From Perfectionism to Impact: Dr. Jennifer Bell’s Dental Journey


Podcast Summary

Dr. Jennifer Bell, a pioneering figure in the field of dentistry, shares her remarkable journey and entrepreneurial spirit with Shawn Zajas in this engaging interview. Jennifer’s story is a testament to her visionary mindset and her ability to build and create. 

She begins by recounting her early years, expressing a natural inclination towards leadership and an eagerness to embark on ventures that fill a specific niche. Even as a young adult, Jennifer displayed a propensity for building, organizing clubs in high school and college, which led her to become one of the leaders of the Kiwanis club at her university. This early exposure to leadership planted the seeds for her future as an entrepreneur. 

Jennifer’s professional journey took shape in the realm of dentistry. Initially, she followed a traditional path, working in a group practice. However, her innate desire to build and create eventually led her to step out on her own and establish her practice. This transition marked a pivotal moment, affirming Jennifer’s identity as a builder in the field of dentistry. 

The conversation delves into Jennifer’s role as a co-founder of “Dentists in the Know,” a platform that transcends the boundaries of a podcast, offering a space for open and honest discussions about dentistry. This venture showcases Jennifer’s commitment to elevating the dental profession, both as a practitioner and as an educator. 

One of Jennifer’s key insights lies in her realization that she doesn’t have to be the dentist for everyone. This revelation liberated her from the burden of feeling responsible for every patient’s needs. She recognized that her strengths and expertise were best aligned with a specific subset of the population who valued her services and respected her practice. 

Reflecting on her journey, Jennifer highlights the importance of shedding the mindset of perfectionism. This admission reveals her humility and authenticity, acknowledging that even accomplished professionals like her wrestle with imposter syndrome. She encourages others to embrace their unique strengths and not be paralyzed by the pursuit of perfection. 

As an entrepreneur, Jennifer envisions multiple milestones ahead. While she is committed to her current practice for the next four years, she recognizes that clinical dentistry will always be a part of her story. However, she also envisions ventures in software development and technology, spurred by conversations with her husband, who brings expertise in those domains. 

In closing, Jennifer imparts valuable advice to her younger self, advising her to “stop being such a perfectionist.” This sentiment encapsulates her journey, emphasizing the importance of embracing imperfections and taking risks. 

Shawn commends Jennifer for her invaluable contributions to dentistry and underscores the impact she’s had on the profession. Jennifer’s story serves as an inspiration for those who may be waiting for guarantees before taking action, highlighting the power of resilience and a willingness to step into the unknown. The interview concludes with mutual appreciation for the opportunity to share Jennifer’s remarkable journey. 

Connect with Dr. Jennifer Bell: 
IG: @jbreezy.78 
IG: @dentistsintheknow 

Podcast Transcript

Jennifer Bell  00:00 

I was not put on this earth to be everyone’s dentist, I was put on this earth free subset population that sees value in the services we provide, and has mutual respect for us as a practice and us as people, and those are the patients we want to continue to serve.  


Shawn Zajas  00:17 

The future of dentistry belongs to the innovators. Welcome to innovation in dentistry. I’m your host, Shawn Zajas. And I believe that the future of dentistry is going to be unbelievably great over the next decade in two decades. But the question isn’t that the question is, are you going to be part of what makes dentistry great? So I cannot be more excited to have the opportunity today to interview Dr. Jennifer Bell. So Jennifer, before I set you up, yes. Let me just say thank you so much for letting me interview you today. 


Jennifer Bell  00:59 

Well, thanks for having me. We’ve been trying to connect with this for a while and I’m, I’m really honored to be here. 


Shawn Zajas  01:05 

So I’m excited because innovation in dentistry, man that can mean so many different things. You know, there could be clinical innovation. There’s technological innovation. But I think at the heart of all of that. There’s someone that says, why not me, someone that has a belief set or mindset that’s like, Hey, why can’t I be the one that steps up and pioneers positive change, and you are a dentist and a successful dentist but not just a dentist and that’s more than enough. You’ve also then stood up and said, Hey, I want to lead and make a bigger impact in dentistry. I’m excited to dive deep into that. So tell us a little bit about how you got into dentistry. And kind of what how you arrived at where you’re at today. 


Jennifer Bell  01:49 

Yeah, absolutely. Well, so I am a practicing general dentist just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. I own two practices there. I graduated in 2007. from UNC Chapel Hill, I’m a North Carolina native, I have not strayed far from home. Still here after so many decades of calling North Carolina my home state. I fell into dentistry because my hometown dentist believed that I would be a better dentist than than a medical provider, meaning he felt really passionate about dentistry, and really encouraged me on my path to pursue it as a career. And so here I am, 15 years later, I have the passion of being a provider for my patients. But a big piece of my journey through Dentistry has been heavy involvement in organized dentistry, with the Academy of General Dentistry as well as these other outlets of educating other dentists to find joy, efficiencies, higher, higher ROI and productivity within their practice using innovations and digital technology. I also work with manufacturers on product development. So being a part of the thing that is in development before it actually gets in the hands in the general marketplace. So I’ve really kind of diversified some of my interests that I think actually have made the journey in dentistry. more enjoyable, I do think I have the personality that might get a little stagnant or stale, and lose enthusiasm and interest in the profession if I didn’t have some of these other side interests. 


Shawn Zajas  03:31 

So did you always know that going into dentistry like Hey, I am going to be a clinician, and I’m going to be a dentist and give this my all but chances are, I don’t know, I just get restless. And I’m just going to end up pursuing other other avenues like like, because it just sounds like you’re a natural born leader. You got into dentistry you started doing it. But then as soon as you could you stepped up and started leading people on how they could be a better dentist.  


Jennifer Bell  03:59 

Yeah, we could turn this podcast into the art of saying no. Because that I think is actually what I’m terrible at doing. And so when you say yes, enough times you find yourself moving in directions that maybe you’d never anticipated. In all seriousness, seriousness, even as a student in high school and in college, I’ve always pursued nonprofit leadership opportunities. I was really active with Kiwanis and nonprofit work in the university and actually that’s how I met my husband. And so it probably was honestly always going to happen that I had this natural inclination towards volunteerism and leadership and I do enjoy being a part right now. I serve with the Academy in the Dental Practice Council and we’re really looking at all the regulation, all the things that are coming out that might impact how a general dentists feels and their practice on a daily basis. So during COVID We were very active sitting on many of the calls with the CDC. and other regulation entities that were trying to decide what going back to practice would look like and creating the narrative and how to educate both the patient population and the dentist to return to work, and then just, you know, playing an integral role in what their experience is like on a day to day basis. So, you know, I think part of it is that I’m reluctant to turn down opportunities, because they usually always lead to new and even more exciting opportunities. But the other piece of it is, I think I was probably always destined, at least for the nonprofit side of of my profession, I will say, the education, the Kol activity, participating in product development was never on my radar certainly has been an intriguing part of my career journey, but never was anything I thought would be a real integral part of what I do. 


Shawn Zajas  05:53 

Now, that doesn’t necessarily sound like nonprofit, though, right? Because the KOL, the helping with product innovation, I’m guessing there’s some sense of compensation, where hopefully, you’re getting paid for that, right? 


Jennifer Bell  06:05 

Yeah, absolutely. It can be a mix. Sometimes it’s just free product, you know, they drop free product at your office and want you to complete a survey and provide your feedback on it. Sometimes it can be publication where they you know, the opportunity to get your name in print and be able to provide commentary on a product might be the exchange, financial exchange for for participating. But then there definitely is a compensation piece to it, too. So it’s not all altruistic, although I enjoy the journey. And I enjoy being a part of it, you know, maybe my feedback keeps it from failing in the hands of some of my colleagues. So I really enjoy part of that process. But you know, you’re compensated because it’s an interruption to how you’re running your clinical practice, how much time you have to spend training your team members, the documentation, the data collection, the research, it’s all subjective research, but it’s how it feels, operates and behaves in your practice. So there’s a fair amount of work that goes into participating in some of that product development. All the AEGD stuff is nonprofit work, that’s all volunteerism, there’s no financial compensation for that. But the things I do for manufacturers and for profit companies looks a little different. 


Shawn Zajas  07:23 

Okay, so because I’m not a dental professional, just to clarify, so AEGD, that’s at the national level. 


Jennifer Bell  07:28 

Yes, correct. And that is a nonprofit group. Much like the ADEA, slightly smaller scale, its primary focus is supporting the general dentists. So ADA, or the American Dental Association, is the arm for all dental professionals, but that includes specialists as well. So orthodontists, endodontists, etc. The AGDS primary focus is what’s good for the general dentists. So it’s a heavy, its primary core value is continuing education. So it spends a tremendous amount of time and effort in providing outlets and pathways for general dentists to increase and enhance their continuing education journey. And they have award award ships that happen throughout your membership that sort of recognize your investment in continuing education. But it also has an advocacy arm and regulatory arm and those things for the general dentist as well. So that is a nonprofit organizational group that primarily represents the general dentist. 


Shawn Zajas  08:29 

Okay, so it sounds like you got into dentistry in the way you described it was you weren’t able to say no opportunities came your way. So tell me about the first opportunity. Like here you are. Are you already in private practice? Are you an associate somewhere? What was that early journey like in dentistry? 


Jennifer Bell  08:49 

So back to my origin story of dentistry, I went to see my my family dentists who had been our family dentists for a long time. And as a backstory, it’s not like we were hanging out on the weekends going to picnics or doing anything like that. It was just my regular dentist. So if lucky, twice a year. And he sat me up at the end, and he said, What do you want to do when you finish school? And I said, I think I want to go to med school. And he said, Oh, you don’t want to do that. You want to go to dental school. And I said, I really think I want to go to med school. And he was like, No, here’s, you know what, Jenna tell you what, why don’t you come work for me this summer? And then we’ll see if you change your mind. And I thought, Wow, what a leap of faith like to say, I mean, I know you but I don’t know, you know you but I still want to give you a job kind of on the spot and the dental chair, working at $7 an hour, please come and mess up stuff for the summer and break it and do all the things because you don’t know a lick about dentistry. And then if at the end, you’ll probably change your mind and he was right. So I finished dental school in 2007. I did a residency program at the VA hospital, which really was a fundamental pivot point in my career for sure. Are and to work with that patient population and be a part of our military space for even a brief moment, was really honoring and humbling, and then went out and worked for group practice for a couple of years just trying to hone in some skills, get more confident in my clinical skill set. And just sort of figure out what it is that I wanted. In a private practice setting. I think I always had the goal that I wanted to own and operate my own. But it wasn’t quite clear yet what that would look like. I was really fortunate at that time, one of my residency mates, Angelina, we got along quite well. And in fact, the funny thing about my residency is it was to two men and two women, the two men ended up going into business together. And eventually the two women went into business together as well. So it was kind of like this little dating thing that we did. But I, Angie, and I opened up our first cold start practice in 2010. All that means is that there were no patients we up fitted a space hung a shingle and said, Yeah, you should come try us out. And that was really interesting, because it was right on the tail of the oh eight, housing crisis and the pretty deep recession in the economy. So I do think now in retrospect, we were gambling pretty heavily on ourselves, but really believed in our vision and dream, what we thought we could build for our community. And, and we were very, very fortunate to build something very successful there. And so in 2017, we decided to try it again, and open up our second location in a much more rural community. And while we have thoroughly enjoyed that practice, we it took us much longer to get to a successful position there. And I’m sure there’s a lot of reasons why we could analyze that if that’s really the purpose of this conversation. But what I found most fascinating on the journey is that we felt we had the magic recipe, we thought we knew exactly what it was to open a business and be successful. And if we just applied that recipe over and over again, we probably could could repeat it. And we couldn’t have been more wrong. And so you know, they both been pivotal points in our professional development and what we look like today as a practice, and I don’t think we would do it differently. But we definitely didn’t appreciate the journey at the time. 


Shawn Zajas  12:18 

So it sounds like Jen, like from the group practice to teaming up with your friend. From the residency, you guys took a pretty massive leap into now, you said a cold start. Is that the same as scratch practice? 


Jennifer Bell  12:34 

Exactly. Yeah, it’s a it’s a white shell, and you put a dental chair in it? Yep. 


Shawn Zajas  12:39 

So were you aware that this is like a huge leap? Like, were you scared? Were there times where you’re like, oh, shit, we don’t really know what we’re doing, like ahead of time? Or was it something where you just were like, Hey, I have just this crazy confidence in myself, I trust my partner. And we’re just going to make it work. Like was there a little bit of a naivete in the approach? Or, like, I’d love to know a little bit more about your mindset, as you’re signing the papers as you’re dreaming about what it’s going to be like? Where are you second guessing yourself? 


Jennifer Bell  13:14 

There were definitely some moments, you know, where you’re thinking, is this the right thing? I do think we were very naive at the time. Or confident and which is unusual for me, I don’t have an overly confident personality. But I do think that I believe in my ability to work myself through just about anything. So did I think we were going to be as immediately successful as we were, and that’s not braggadocious. We just happened to time it really right in the right community, and be a mechanism or an opportunity for patients that really didn’t exist in the marketplace, I don’t think I don’t mean that in like we’re just so uber successful in dripping with wealth, but we managed to build that practice up pretty quickly. And both were able to leave our alternative employment opportunities that we had sort of backfill then in the event that we were not successful right out the gate. But I think myself and my business partner, which is why we’ve been such great business partners for a long time now. We’re incredibly scrappy, and we have a really strong work ethic. So in any time in my journey, and there have been some very lean financial times between University Dental School like kind of moving through all that my husband started his own company during the same time. So there was not this plethora of cash floating around. I never underestimated my ability to just get a job to work through whatever challenges might come to make my dream work. And so I think maybe we were naive, but I think we were also leaning on the experience of our work history and work ethic that we would we would make this work and if it took 10 years so be it. We would work second jobs. We will work at night. We will work on the weekend. As to make ends meet. But we were going to make this this happen. One other thing I would be remiss if I didn’t say, we were really fortunate at the time to come out of dental school when the dental school debt was big, but it was manageable. And, and I, I recognize that students coming out today have a very unique challenge. If you already have a half a million dollars in debt, and you’re trying to make that decision of, you know, a cold start or a scratch practice, that’s a far heavier and significant leap of faith, to want to start a practice now, knowing that you have a mortgage payment on top of a mortgage payment, to manage the necessity to bring in income is far greater. And we didn’t, we had debt, and neither of us had parents who paid for us to go through school. So we certainly had to service that but it was not so debilitating. 


Shawn Zajas  15:57 

I’m just in awe, because even though like this is this is really the story like you guys started in it, it was successful, I just find that so uncommon. You know, because dentistry is just hard. Like, no matter how you slice it, it’s just so difficult because the marketplace is changing, the marketplace is evolving. And yet you’re you’re mastering both this clinical side, and then this management, marketing business side, and the ways in which you know, fire show up on one end, and then all of a sudden cause stress on the other end like business, like dentistry is just crazy. So in what ways when you started that second one? Like, because, again, you probably had a lot of confidence. You guys were successful on the first one, and you’re thinking, okay, like you said, this is the playbook. This is the recipe, this is the blueprint, and you applied it. And it didn’t work the same exact way. What’s happening during this time, when all of a sudden now you’re six months in and you’re like, man, like this is way more stress than we were thinking, or this is way more challenge. What was happening there. A like actually, in your practice, and then what was happening in terms of your inner game of like, wow, you know, Jen, Jen lost her touch or, you know, maybe that like, was there any of that imposter syndrome that showed up there? Or? Yeah, just just kind of take me through that moment? 


Jennifer Bell  17:26 

Yeah, so absolutely, we stood a pretty strong chance of losing our shirt on the second one. And I don’t think we knew it at the time, I think we were certainly riding high on the playbook from the previous practice, probably did not really fully appreciate all the things that really made us successful in Act One. So in act two, we went into a much smaller community knowing the growth was coming and trying to be ahead of that curve and an empty space that used to be a dental office was available. And it seemed like a really good opportunity for us to wasn’t quite turnkey, we ended up having to do a fair amount of renovation. But it had been a dental office, the community recognize it as a dental office. So it should be kind of this easy thing to get going. And as I said it was a very rural community, and a smaller patient population. So you know, all the marketing things, we thought we understood about how to motivate patients to seek dental care, the flexibility and payment up payment options, how we do internal payment plans without involving external creditors, all of those things we thought would, would continue to make us successful in the second location. And none of it works, none of the marketing attempts that we tried to do to drive patients and were overly effective. None of the added value that technology mean, if you came into our office, you would be surprised that it existed inside this farm community, essentially, because we had all this high end technology, all these high patient touchpoints that for most patients in that community had come to believe they would have to leave their own hometown and seek that level of care outside of their own community because nobody would ever bring that type of stuff to them. So it took a long time. They almost had to smell you out for a while they had to walk by your door 15 times make sure you weren’t like snake oil sailing in there somewhere in the back. They would send one member of the family to sniff you out and decide if you were legit. You know, then the mayor starts to show up in a town council member like it’s small town. We don’t live there. So there was this really long vetting process to establish that we were really serious about what we were doing serious about being a part of their community and that we could provide a high level of care. But I would caution anyone thinking about a second location like that totally cannibalized financially our first practice if I’m being very upfront, and I want to paint a very realistic picture because for those individuals who think I’m at a great spot it, I have extra cash flow, I have a little extra bandwidth because I built this thing. And it’s kind of humming along now. And for most of us that that are mentally inclined to build practices, that’s what we get excited about, we like to build the company. And then the mundane piece of actually operating it and running it on a daily basis is a is not as fine. You know, there’s different people for different seasons of a business. And my business partner and I are definitely builders, were starters, we like we like that energy. And then when you get into the the maintenance of the HR issues, the operation decisions, all that stuff, a little more exhausting, just for our personalities. So we were naturally inclined to want to do it again, because that’s where we were getting our professional high, if you will. But we financially really put a pretty significant strain on the master practice in order to do that. And I think that should be well understood for anyone looking at second locations that they need to have their financial house in order really, really well, before they start taking these additional leaps. Because you, you appreciate it I think more than we actually did at the time, you’re looking outside and going huge decision. Gutsy risky, maybe not smart. And, and now in hindsight, I’m like, yeah, it was all of those things, and probably a bunch of other adjectives that we haven’t even really summarized yet. And yet, somehow, again, due to perseverance, work ethic, whatever it took, we’ve sort of scrapped our way to what is now a profitable practice, but definitely didn’t hit, you know, practice one was profitable, one year in, and we were begging our loan company to pay off our loan, because we had all these prepayment penalties in there. And the interest rates were ridiculous, but that’s how much cash was coming in. We would have never been in that position in the second location. We wouldn’t even be in it today. 


Shawn Zajas  22:04 

Okay, so you said it took all this time in terms of the vetting just this delay? What are we talking about? We’re talking like, 18 months, we’re talking like 36 months, just give me kind of idea of five years. Okay. So during that five years, what is this doing? When it comes to? I don’t know, just testing your resilience or your resolve where there was those times where you and your partner like, should we dislike bail? Should we sell like, what was that ever? Oh, yeah, like every day How did you navigate that? 


Jennifer Bell  22:34 

Those conversations were constant Oh, and then you could throw in COVID. So we started in 2017 2018. We’re really just, I felt like right at the precipice of COVID, we had just sort of, we’d had a tipping point, you know, we’d had these milestones where we could see the momentum. And honestly, we love the practice, like the patient population there is so appreciative of what you’re doing. And they, they bring a lot of unique stories of their own life journeys and things like there’s, it’s a very interesting patient population, and complex Dental Patient Management cases, like these are pretty difficult patients to figure out. And so we actually really enjoy practicing there. But you know, it took months and months and months, years and years to get to these, like, exponential tipping points where we’re like, Okay, well, now we are actually covering the staff salary to be there, and now we’re covering, you know, our rent and the staff salary and the overhead and all those things. And we’re not having to constantly pull from the kafir of the main practice to keep it running. And I really think we were at a pretty sweet tipping point right before COVID where we could see the trajectory was like, this is probably going to be the year that we hit significant profitability in the practice. And then COVID hit and, you know, it said everything, 


Shawn Zajas  24:00 

then the best thing ever happened, which you could only dream of, which is a global pandemic, that the frontline people, which are dentists, hygienist, 


Jennifer Bell  24:09 

right. Yeah, you guys, people, you know, we lost team members, we, because they didn’t want to come back into the environment and some has still haven’t returned into oral health. We had to segregate our team. So up until that point, doctors were rotating because the owner Doc’s do provide some continuity and stability for these startup locations. So it was really important for us that our owner Doc’s that were in the original practice, myself and my business partner, were also spending time in the startup because we sort of carry the vision, the mission, we control the core value. I think of the practice and I’ve seen a lot of practices that just have their associates kind of run their satellite locations, the ownership kind of non legally switches to the associate where the associates making a lot of the day to day decisions on the operations of that location, their name starts to become associated pretty heavily with that practice. And, and honestly, there’s some resentment that starts to develop because they’re really building it building the patient population that patients love, and are attracted to that associate. But they don’t have the ownership value, you know, tied into that. So it was important as the owner ducks that we were spending time building that patient population and that loyalty to the brand. So when COVID hit, we had to segregate because we couldn’t be hopping locations. Remember, we had to like, keep within our core group of people, if we were going to be seeing patients, we couldn’t have both locations shut down because somebody was cross contaminated. And we think they had COVID. And they had been at one location, and then they were working in the other location we could not afford for both offices to be down. So it changed how we were managing our people and our doctor workflow. But we did get through that. And we probably talked about selling the practice, I don’t know every six months for, for lots of different reasons. And if, again, being very candid, we actually did sell in February of 2023. And it wasn’t because we were concerned about profitability. But I think what the statistics are showing and what we definitely were feeling and kind of going through the scrappiness over the course of seven years and trying to get ourselves to a position where we felt comfortable again, financially, the numbers just aren’t justifying it anymore. You know, the the recent statistics that have come out, are showing that your of your expenses are up 7.7% On average in every dental office, but the reimbursement rates are only up to point 2%. And so there’s there’s a gap and that gap is coming from most commonly, the salary of the doctor, the doctors are making continuing to make the financial sacrifice to keep the practice is running and remain profitable. And they can only sustain that for so long. With the amount of risk that comes with being an owner doc, between the risk of your employees suing you, your patients suing you, the insurance company getting mad at you for something you did even though you’re trying to always run optimally and ethically and professionally, you cannot control people’s reactionary responses. And so you know, you’re carrying the burden, the way you’re staying up at night worrying that bills are going to get paid all of those things. And yet you’re being you’re not being financially rewarded for that stress and strain on you and your family. And I think a lot of doctors are definitely in that mindset now that they that the value add is just not there. You know, and I think they’re trying to they’re really looking at their journeys. And I think there’s a lot of options on the table for the private practitioner. But it is becoming more and more challenging, and less rewarding to do so. 


Shawn Zajas  28:12 

Okay, so a there was there was a lot, so let me see if I can. No, no, no, no, it’s amazing. So here you are Jen, you are incredibly intelligent. You have a commitment to excellence. You’re a natural leader, you know about yourself that you’re a builder. So you you’re also wired like an entrepreneur, which to me seems like a very much like a unicorn in dentistry, right? And then you go through this seven year stretch, where on paper, it just seems like we’re scaling. We’re growing. We’re increasing our region impact. What did you learn about yourself during that seven years that may be without going through that you never would have would have learned? Like, what what gold did you get about like, oh, my gosh, this was a life lesson or a really helpful mindset, like, what did you get out of that? 


Jennifer Bell  29:03 

I think a couple of things. One, because I work in a capacity with organized dentistry. And because I’m an educator, I have a much better sense of what it feels like to be under pressure. You know, if I only participated in organized dentistry, or was an educator based on my first practice, I would have no empathy for those individuals who look at a p&l on a monthly basis and can’t figure out how they’re going to pay themselves or worry that they’re not going to make payroll and there there were times during that journey where I definitely had backup plans in mind was I going to have to pull cash reserve from for myself or whatever to make sure that we made payroll so I think it’s made me a more well rounded individual business owner entrepreneur to understand humility in the process of building and not failing about building and then having to work really hard to make something be successful, and hopefully be able to be more impactful now, when I’m looking at opportunities in organized dentistry, to help general dentists or looking at how I educate and speak to folks recognizing that what it feels like to be in the trenches, and where we can make the most impact for them, you know, how do we, a lot of my lectures sent around practice management principles of getting these systems and policies and procedures in place that can make folks more profitable, but also how they manage their clinical workflow, and increasing efficiencies and ROI on their investment. Also being very strategic about what they’re investing in, that they don’t have to buy every piece of technology that they want, right out the gate, there’s a systematic and thoughtful process on how you bring those things in. But I don’t think if I’d had these last seven years to process all that information, I think I would be very disingenuous, frankly, and how I communicate with folks and empathize with each other’s unique journeys. 


Shawn Zajas  31:11 

Well, in reality, you just wouldn’t know what you don’t know, like, meaning. I can imagine there are quite a few dentists out there. And maybe they’re also leading that have only had that one experience, you know, the Midas touch the right market, the right timing, the right team, things align, and all of a sudden, it’s like, this is a blueprint, right? This is the recipe for success. And when you’re going into a seminar, and you’re teaching from that perspective, everyone else just hasn’t figured it out yet. And now, all of a sudden, you have this golden experience, which was actually laden with challenge with obstacle with difficulty. And what I taught you is, wow, there might even be another two or three variations or 10. Out there, different marketplaces, different challenges. And I love that you said humility, because Oh, yeah, hey, that’s probably the most attractive thing to see in someone else. Because it’s one of the hardest lessons to really get like that, that that aroma of just humility, eight, it ensures that you’re gonna play the long game. And I love that, like, I can see you making impact in dentistry over the next 20 years, simply because now you have cultivated that, that humility like that, that’s unbelievable. I just want to honor you for staying in the trenches, those seven years with your partner. And just learning those lessons, because now you’re able to lead with a total, like a different level of conviction and even value that you can bring because you’ve you’ve experienced both, it’s not just the highs. So yeah, I can imagine that allows you to again, lead and teach in a way that otherwise you wouldn’t have been able to 


Jennifer Bell  33:02 

well, and now I’m in the beast at the belly of the beast, you know, having sold, which is the, you know, elephant in the room. For My Journey story is now you know, I work with a very small market DSO, but now I’m seeing a completely different part of the segment in the marketplace in dentistry. And, you know, one, what I would love to do is destigmatize some of that and help it be a safer space for those doctors who who make who make business decisions about what’s best in their own journey and how they’re managing their partner relationships, how they’re managing the people who work for them and making sure that they are continuing to provide them a good place to work with great benefits and an enjoyable culture. And that you know, all DSOs don’t look the same. All corporate structures within dentistry don’t look the same. But again, to your point, an unexpected twist in my in my journey is that now I will have this new empathy vision viewpoint on what it is to really be a professional doctor within a corporate structure. Then to be able to to again, part of organized dentistry. As we represent all general dentists, we’re supposed to be a mouthpiece, a beacon for change for the general dentist and that is the private practitioner, the associate the DSO doctor that it’s it’s every general dentist that’s in the marketplace. So you know wasn’t an expected necessary step for me but I do think we’ll continue to make my vision of what it is to be a practicing dentist in the US even more all encompassing of you know, the different avenues. 


Shawn Zajas  34:54 

So I created this podcast because I want my listeners, you know be too During the lines of what we’re saying, right, you’re sharing your story. And as you’re sharing your story, people are hearing man like I, I’ve kind of had that voice or I’ve had that dream, or I’ve had that other thing, but I just keep putting it on the sideline because I’m thinking, Oh, the timings not right. Or what if I, what if I fail? Or what if it doesn’t work out? And it’s like, a, it was such a valuable experience for you. And my whole thing is like, failure really is never a it’s never a true failure unless you don’t learn from it. Right? And, you know, as a builder, it seems like you’re constantly open to doing new things, trying new things. From what I understand about Chad, weren’t you part of the reason why your little trio known as Dentist In The Know even came to be? 


Jennifer Bell  35:49 

Yeah, well, I wouldn’t give myself that credit. They both had the brainchild, they were in a sort of just for backstory for your listeners. So I helped run a podcast called Dentist In The Know, it’s a live private Facebook group we do. It’s so much more than a podcast. Yeah, that we do. We do some goofy stuff on the internet. Anyway. Um, they both were educators and speakers prior to COVID. And that was a big source again, of their, I think their mental well being, you know, like they enjoyed dentistry, but they got really energized by being educators and being with other dentists and kind of helping them in their own clinical journeys and practice journey. So when COVID happened, and it sent all educators home, essentially. And there, we were, in development of coming up with ways to educate people on Zoom, and, you know, to move into a more virtual space. But that stuff was not plug and play, like we didn’t have an immediate response for that. So educators like Chad, and Jeff are sort of sidelined home to say, well, you’re back to maybe practicing, maybe not, I don’t know, and you can’t go to any conferences, because they’ve all been shut down. So they were looking for an avenue to still have impact and to be connected to a community of individuals like minded who were also in the trenches every day, Jeff reached out to me and said he knew my work with the organized dental groups, and that I was pretty dialed in with a lot of legislative things that were going on. And so he said, Could you come and just give us a monthly update? Like, let us know what’s going on? I think people would really appreciate that. And I said, Oh, yeah, no problem. So I’m thinking, Alright, well, I’ve just committed to maybe coming on once a month for 20 minutes. That’s not too big of a lift. It was four shows in I think it moved to a full time thing. And they asked me to join them as a partner. So incredibly grateful for that. And I think the three of us balanced each other quite well. And we’ve been building something together now for three years that we’re really proud of. 


Shawn Zajas  37:47 

Okay, so I’m a little confused, though. Because you said, Jeff, and then you mentioned this person, Chad, I thought it was Jeff and Mel. Who’s this? Who’s Mel? Isn’t isn’t it? Aren’t you? Isn’t it? Dr. Jeff Horowitz and then Mel Gibson like, 


Jennifer Bell  38:02 

it is Mel Gibson. Yes. The jig is up. Yeah, 


Shawn Zajas  38:06 

it does he now go by. 


Jennifer Bell  38:09 

I mean, when you were on, we referred to you as Zack. And, you know, so we have we have all these famous people that come on our show? Yes. Hey, 


Shawn Zajas  38:16 

I mean, if I had the Mel Gibson or dentistry, you know, part of my Facebook group IV, IV, using that more often I 


Jennifer Bell  38:23 

can be honest, though, he does lack some of the I don’t know, it factor. Anyway, the Australian accent Maybe he lacks 


Shawn Zajas  38:34 

he was saying, so maybe that’s what I had. I had it wrong. It wasn’t that you were the genesis of it. It’s that you elevated the professionalism. Yeah. Kind of the expectation, even even maybe some of the ideation that keeps taking things where it’s going. That has been okay. Yeah. So you’re guilty of 


Jennifer Bell  38:54 

that. Yeah, that that I am very guilty of that’s it, I can’t help I get I think behave in that capacity. So once they brought me into the fold, it seemed like a natural evolution for me to then say, Okay, well, we’re going to run it like a business and because that’s what we’re trying to build here. And so we have to start putting all the minutia in place, the things that aren’t exciting, but will make us successful in the future, like an accounting firm, and a marketing brand and vision and our support team of individuals who right now are still part time but are helping us do all the things that as practicing dentists, we simply don’t have time to do so. Building that support system in place learning a lot as we go along. Yeah, I do carry probably a bigger lift on that than the guys but we all sort of bring our own unique values to the group that you know, I’m not I’m an extroverted introvert, so they’ll laugh because I’ve I’ve tried To avoid going to like big meetings and stuff, because I generally don’t do well in that environment I, I will it’s it’s exhausting, I guess is what I could probably say is that we’re those two really are extroverts and they thrive on connection. They thrive on relationships, they love to talk. They love to leverage those relationships and enjoy people. And so we would not be I mean, like, I can’t have all the beautiful business infrastructure that you can imagine on the back end. But without them being out there, building our brand and believing in who we are. And being these incredible brand ambassadors and utilizing their relationships that they’ve had in dentistry for a really long time. We would just be, we’ve just been paper and we would have nothing, we’d have a really cute caricature. And we would hang out once a week, but we would have no guests because I don’t know anyone, and we would have no sponsors, right? We wouldn’t have anything because if that’s not what I bring to the table, that’s what they bring to the table. 


Shawn Zajas  41:06 

What a great balance. What a great synergy. Man, you just had something that makes me want to ask a question, but I already had a question lined up. So I’ll remember, okay, what, what is the mindset in the last 15 years along this whole journey that you’ve actually had to shed in order to get to where you’re at today? Because you know how it’s like, you start off, and you think that you’re ready, and you have these these beliefs and these mindsets? And then some of them are just holding you back? Was there one that you identified? Whether it was early on or more recent that you just were like, you know, what, this isn’t serving me? 


Jennifer Bell  41:39 

Yeah, I would actually probably say two. The first was, I still can’t believe that I get to do all the things that I do every day, I wake up and I feel like I’m your average general practitioner who’s going out and just trying to do their best industry further for her patients. And the fact that I get the privilege to speak to folks to educate them to sort of bring them on my journey, and maybe help them along the way. I definitely suffer from impostor syndrome significantly, when it comes to that I, I feel pretty confident as a clinician, after all these years of investment in education. Most days, don’t surprise me too much, I feel pretty good about what I do chairside. But I definitely still struggle and have to sort of mentally reset through the imposter feeling that I have, when I get up in front of a large group of people who have paid become see somebody like me who I would, I wouldn’t elevate to that status, because I pay to go see people who I’ve elevated up to some, you know, level of status, and I know I’m not them. So I do feel like I’ve had to I don’t know, if I’ve actually successfully shredded that I probably would say I haven’t. And that’s definitely been a big journey for me. And I think the other piece of it is really honing in on who I was meant to be a dentist for. And you know, when I first started in my career, I thought you could be the dentist for everybody that there would be no boundary or barrier, I couldn’t break that I could provide dental care for any patient. And in my maturity and growth over time, realizing that I’m not the dentist for every patient, and I can’t crack every shell, whether it be from an anxiety perspective, or just a general demeanor and personality or just their super complex dental case, it is not on me to carry the burden of being the only dentist who can fix this. And so you know, that I think I have improved quite significantly on but it’s still a journey to remind myself that, you know, I I’m not I was not put on this earth to be everyone’s dentist, I was put on this earth free subset population that sees value in the services we provide, and has mutual respect for us as a practice and us as people. And those are the patients we want to continue to serve. 


Shawn Zajas  44:08 

Yeah, I think that is an incredibly mature mindset that also just brings like, it brings proper alignment, that takes away all that false pressure to be something that you’re not or that you wouldn’t find life in and allows you to just kind of settle not settle but but yeah, in some ways, but not in a bad way. Like into this is who I am. And I’m going to own it fully. But I don’t need to apologize for for the areas in which like, I’m not that you know, and I sent there’s such a there’s such a marked awareness you have of your own strength, like you said early on. I just I know I’m a builder. When did you when did you get that awareness? Was that prior to like dental school was that you know, when you were spending time with a group practice and you realize, like, Look, I’m not going to be fulfilled Do I need to build something like when When did you identify that even about yourself? 


Jennifer Bell  45:04 

I identified probably within the last 10 years. But if I look back now, as you asked me the question, and I think about my entire life journey, I’ve always been that way. You know, I started clubs in high school, I started other clubs in college, like if there was a an opportunity or a niche to fill, or I thought, somehow I had this odd sense of confidence, I thought I could build something. And so you know, and at the time, there was no money to be exchanged. So there really wasn’t a whole lot of loss here. I mean, if, if people didn’t want to get on the bandwagon, I would just go back to my dorm room and, you know, watch Golden Girls and eat snack wells cookie. So in the off time trying to avoid just being a total couch potato, then I, you know, decided to build the Kiwanis level club at my university, which didn’t have one at the time. And we grew to one of the largest chapters in North Carolina, and it kind of elevated this leadership career for me, and I got a really big taste for that, and not power. But I enjoyed being influential and impactful, and providing opportunities for others to share in that kind of experience. So I really think it’s a part of my DNA. I don’t think I really put a stamp on it until about 10 years ago, when my business partner and I were talking about starting the second practice, and we both came to a pretty significant realization that we were not fulfilled in what we were currently do doing. And we felt this constant desire to want to go build the next thing. And so I think, I think that’s when the stamp kind of got put on it that that must be what I am. 


Shawn Zajas  46:44 

Okay, so this might sound super random. And I’ve never asked him on this, but lay it on me. In what ways as a kid, did you either get in trouble, or did you feel you were misunderstood? 


Jennifer Bell  46:58 

Gosh, I hope my parents don’t watch this. I’m so got in trouble. I def, definitely. I would say the way I would get in trouble is whatever you would say I would strategically find the gray in it. So if you said you can’t go outside of the house, then I would say like, oh, I wasn’t technically outside of the house. I you know, and I would find a way to be rebellious. And that kind of sneaky ways. I was a very, I was a very sneaky kid. I actually never got caught most of the time because I wasn’t doing anything really crazy or bad. Like my risk tolerance is pretty low on the personality scale. So me being rebellious and somewhat sneaky for most would seem very dorky, honestly, like the things I found rebellious, were pretty obnoxiously dorky at the time. And in hindsight, when I talked to some of my friends and their childhoods, like we definitely did not have the same risk tolerance. But that’s the only times I really got in trouble was me sort of sneaking and getting caught doing something I had either been implicitly told not to do or maybe they hadn’t actually said I couldn’t do it. So by by them not saying it meant until you say it, then I will gray the area up just a bit, quite literally in that way. So that’s, that’s probably how I’m mostly, I can’t remember a significant time except the one time I snuck out of my friend’s house with her and got caught in a cornfield again, like, this is not glamorous stuff people like there were no drugs, no alcohol, no hookers No, like it was literally two girls in a cornfield at 2am. Like it could not have been more unimpressive of a sneak out story. But my parents were ready to send me to boarding school for that particular rebellion. So I think their expectations were pretty high that I needed to, there was a lot of it wasn’t pressure, necessarily, but there definitely was a lot of expectation that I was I was going to break the family mold. We had a lot of unfortunate things that my parents had to go through and a lot of poverty, I was not the ticket out for everybody. But I was the I was the trajectory to change the family tree. And so and I knew that 


Shawn Zajas  49:18 

So you felt that pressure for sure and did not succumb to it. Instead, you allow that to somehow inspire and motivate you to actually actualize that like that. That’s, I think that’s rare, very uncommon. 


Jennifer Bell  49:31 

I think I equally put as much pressure on myself like, for whatever they put on me and they never it wasn’t heavy handed pressure. I think probably I felt a fair amount of responsibility for my for for the admiration and love that I have for my parents that this was what needed to happen. And I still put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself today to be successful and you know, and they’re not doing any of that now so I know it’s Some significant portion of that is internalized my own natural instincts to do so. But I definitely they definitely had an expectation of where this train was headed. And I needed to not derail. And in fairness, I was really not going to be the kid to do it. 


Shawn Zajas  50:19 

So being that you’re an entrepreneur, you have vision, you’re a builder. And then also knowing when this episode goes live, what, like, in what ways? are you expressing that? Because it sounds like to you, you now understand with wisdom, it doesn’t necessarily have to get expressed through new practice, right! You’re doing I think, a lot a ton with things. And I think you guys have New Horizons there is that primarily the vehicle in which you’re expressing this sense of, I get to create, I get to build, I get to, I don’t know just get not feel like I’m just settling in or getting used to the mundane? Or is it still even in your practice? Are you just bringing new perspectives to keep things fresh? 


Jennifer Bell  51:05 

I think it’s several things. So from a practice perspective, the current statement that I’m using is I bought myself four years to figure out the next 20. So my contract with this company is for four years, so I’ll be practicing with my patient population, at minimum for that, and if it’s a good relationship, and things are going well, I don’t foresee leaving clinical dentistry completely. I think clinical dentistry will probably always be a part of my story. But I do think that I have bought myself a little bit of mental bandwidth to figure out what the next 20 is. And it absolutely has multiple milestones of building that I foresee. We are growing and building. DINKs are Dentists in The Know, and have a pretty strong vision for where we think that will go and what it will look like. So that’s definitely part of where my entrepreneurial spirit is being invested. But actually, my husband and I talked about, he has an interesting background in technology and innovation and strategic development and corporate development. So there’s conversations over the kitchen table all the time about we should build a software, we should build this, we should build that to answer some of the complexities in the marketplace. So it wouldn’t surprise me if he and I decided at some point that we want to make an investment in building a company that that that he would run and, and lead on the development side. So you know, a very small peek behind the curtain but and we have zero knowledge yet of what that would be. But those are the type of conversations that are happening at the dinner table right now. 


Shawn Zajas  52:47 

So if someone’s listening, and they’re like, oh, my gosh, I want to get a hold of Dr. Jennifer Bell, or attend a seminar. I don’t know if you do coaching. Where would you like their eyeballs to go? 


Jennifer Bell  53:00 

Yeah, so they can find me in a couple places. is an easy location spot and you there’s a form you can fill out if you want to reach out and email address, you can connect with me there. I’m live every Wednesday night at 830 Eastern Time and our private Facebook group Dentists in The Know, they can join our group and login there. It’s an interactive, one hour, Hump Day Happy Hour, where we spend some time with really influential people like yourself and dentistry, kind of dissecting their journey story, what their contributions currently our to the dental profession or the marketplace. And just really having very realistic conversations about the profession as a whole. We like to say it is the after hours meet up at the bar, after the CE course is over. And the real learning starts because we’ve all sort of experienced those conversations with our colleagues. And then you know, I’m on all the social platforms. But if you look for me in those two spots, you’ll find me anywhere else. 


Shawn Zajas  54:05 

So are you ready for this last question, you notice, 



I don’t lay it on me. 


Shawn Zajas  54:09 

Let’s go. Okay, so Dr. Jennifer Bell of today is walking down the street, and often the distance you see 18 year old Jennifer, you have one moment to communicate a sentiment to her. What do you share, 



stop being such a perfectionist. 


Shawn Zajas  54:33 

Okay, I love that on so many levels. And I feel like that’s like the perfect bow to wrap up this gift that you’ve given dentistry even in this episode, because again, this podcast is for those people that are still on the sideline, or they’re in the game. But there’s more. I say this all the time. Like if you hadn’t stepped up, and let’s say done dinks or something like that, like I don’t know, if me along with As always, other people would have had the chance to realize like, oh my gosh, this is the gift that Jen brings to dentistry. And when I look to the left and the right, I see that there’s so many of us that are advancing dentistry. But there’s also vacancies. For those people that are still second guessing, that are still playing it small that are wondering, they’re waiting for the guarantee. I need that guarantee or that certainty that if I step up, it’s going to work. And everybody I interview, Jen says that where they got, they never could have foreseen. They didn’t have the master strategy, or blueprint or plan. They just operated out of what they knew. And they took a step. And they had to trust, their own resilience, their own, whatever it is. And they just took that step. And little by little doors opened up they learned in the marketplace, and they just kept going. And that’s what I feel like your story is so inspiring. And so encouraging to those that might just be like, but but like, but what if so, seriously, like thank you so much. It has been so easy honoring you as an innovator as a pioneer. I love what you’re doing. I’m 100% in your corner. I love what you’re doing with dinks just in every sort of way. So, Dan, thank you so much for letting me interview you. 


Jennifer Bell  56:19 

Thank you so much for the invite and for being a part of your podcast and hanging out with your audience for a little bit and and what you’re doing for dentistry. It’s just it’s a real honor to be here. 


Shawn Zajas  56:32 

Thank you. Thanks for listening, and be sure to follow so you never miss an episode. To learn more about what’s going on in dentistry. Check out innovation in 

More Podcasts