By the time she reached her fourth year at Tufts Dental, Meghann Dombroski, D10, DG14, knew that she loved orthodontics. However, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to specialize after graduation.
“I wasn’t sure I was ready to make that type of investment,” she said. “Just time, money – it was a lot to think about at the time.”
Instead, she started working at a private practice. She continued to pursue her interest in orthodontics by spending time working with orthodontists and taking continuing education classes in orthodontics to solidify her interest. After a year and a half, Dombroski was certain that specializing in orthodontics was the right decision. She completed a Master of Public Health at Harvard University, then returned to Tufts to begin an orthodontics residency.
“When I was a general dentist, I didn’t necessarily want to open and own a practice, but as soon as I was in my ortho residency I knew that I wanted to open and own a practice,” she said.
Meanwhile, Tarryn Mac Carthy, DG04, had opened her own practice in Lynnfield, MA. After completing dental school at University of Connecticut and her orthodontics residency at Tufts, she decided to open Northfield Orthodontics. However, when her husband found a job in Maine, she eventually sold her practice and relocated.
Forming a Partnership
It wasn’t until Dombroski met Mac Carthy while teaching at the University of New England College of Dental Medicine (UNE) that Dombroski knew that she was ready to open a practice.
“Through teaching, you really find out what people’s philosophies are – and that extends far beyond treatment philosophies,” Dombroski said. “How we treat people, what our goals are for the future, what we value…we worked together for two years and then realized that we were really perfect partners for each other.”
Dombroski and Mac Carthy decided to partner and recently opened mBrace Orthodontics in Falmouth, Maine in October 2016.
Creating a Vision and Starting a Practice
Dombroski and Mac Carthy’s connection as teachers at UNE allowed them to realize that their visions for opening a practice matched as well.
“We found that we practiced the same; we cared for families the same; we talked about patients the same…We really had this vision that we shared together and that’s what made us want to start this practice,” Dombroski said.
Dombroski and Mac Carthy wanted to be fully connected within the community and have their practice serve as a place of empowerment. “Both of us feel strongly about positive reinforcement and positive empowerment,” Mac Carthy said. Knowing that their patient population would be predominantly teenagers and understanding the challenges of adolescence impacted the duo’s vision as well. “We really wanted to use this fantastic opportunity of seeing them every couple of weeks as a source for empowerment and support for them,” Mac Carthy said.
Dombroski and Mac Carthy first began the process of creating the practice in April 2016. Initial decisions included creating a business plan, determining a location and securing a loan. “To get a loan, you have to create a business plan,” Dombroski said. “We really spent a lot of time creating this plan and it turned out to not be just for the banks, it was really for us… Just like orthodontics… the most important part is the beginning, the diagnosis, planning everything out and then going through the motions. That’s really how I think we approached it without even knowing.”
Both Dombroski and Mac Carthy had mentors to assist them in their decision making about the practice. They referred to another female duo who had started a practice in Massachusetts for advice as well as a pediatric dentist in the area who had started a practice.
“I think reaching out to other people who’ve done it and asking for their advice is a huge support,” Mac Carthy said.
Determining the practice’s location was one of their first crucial decisions. “We knew that as a fledging practice, we needed foot traffic,” Mac Carthy said. “So we wanted a location where there [were] already people parking and getting out of their cars so it wasn’t unusual for someone to stop and park in our parking lot.” The presence of a dental office and a physical therapist’s office were also added benefits to the location they selected. “Anybody who comes to this parking lot, even without knowing us, is already considering their health and their teeth as a priority,” Mac Carthy said. The opportunity to post large signage also made a difference to Mac Carthy. “That’s very important to us because nobody knows about us yet. We didn’t buy a practice that’s existing. We’re literally starting from scratch.”
Connecting with the Community
Dombroski and Mac Carthy’s vision to connect with the community was infused in every aspect of mBrace Orthodontics, even before it officially opened. They selected a local bank for their loan, and solicited the services of a local architect, photographer and web designer.
“We had people in the community who were excited to support us because we were supporting their business as well, “ Mac Carthy said. “So that whole idea of empowering each other and empowering other members of the community was really a strategic business plan as well,” Mac Carthy said.
Dombroski and Mac Carthy also introduced themselves to community members and gave presentations about their practice. “We’ve also found that if we involve our community in our practice, just that alone is really wonderful marketing,” Dombroski said.
Dombroski and Mac Carthy’s vision was also evident through their MPower Lecture Series, which invites speakers to lead conversations on a variety of topics with the community. “We designed this whole practice that we can support our patients inside the practice but also outside the practice,” Dombroski said. “So we really want this to be a space where people can come to be educated. For us as dentists, we have to go to CEs and we have to do all this education to sort of keep current, but as parents, we don’t have those. And so we were thinking this would be a great way to provide our patients with the opportunities to support their kids and to empower their kids during this time in their lives.”
Building a Family-Friendly Practice
Dombroski and Mac Carthy describe mBrace Orthodontics as “moms marketing to moms.” Between the two dentists, Dombroski and Mac Carthy have five children. Dombroski was pregnant during the process of starting the practice, giving birth a month after it opened. They have taken the experience of parenting to create a practice with other mothers in mind. This mindset is evident in the practice’s marketing decisions. They worked with the Falmouth school system to create a bus stop outside of mBrace Orthodontics to make travel to appointments easier. The practice also has a homework station where patients can work on homework before and after appointments while waiting for their parents.
The family-friendly atmosphere extends to the staff as well. Dombroski and Mac Carthy added a couch in the staff lounge which they coined “the sick kid couch” to give their staff members the option to still come to work if their child is sick. They built a shower in the practice to give themselves the opportunity to go for midday runs and continue to work and see patients in the afternoon. While both Dombroski and Mac Carthy acknowledge that the balance between career and family can be challenging, they also find it fulfilling.
“I won’t say it’s the easiest thing to have this balance but I will say it’s the most fulfilling thing because I feel like I can have my career and I can have my family,” Dombroski said. “I don’t know if I have sleep,” she said laughing, “[but] I’m a better mom because I have a career and I’m a better person here because I’m a mom.”
Dombroski and Mac Carthy are continuing to grow their team. They hired a front desk receptionist as well as a dental assistant. They are also planning to hire another staff member in the near future, and will continue to increase their staff as the business grows. Dombroski and Mac Carthy both plan to continue teaching at UNE as well.
“I personally get so much from the students,” Mac Carthy said. “I really enjoy sharing my knowledge and it also refreshes you. If you have to explain to somebody how to do something, it makes your knowledge and understanding of it much better as well.”
Despite the challenges of opening a practice, Dombroski describes the process as overwhelmingly positive.
“We’ve been incredibly lucky that we’ve had incredible patients so far, we’ve had great support in our community and I think all signs are pointed to really great things that are coming down the pipeline for us.”
-Marguerite M. Moore
Dentist on Display is a monthly series spotlighting young Tufts Dental alumni doing extraordinary work around the globe. If you are interested in nominating a recent TUSDM alum, please contact Marguerite Moore, Assistant Director of Student Affairs and Career Services, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Dentist on Display archive here.