by Greg Thompson

Randy L. Kunik, DDS, runs a high-end practice where “patients don’t wait”

Kunik shows patient Tracy Ghedi his vision for her teeth.

When 18-year-old Lauren Peterson walked into the office of Randy L. Kunik, DDS, she was all too familiar with orthodontics. A previous 4-year treatment stint with a different clinician had yielded less-than-stellar results, and she longed for a new start.

After hearing good things about the Austin, Tex-based Kunik, and researching his practice on the Internet, she made the difficult decision to start over. This time, she found the right orthodontist.

Alignment began quickly with Invisalign, followed by orthognathic surgery, which Kunik coordinated with a trusted surgeon, J. Steven Widner, DDS—all within a 1-year period during Peterson’s first year in college. The result is the kind of jaw-dropping before and after that makes orthodontics such a life-changing profession.

Shoulder-to-Shoulder with Surgeons

Tight working relationships with colleagues such as Widner and Steve Perkins, DDS, provide a unique opportunity for Kunik to literally work shoulder-to-shoulder during oral surgery. Since Perkins practices in an office downstairs in the same building, Kunik sends the oral surgeon many referrals for teeth removal, implants, and exposing cuspids.

“I go to every cuspid exposure for my patients—about three a month,” says Kunik, who has practiced his entire career in Austin. “That is something that no one else does, but I do it to build value for my patients. I actually place the gold chain. I am there for 3 to 5 minutes to check positioning, take a picture, and tie the thread to the wire.”


Name: Randy L. Kunik, DDS

Education: University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston

In Practice: 19 years

Location: Austin, Tex

Starts per year: 400

Practice Square Footage: 3,100

Web site:

Days worked per week: 4

This extra attention builds confidence among patients, but it’s a career-long commitment to exacting technical detail that earns results. “I always know how to move teeth away from the adjacent roots of other teeth,” Kunik says. “So it minimizes root resorption, because I see it and I can pull away from the root. The more involved you are, and the more communication you have with your team, the better the results.”

Batting e-mails back and forth with specialists and referring dentists amounts to a steady stream of virtual consultations that ends up in official document charts. All this collaboration makes the particularly complex challenges a little easier and more efficient. “I can literally have a photo or an x-ray in our instant message chatter box in seconds,” Kunik enthuses. “I do all communications by e-mail, and my referring base is getting immediate, real-time communications. We make it a positive in our office for patients to e-mail. We impress our patients and our referring base by immediately responding to those e-mails.”

High-End Orthodontics

While routine cases also benefit from Kunik’s expertise, the University of Texas graduate admits an affinity for the tough challenges. “If you want to characterize what I do as high-end orthodontics, that is a fair label,” says the 48-year-old Kunik, who earned his DDS from the University of Texas Dental Branch in Houston. “I like to think I could be the pilot you would want when the engines are down and you’ve got to land in the Hudson.”

The top-of-the-line orthodontic niche, and its inherent use of Invisalign, temporary anchorage devices (TADs), and veneers, are all part of an effort by Kunik to integrate the crucial elements of an aesthetic practice that appeals not only to adolescents but also to adult patients who want no part of metal brackets.

Modern technology married to an old-fashioned work ethic is key to competing for business in Austin, the nation’s 15th largest metropolis and the fourth largest city in Texas. With five competitors in just a 1-mile radius, Kunik relies on technique, a pleasant chairside manner, and a firm commitment to cyberspace.

Kunik puts in some face time with Morgan Condict. For the most part, he says, “I do all communications by e-mail, and my referring base is getting immediate, real-timecommunications. We make it a positive in our office for patients to e-mail. We impressour patients and our referring base by immediately responding to those e-mails.”

First in Line Online

When the Internet blossomed in the 1990s, Kunik became one of the first clinicians to forge a viable Web site. Early on, Web surfers in the sprawling populous of Austin encountered a clean and concise collection of information at He also makes good use of YouTube, where viewers can find a polished and well-paced presentation that features several satisfied customers extolling the virtues of their new smile.

A hit count just short of 7,000 views is not too shabby for a corporate video, but Kunik is hesitant to attribute his success to the Internet. “Yes, it is important with the Internet to be first,” Kunik says. “I had a Web site way ahead of the crowd. YouTube is out there and is getting hits, but has it brought in a patient? No. Is it effective marketing? No, but it might be.”

Kunik’s contradictory words are a nod to the field of marketing, which can often seem to be an exercise in voodoo, alchemy, and the occasional dose of harsh logic. Which approach actually works? If orthodontists only knew, they could focus on one aspect and discard the rest.

When it comes to cyberspace, being first and learning from mistakes is a philosophy that Kunik firmly embraces. However, when a neighbor told him about a little-known (at the time) product a dozen years ago, he did not jump on the bandwagon as an alpha doctor or investor. The invention turned out to be Invisalign, an innovation that would vastly expand the market, particularly for the adult demographic.

Orthodontics for Grown-ups

About a third of Kunik’s patients are 30- to 40-something adults who had braces back in adolescence, only to find their teeth out of alignment with the passage of time. These patients are responsible for the crucial word-of-mouth that routinely spawns a robust 400 starts per year in the one-orthodontist practice.

After more than a decade of using Invisalign (starting about 10 new cases per month) and guest speaking about Invisalign, Kunik is quick to point out that he has never received money for his speaking services. Like so many of his colleagues, however, he has profited from the system. And unlike other technology introductions, Kunik jumped on Invisalign from Day 1.

“I started right away in 1999, and I never let up on the gas,” Kunik says. “I did a research project with them on bicuspid extractions, and so I worked with their engineers—all with no financial relationship. I love their product, but I’m not a paid advocate.”

Whether it’s Invisalign, standard braces, or lingual treatment, the mode of correction takes a back seat to the outcome and patient preference. “The finish has got to be the same quality no matter how we start,” says Kunik, who has started about 900 Invisalign cases so far. “But most of the time when patients walk into my office, I know what they want and that they don’t want braces. Because of aesthetics and comfort, Invisalign opens the door for patients that normally would not seek treatment.”

Kunik holds daily morning meetings and twice-monthly lunch gatherings for his staff. The goal is to make sure that they always know their role in his “concierge” system of checking patients out while they are still in the chair, which he calls “a customer service breakthrough in the dental field.”

It all depends on the responsibility level of the individual, but removable options are even becoming a first choice for many middle school and high school kids in Kunik’s office. “My goal is to offer Invisalign to almost everyone by the end of my career, including teenagers, mostly because hygiene is not an issue,” Kunik says.

For all his emphasis on the adult demographic, Kunik takes equal pride in his younger patients, advocating a first x-ray by the second or third grade if possible. Checking for missing, extra, or impacted teeth by age 7 helps “monitor Mother Nature” prior to treatment in middle school. Kunik establishes a baseline for growth and dental changes, and credits his mentor, the late Tom Creekmore, DDS, for the philosophy that it’s better to study each case and treat the patient efficiently in one stage.

Practicing in the same office for the past 19 years has provided Kunik the opportunity to connect with patients and establish himself in the community. He does not split time between locations, instead doing all work in one spacious, state-of-the-art facility.

“Patients Don’t Wait”

Vigorous staff training is a priority of Kunik’s. He holds daily morning meetings and twice-monthly lunch gatherings. Team training happens weekly and is a critical part of the practice. Why so much training? According to Kunik, customers demand it, technology necessitates it, but the rigors of running a business require employees who know what they are doing at all times.

The days of simply going to work and moving teeth are over, and Kunik makes sure staff members understand this critical business philosophy. “You’ve got to be a hands-on businessman, and that means training,” he says. “It is every day reminding staff members that patients come first. Patients don’t wait, and everything should be built around the patient not waiting. We are calling it the ‘concierge’ approach to patient scheduling and patient checkout. First, we had to put in the infrastructure, which is the server and new upgrades, which includes Dolphin, IMS, and improvements for Televox with T.LINK.”

Printers and scanners throughout the office mean that patients and/or parents in the clinic area can get everything done without going to the front desk the majority of the time. One assistant works on the patient, while another assistant updates chart information and treatment notes, as well as checking patients by making their next appointment and providing them their next school excuse.

Kunik takes a closer look at patient Michael Gotlieb. About a third of Kunik’s patients are 30- to 40-something adults who had braces back in adolescence, only to find their teeth out of alignment with the passage of time.

When the system works well, it allows patients to check out while in the chair, with no additional conversations happening at the front desk. “Front desk interaction is what 99.9% of orthodontic offices do, and we did it until this year,” Kunik says. “When the last chain is placed or rubber band is put on, the patient walks out the door to her car. I think it is a customer service breakthrough in the dental field. The patient says, ‘Wow. I’m done. I got my school excuse and my next appointment.’ I’m not aware of many offices doing this.”

Contributing to the Community

To show his appreciation for all of those hardworking dental staff members, Kunik hosts an annual hygienist appreciation night every April. Hygienists throughout Austin look forward to the event, which in addition to being quite a party, can also earn attendees continuing education credits.

As is the case with so many orthodontists, the job leaves little room for hobbies, a situation that Kunik freely admits. Factor in a large family, and time is even more restricted. “I’ve got 6 kids, so I’m done; I’m cooked,” says Kunik with a chuckle. “I have four from my first marriage, and now that I am remarried to my wife, Agustina, I have two new 6-month-old twins. We orthodontists are famous for divorcing, and I went from the seventh-inning stretch to the second inning of a double header in the first game.”

Don’t call it a hobby, but Kunik does keep chickens at his home, which makes for a lot of fresh eggs that he can use to pursue his affection for cooking. “I have hobbies that I don’t do,” adds Kunik with tongue firmly in cheek. “I run 3 days a week just to stay in shape. I speak to 1,000 fourth graders every year. I go to eight to 10 schools every February to discuss soft drinks and eating right. I go off on why Cokes are so bad for you and how anything in a can is bad for you. Soft drinks are evil, and I’m fighting against billions of dollars of marketing.”

As an Austin citizen, Kunik does his part to maintain the region’s stellar reputation for great music by cosponsoring a multiband festival called JamFest, an annual fall concert that benefits the Eanes Educational Foundation. To the tune of $5,000, Kunik also sponsors carnivals for local middle schools, where he shows up for every career day. “We are really big in the community with our time and money,” Kunik enthuses. “It’s something I enjoy doing, and it is a chance for me to give back to this wonderful community.”

Greg Thompson is a contributing writer for Orthodontic Products. For more information, contact