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The Power of Community and Compassion in Dentistry: Insights from Dr. Bob “Dee” Dokhanchi

Articles, Editors Pick, Practice Life

By Ethan Webb, Managing Editor of Dental Lifestyles Magazine

In the world of dentistry, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day challenges of running a practice and keeping up with the latest techniques and technologies. But as I learned in a recent interview with Dr. Bob “Dee” Dokhanchi—Founder of the Dentistry in General Facebook group—the key to a fulfilling and successful career in dentistry lies in something much simpler: compassion and community.

Dr. Dee’s journey in dentistry began when he immigrated to the United States from Iran at the age of 17. After completing his education at San Francisco State University and Loyola University of Chicago School of Dentistry, he settled into private practice in the Chicago area. For years, he focused on building his solo practice and raising his family, with little involvement in the broader dental community.

Bob’s online community was built during a worldwide crisis to combat feelings of isolation and uncertainty.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, Dr. Dee—like so many other dentists—grappled with the sudden isolation and uncertainty. That’s when he decided to create the Dentistry in General Facebook group to connect with and support his fellow dentists.

What started as a small group of colleagues quickly grew into a thriving community of over 7,700 dentists and dental students. The group’s membership is carefully vetted to ensure that it remains a safe and supportive space for dentists to share their experiences, ask for advice, and discuss the issues that matter most to them.

One of the things that sets Dentistry in General apart from other online dental communities is Dr. Dee’s commitment to keeping the group focused and respectful. He moderates discussions carefully to ensure that they stay on-topic and civil, and he’s not afraid to remove members who don’t abide by the group’s standards.

But Dr. Dee’s commitment to community-building doesn’t stop with the online world. He also hosts an annual in-person event called DIG-A-PALOOZA, which brings dentists together for face-to-face networking and learning.

Don’t be afraid to confide in your elders when navigating the challenges of modern dentistry.

When I asked Dr. Dee what he sees as the biggest challenges facing dentists today, he pointed to the high cost of dental education and the growing influence of corporate dentistry. He worries that the burden of student debt is making it harder for young dentists to pursue practice ownership and that the rise of dental service organizations (DSOs) is turning more dentists into employees rather than entrepreneurs.

But he also sees reason for hope in the power of community and mentorship. He encourages experienced dentists to reach out to their younger colleagues and offer guidance and support—whether that’s through online communities like Dentistry in General or through one-on-one mentoring relationships.

What are the keys to a successful and fulfilling dental career, according to Dr. Dee?

When it comes to building a successful and fulfilling career in dentistry, Dr. Dee’s advice is simple but powerful: Focus on providing the best possible care to your patients, he says, and success will follow. Build strong relationships with your patients, and they’ll become your greatest source of referrals and word-of-mouth marketing.

He also stresses the importance of living within your means, especially in the early years of your career—don’t feel pressured to keep up with the lavish lifestyles of some of your colleagues. Instead, prioritize paying down your student debt and building a solid financial foundation for your practice.

For new graduates, Dr. Dee recommends gaining experience by working for a DSO or as an associate for a few years before striking out on your own. When you’re ready to start your own practice, he suggests looking for an existing practice to acquire rather than starting from scratch—you’ll have an established patient base to build on.

Master the basics and stay true to your values.

When it comes to clinical skills, Dr. Dee advises mastering the basics before trying to tackle more complex procedures. Focus on bread-and-butter dentistry like fillings, crowns, and simple root canals. Don’t be afraid to refer out more complicated cases until you’ve built up your skills and confidence.

Above all, Dr. Dee encourages dentists to stay true to their core values of compassion, ethics, and patient-centered care. By building strong relationships with patients and colleagues alike and staying focused on providing the best possible care, he believes dentists can build careers that are both financially and personally rewarding.

Bob is a big fan of the K.I.S.S. Rule: “Keep it simple, stupid.”

As I reflect on my conversation with Dr. Bob Dee, I can’t help but smile at the simplicity and power of his message. In a world where dentistry often seems to be all about the latest and greatest technology, Dr. Dee reminds us that the true heart of our profession lies in something much more fundamental: the connections we make with our patients and with each other.

Dr. Dee is a big fan of the K.I.S.S. rule: “Keep it simple, stupid.” And while I wouldn’t dare call any of our readers stupid, I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that idea. By focusing on the basics—compassionate care, strong relationships, and a commitment to our core values—we can build careers and communities that are both successful and deeply fulfilling.

So let’s take a page from Dr. Dee’s book and embrace the power of simplicity. Let’s build communities of support and mentorship, where we can learn from each other and grow together. Let’s stay true to our passion for helping others, even in the face of challenges and change. And let’s never forget that, at the end of the day, it’s the human connections we make that truly matter most.

Here’s to keeping it simple, and to building a brighter future for dentistry—one smile at a time.

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