness a cornerstone of this practice. “My focus is to provide my patients with great end results in the least amount of time and the least amount of appointments, and in such a way that I can keep them engaged throughout the process.” To fulfill this mission, Kozlowski is always keen to adhere to the principle that technology should be utilized appropriately—meaning, it should serve his practice’s clinical efficiency and clinical effectiveness, whether it be 3D imaging, digital radiography, or digital orthodontic products like Invisalign or Insignia.

“When I say ‘appropriate,’ orthodontists can spend a lot of money on a lot of different technology that may not necessarily make them more effective,” he says. To know whether a technology is appropriate and effective for his practice, Kozlowski—a “numbers guy”—has made it a point to track every patient who completes treatment, including estimated and actual treatment time, number of emergency or extra care visits, and broken braces. These statistics allow him to track both his productivity and profitability for each type of treatment he provides. These numbers in turn help him evaluate every technology decision he makes to ensure that it is appropriate and beneficial from both a patient care and business perspective.

And for Kozlowski, the appropriate utilization of technology has meant incorporating a rather low-tech technology into his practice, but one that has proven vital in improving clinical efficiency and clinical effectiveness.

Profile PatientPhotoEvery Picture Tells a Story

With a tool as simple as a camera, Kozlowski has made dental photography a cornerstone of his practice. While almost every orthodontic practice has a camera, it is often only used to document a patient’s smile before braces are put on and then once they are taken off. “My analogy for that is that it’s kind of like taking a baby picture and then taking a picture of that same baby when they graduate from college, and saying, ‘Look at the great son I raised.’” The pictures tell how the story started and how it ended, but not what happened in the middle. Kozlowski wants to document the full treatment story. Thus, he and his staff take photographs of every patient at every visit.

Kozlowski was initially drawn to photographing patients on a regular basis out of an interest to follow the clinical decision-making of orthodontic treatment. He found that it taught him and his team a lot about the decisions they made from a clinical perspective and how they impacted the sequence, timing, effectiveness, and outcome of treatment. He finds that it also allows him to better engage with patients during their treatment and to provide them with more effective care.

“[The photography] allows us to sit down with our patients at every visit and show them where they were the last time they came in, show them in the mouth where they are today, and explain to them where we expect to see them next time,” he says.

In addition, when a patient calls from home with a question about a wire or elastic placement, staff can call up the patient’s most recent photos to know exactly what the patient is referring to and provide the right, personalized answer. The photographic documentation is also useful when consulting with a referring dentist who has a question about a patient’s treatment. “I can pull up the photos from the patient’s last visit and communicate with the [referring dentist] about what I saw the last time the patient was in the office,” Kozlowski says. And while using dental photography on such a large scale requires both a huge time commitment from he and his staff and a huge infrastructure commitment in terms of the networking capabilities and volume of computer memory to fully utilize the photographs across two offices, Kozlowski only sees the benefit. “It really facilitates our communication with our patients and our referring dentists, and our teaching.”

Tackling the Lecture Circuit

Profile CyclingTeaching, or more specifically, lecturing, has become a huge part of Kozlowski’s career. He got started 6 years ago, when the Ormco Corporation asked him to fill in for Dwight H. Damon, DDS, inventor of the Damon System, after a scheduling conflict. Kozlowski admits he was both honored and completely intimidated by the experience. But he is one for tackling intimidating experiences head-on. It’s why he got into Ironman Triathlons, completing five, and why his latest passion in his free time is cycling up mountains, including New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, Colorado’s Mount Evans, and Arizona’s Mount Lemon and Mount Graham. “Being at the base of the mountain and seeing how much I can make myself suffer over that hour-and-a-half or 2-hour climb is enjoyable. I like putting myself in situations that conduce enough fear in me that I have to become a better or different person to overcome that fear,” he says. And while it took him some 3 years of lecturing before he could even eat breakfast before he gave a lecture, it has also become a passion.

“People would ask why would you put yourself in that situation [with the lecturing]. It’s because I like the anticipation of having to do the work,” Kozlowski says. “In a lot of ways, lecturing is the same as undertaking a triathlon. You have to put in the miles in order to race successfully. I’d have to do the quality orthodontic treatment for my patients to lecture successfully. I would have to document that orthodontic treatment. And then I would have to put the material together and communicate to people in a way that was effective, motivational, and educational. That was a huge challenge for me because before, I didn’t feel comfortable speaking in front of people.”

So far, the lecture circuit has taken Kozlowski throughout North America, and overseas to Australia, France, Monaco, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, where he has lectured on the Damon System, Insignia, and early treatment.

The lecturing in turn led to his involvement in the early development of Insignia. In the year between leaving the group practice and opening his private practice, Kozlowski took advantage of an offer from Ormco to head up a clinical evaluation of Insignia and how to implement it with the Damon System. Kozlowski flew from Connecticut to Ormco’s Glendora, Calif, manufacturing facility to personally diagnose, treatment plan, and treat to completion 42 patients over the course of a year. Working in the facility’s one-chair operatory, Kozlowski had the unique opportunity to do every ounce of patient care. While he did have someone to help sterilize equipment and take photographs, Kozlowski was responsible for everything else, from taking impressions and etching and priming the teeth, to putting the brackets on and adjusting the wires. The experience, he says, allowed him to hone some of his skills in terms of clinical efficiency and effectiveness.

Because he has so thoroughly documented his cases throughout his career, Kozlowski has a huge patient pool from which to find case studies for his lectures that can both educate and motivate his peers. And Kozlowski makes it a point to not only highlight his treatment successes. He uses all his experience to teach. “I don’t just get up there and show the ones that worked out really well. People have a tendency to document only their great cases; but because I photograph all my cases, I have an opportunity to show people when I’m lecturing the treatment situations that didn’t always work out optimally and what I did to overcome those challenges.”

And while Kozlowski is serving the role of the teacher on the lecture circuit, he has fully embraced the opportunity it gives him to be the student as well. “I learn more by lecturing on two avenues. One is internally because I have to fully understand the treatment I’m providing in order to be able to communicate [to an audience]. So, I’m actually evaluating what I’m doing on a regular basis. But the best part about lecturing is I get to meet so many intelligent, fantastic orthodontists from around the country and around the world. And it’s before and after the lecture, when we’re having dinner, when we’re hanging around at lunch and talking about how we run our offices or how we handle a certain situation, that I learn so much,” he says. The interaction often goes further than any continuing education course in keeping him current on the latest techniques and technology in the field.

And in the end, whether Kozlowski is learning from others or learning from himself, he is out to see what he is made of and what he can do for the field of orthodontics and for his patients. OP

Alison Werner is the editor of Orthodontic Products. She can be reached at [email protected].