Within two years of graduating from dental school, I’m on the verge of becoming a practice owner, and I’m often asked how I got here this quickly.
My interest in dentistry started early, when I visited the orthodontist at the age of 11. He looked in my mouth, gave directions to his assistant, and rolled away on his chair. I was impressed by his knowledge. He was such a cool guy, and I really loved his office. That experience sparked my interest in dentistry.
I attended UC Santa Barbara for undergrad. On my first day of sophomore year, I found a listing for a dental internship nearby. I called immediately and was asked to stop by that day. I ended up working at the practice for four years. The experience was invaluable.
But what really stood out to me were the long-term relationships a dentist is able to build with patients. In the specialty fields, most patients come for a procedure, and you don’t see them again. That internship experience really hit home for me. I knew I was headed in the right direction pursuing general dentistry.
My first experience with Aspen Dental was during my second year in dental school at UCLA. I was involved with the American Student Dental Association (ASDA). During an ASDA conference, I got to know an Aspen Dental career guide.
At the time, I told him I didn’t expect to work for Aspen because the company wasn’t in California yet. My family is here, and this is where I want to be. Through those interactions, however, I learned about the Aspen Dental practice model, heard the success stories, and gained a good understanding of where the company was going.
During my fourth year at UCLA, I started to look for jobs in Southern California. The dental job market was saturated to where dentists might be offered one day a week at one office and another day at another office. Learning how to operate in five different offices at a time, not to mention dealing with the traffic, was tough. I began to realize Southern California wasn’t going to work for me, and I started to think seriously about other options.
Around that time, there was an Aspen Dental VIBE recruiting event coming up in Atlanta, and I decided to attend. I figured that even if nothing came from it, I I’d have a good time and a once-in-a-lifetime experience because the event was combined with a NASCAR race and an opportunity to meet driver Danica Patrick.
But the experience exceeded any expectations I had. The VIBE events are both business and pleasure, a combination of informative meetings and lectures, a review of the support I’d receive from Aspen Dental Management Inc. (ADMI), and fun social events where you can get to know industry peers and mentors. Not only did I find the opportunity to achieve my goal of practice ownership quickly attractive, but the people I met won me over. Many of them are friends and mentors to this day.
As a Californian through and through, never in a million years did I see myself living in Texas. But there was an opportunity there to work under the mentorship of an established Aspen Dental practice owner whom I felt a strong connection with, so I made the leap and am so glad I did.
The amount of clinical experience I was able to gain in a short amount of time was pretty incredible. With Aspen Dental, what’s refreshing is that everybody is on the same team. When the office does well, the dentist does well. Because doctor compensation is based on the overall office performance, there’s no battling for the “best” or most lucrative procedures. New dentists get the opportunity to take on more challenging cases with the support of a mentor doctor.
Additionally, your earnings potential is tied to your patient satisfaction scores. So the happier your patients, the greater your earnings. Alternatively, my new dentist friends who work in private practice are paid off of their own production, which means that the lead dentists generally give the new grads basic procedures like fillings and cleanings, limiting their growth potential.
Coming right out of school, the mentorship I received couldn’t have been better either. At Aspen Dental, if I was handling something more challenging, my mentor would handle everything else. Or if I had questions about cases, he would answer or even work side by side with me if I needed extra support. We were a team, and I felt empowered to help our patients.
That’s the beauty of the Aspen Dental model. There’s an invaluable network and there are people to help with everything, from supplies to labs to insurance. For example, I get advice for implant-related questions from a colleague in Florida. I have an Invisalign contact in Illinois. There is an informal network of family—the people you meet at Aspen Dental events—along with a formal network via the Aspen Dental digital platform.
There are so many people and so much information, you can leverage it to get to where you want to be. Having other professionals to collaborate with is enjoyable, and it helps you grow as a clinician.
During my time in Texas, I helped open a couple of additional offices in the San Antonio market, and I began to think about settling down there long term. But then Aspen Dental got the green light in California. In May 2019, I packed up and drove back to the West Coast, helping to open Aspen Dental’s first California office in Modesto. Today, I’m in Palm Desert and about to move into practice ownership.
My orthodontia experience came full circle as well. In 2019, Aspen Dental launched an iTero and Invisalign initiative. It has opened up a whole new practice for me, bringing the latest and greatest technology to my patients.
Of everything that we do, we try to make the patient happy. We see some patients who haven’t been to a dentist in 30 years. They were busy and didn’t think of it, or it wasn’t a habit within their family, or life just got in the way. Some come in and say they haven’t smiled in years. Of course, I see plenty of people with healthy mouths as well.
When you deliver that bridge or implant crown, or deliver that denture, and the patient looks in the mirror and smiles and tears well in their eyes, those are the moments we are working for and what makes what we do special.
Dr. Evans is a dental practice owner in California. He received he Bachelor of Science degree from UC Santa Barbara and his DDS from UCLA School of Dentistry.
As originally published in Dentistry Today.