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How Veterinary Medicine Parallels with Dentistry- Dr. Vaziri Tells All

How Veterinary Medicine Parallels with Dentistry- Dr. Vaziri Tells All

Dr. Mariam Vaziri, the owner of Summit Smiles and a “Top Dentist” in New Jersey, tells all about her challenges as a boss and how dental medicine strangely parallels with veterinary medicine.


What are your biggest challenges as a solo practioner?  The biggest challenges as a solo practitioner is the responsibility of the business end.  We didn’t learn about business during dental school and so I had to learn on the job.  I was happy to learn that most dental schools now are requiring business courses.

How did you start out?  I first worked as an associate for 12 years.  I had an epiphany one day that if I want to change the way the business was ran, I would need to become the owner.  I couldn’t grow as an associate any longer, so I gave my noticed.  My only regret was that I wish I had started my business earlier. 

How did you make the change?  I had moved back to New Jersey to be closer to my family. I bought a practice from a former class mate that owned the business for nine years.  He was relocating to a home office.

What was the hardest decision?   The hardest decision I made was to take on debt for practice loan.  With dental practice loans, they require the dentist to work for another dentist for at least 6 months.  I assume it is so there is a steady flow of income as you grow your practice, which makes sense. 

We hear that dentists are highly stressed, too.  Dentists were reported to have the highest suicide rates in the past.  Studies actually linked it to exposure to chemicals, like nitrous oxide and steps have been taken by the American Dental Association to limit exposure.

How is the field of dentistry changing?  The field of dentistry is changing quite a bit. Years ago, most dentists worked in solo practices.  Now there is a rise of corporate practices.  It is becoming very hard to compete against these practices, especially when you rely on dental insurance for income.  Dealing  with insurance as a solo practice is very challenging and time consuming.  

What is the dental community’s biggest headache?   Our biggest headache hands down are at home orthodontics.  I am hearing that they will be available over the counter at pharmacies soon.  With these, you receive a kit in the mail to take an impression and you send it in to the lab directly for brace like devices you wear over your teeth.  The problem is that these are created without looking at radiographs first, so if the person has gum disease, the problem could become worse and the teeth can become loose.  To me this is very scary and it is a controversy amongst dentists.

What is your favorite dentist joke? What did the dentist see at the North Pole? A molar bear.

How is dentistry school changing?  Dentistry is experiencing a gender shift, just like in veterinary medicine. In 1978, 15.9 percent of first-year dental students were women, according to the ADA Health Policy Institute and in 2014, it was 47.7 percent. The trend is expected to continue.

What about student debt? Dental school tuition is astronomical.  After leaving dental school, recent grads can be saddled with almost 400K of debt..  Because of this, it will be very difficult for new graduates to open their own practices by taking on additional debt and likely, because of this, corporate practices will continue to thrive.

How long did it take to make your practice successful?  I was very lucky and I broke even around year three, but I had given myself to year 5.  That was the mark of success for me.   

How do you find and keep staff?  It is difficult to find good staff, that is definitely a big challenge for all dentists.  Not only do they need to be the best technically, they have to connect with our customers.  Our business as solo practitioners is relation based, our success depends on happy customers.   If not, they will move on to the next dentist.  I think the key to a happy team is consistency and open communication. 

Would you do it all again?  If I had a do-over, I would still become a dentist.  It was a life long dream for me and I love what I do.

 Check out her practice by clicking on the link below:

Summit Smiles

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