Women in dentistry -- especially practice owners -- are on the rise. To learn more about this trend, UMB Bank interviewed three female practice owners to discuss why this trend is happening and how the dental industry can continue to support and encourage strong leaders.
According to the ADA, 34.5% of dentists in the U.S. are female, and 63.4% own their own practice. Women also hold about 35% of full-time and 30% of part-time faculty positions at dental schools. At UMB, women-owned practices (at least 50% ownership) make up nearly 27% of our client base in the dental industry.
To better understand these trends, we heard from three clients who own their practices: Dr. Anna Jones of Anna R. Jones, DDS, in Independence, MO; Dr. Becky Schreiner of Alizadeh & Schreiner Orthodontics in Chesterfield, MO; and Dr. Adrienne Hedrick of Longmont Dental Loft in Longmont, CO.
These three leaders shared how they got their start, their experiences owning their own practices, and why relationships have played an important role in their business success. Highlights from the discussion are below.
What drew you to the dental field?
Hedrick: I knew from an early age I wanted to go into medicine or dentistry, and after shadowing both doctors and dentists, I knew the dentistry field was the right fit for me. I also knew eventually I would want to own my own practice so I could continue growing my leadership skills while maintaining a flexible work-life balance.
Jones: I actually applied to dental school on whim and knew very little about the industry compared to my classmates. But after going through residency, I realized general dentistry was the perfect fit for me. I started out in public health but now work in private practice, which gives me more flexibility and time to spend with my kids.
What have been some of the benefits and challenges of owning your own practice?
Jones: You have to be able to wear all the hats, including doctor, business manager, chief financial officer, CEO, and chief operating officer, at the same time. Outside of the office, I'm also wearing the wife and mom hat, so it can be a challenge, but the benefits outweigh the challenges by a landslide. I love what I do.
Schreiner: Owning my own practice with a partner has its ups and downs. It's similar to having a spouse because you share the workload, money, and rewards, but you also have to be great communicators and have the same ultimate goals. It's nice because you always have someone to bounce ideas off of, and you don't feel like you're isolated or alone in making important decisions that will impact the practice's clients or bottom line.
Why do you think there has been a surge in women-owned dental practices?
Schreiner: As more women enter the dental industry, the path becomes more paved, and it's encouraging to see the success of other female dentists. As we become business owners, the rewards must outweigh the risks. When I joined the industry, it felt like a male-dominated industry. However, I have befriended many female dentists who are business owners like me and formed a close-knit support circle. The increase in the number of women choosing dental careers -- and the support, encouragement, and mentorship we lend to each other -- leads to better practice management for all of us.
What has been your experience securing funding for your practice?
Hedrick: Luckily for me, funding has been easy, and I have a great relationship with my banker, which makes it more enjoyable. I can call him whenever I have questions or need him to crunch numbers, and he is very reliable. He doesn't just give me money and turn his back; he works hard to make sure my business needs are being met. Dentistry is challenging because we make revenue, but the overhead is high and technology is expensive, so it's vital to have a banker you can trust as you grow your business.
Jones: Finding funding in the dentist industry has been relatively straightforward, but working exclusively with UMB has made it very convenient because I have all the financial information I need in one place. For example, UMB helped put together a loan presentation to secure a new office space and funding for renovations, which helped me get approved -- ultimately resulting in more business and clients.
What partnerships have been critical to the growth of your practice?
Schreiner: It's important to surround yourself with like-minded women in the industry who can serve as expert resources, mentors, and friends and who can encourage you to succeed. It's also important to have a solid relationship with people outside of the industry, like bankers and accountants who can help you on the business side.
What advice would you give someone who is considering opening their own practice?
Jones: I would tell any dentist -- but especially female dentists -- how important it is to have support from your colleagues and peers in the community. You'll go crazy without a strong support system in place, so I would encourage dentists to be part of professional groups and organizations to lean on if and when they're needed.
Dave Bauer is executive director of practice solutions at UMB Bank.
UMB Bank is proud to play a role in supporting the uptick in women-owned businesses, particularly dental practices. Over the past six years, we have loaned more than $100 million to female dentists to help support and grow their practices. We look forward to continuing to serve all of our female entrepreneurs and business owners in the years to come.
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