For a 17-year-old raised in a traditional family where generations of women focused solely on home and family, a career in dentistry seemed like a remote destination, with no clear roadmap.
Dimple Desai remained undeterred, and today she is a leader in her profession.
How did she reach her goal?
At 15, she had shadowed her family dentist with positive outcomes, and as an undergrad at the University of Southern California she explored the option further. A career counselor suggested she visit the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry on campus, and what happened next affects her mindset still today.
He pointed her in the direction of the two-year hygiene program as an entrée to dental school and Dr. Desai said she is forever grateful for that because she couldn’t ask family members for guidance.
“I worked for six years in hygiene, even throughout dental school I worked every Saturday. I kept up my skills and knew how to treat patients chairside.”
She earned her dental degree and today is back on the USC campus regularly as a clinical adjunct professor
She reflects on the lessons she took from the journey when she and her husband Sagar are raising their son and daughter, Dylan, 9 and Sydney, 7, respectively.
“You reach a point where it doesn’t matter anymore if you’re male or female or how you were raised and what was expected of you, because this is where you are now. I had to prove myself within my own family. That’s a lot of pressure …. but I was never disrespectful. I can see how much my dad has changed in the way that he now respects me on a different level.”
Persistence paves the path to practice ownership
In 2010 Dr. Desai joined an Aesthetic Residency, and while working as an associate in a dental practice she continued to pursue academic and clinical education.
“I was learning all the time, but the practices where I worked were not on the same page. When a tooth would break there was discussion of how to preserve it. I’d come back Monday from a weekend of education and my plans would collapse. I told my husband I felt I could save every tooth, one at a time and he said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
And with that, Dr. Desai went from working part-time and raising two young children, to working full-time, setting up her own practice from scratch. From the Luminous Smiles logo and branding, to the color palette and lighting, she dedicated endless hours of research and planning to create a work of art, just as she does with each patient’s smile.
Today, she implements the science and evidence-based dentistry she mastered while studying with Dr. John Kois.
On the clinical side, at Luminous Smiles, she requested spacious 125-square foot operatories, which today, in a post-pandemic environment, allow space for an air filter, scanner, photography cart and several other units.
Dr. Desai is working diligently toward her next professional goal, which is to achieve accreditation from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, where she is an Accredited Candidate. She spent the quarantine months mostly completing online clinical course work, even converting her dining room to a makeshift lab to refine her aesthetic dentistry skills. “It’s an eye opener in how you see teeth and are able to change a patient’s smile.”
Dr. Dimple Desai bringing Luminous Smiles where they’re most needed
Just six months after opening Luminous Smiles, in Newport Beach, California, Dr. Desai committed to philanthropic efforts.
“When I started the practice, I had an epiphany about the perfect place to give back – India. I’ve been there three times in my life and the poverty is unreal, unspoken, very sad. I knew what I wanted to do but needed to figure out the best track.”
Knowing that oral health education is sorely lacking there, Dr. Desai reached out to dental vendors for supplies, created oral hygiene kits and began planning. She connected with orphanages in the Gujarat state and in advance, she, her parents, along with her husband and children, assembled packages for the children including T-shirts, toothbrushes, toothpaste and snacks. From December 10 to 29, 2019 she and the volunteer team, which included her parents, dedicated their efforts.
At their first stop on the visit, an orphanage for blind, deaf and mute children, they delivered the kits they had prepared, and beds. One year prior, she and her family had sent a donation of bed frames, mattresses and televisions, so on this trip they finished outfitting the facility with those items.
“My father was familiar with the area and a big part of helping me coordinate the project. It was something special.”
Next, they visited Kachholi Orphanage, where Dr. Desai conducted a hygiene demonstration and she and the team distributed the donations.
“It was important for me for my children to see that we live in this bubble. One night when we came home my son said, ‘Mom, we’re so lucky.’ And that’s all I needed to hear. I can’t wait to go back.”
She immediately booked a return trip for 2020, but the coronavirus forced Dr. Desai to postpone the visit she had scheduled for this month.
Since her Incisal Edge honor, the Irvine, California resident received the Orange Coast Top Dentist Award for a second consecutive year and celebrated a monumental birthday.
Today, TheDailyFloss.com catches up with the Incisal Edge 40 Under 40 Class of 2020 alum for tips, best practices and thoughts on technology.
Innovative technology she cannot live without at Luminous Smiles?
- DSLR cameras, Nikon and Canon. “I document every step from start to finish. Whenever I finish a case, I go back and look at all of the photos at least 50 times. I obsess over them,” said Dr. Desai. As for her patients: “Seeing is believing.”
- Digital scanner. Dr. Desai notes that in addition to eliminating patient discomfort, the scanner also minimizes contamination in a post-pandemic environment. “It offers another awesome way of communicating to patients, showing them the scans and saying, ‘This is what we’re trying to achieve.’”
Advice for other dentists aiming to join the #IE40Under40 ranks?
- Get your house in order. Hire team members who you trust and share your philosophy.
- Gain experience before going solo. Stay committed to education.
- Respect your colleagues. Strive for open communication. If someone has an issue, don’t hold back, instead discuss it. Work toward a common goal.
Read more about Dr. Desai in the fall issue of Incisal Edge magazine and learn more about how this leader in the field of general and cosmetic dentistry delivers the highest standard of care at Luminous Smiles.