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Q&A with igniteDDS

David Rice, DDS, Founder & Director

Posted on April 1, 2014

What inspired you to start igniteDDS?

DR: Dental schools have a limited amount of time to deliver a lot of information to students, and this creates a deficiency in students’ knowledge of practice management, patient communication, team building, technology, and debt management. About two years ago, it occurred to me that there was no place for dental students to learn the additional information they need to know in order to be successful after graduation. IgniteDDS is a means to help dental students and new practicing dentists by providing relevant and current information in a variety of areas necessary for maintaining a successful dental practice. IgniteDDS is a team of dental professionals offering their knowledge and expertise through forums, blogs, seminars, webinars, and lectures to help fill in the gaps in those areas of dentistry and dental practice that are less focused on in school. Initially, we started with a group of dental students at State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, and we worked with them for about four months as a pilot program. We received great feedback and began launching igniteDDS around the country. Now we have several igniteDDS communities online and in every dental school in the United States.


How did your personal dental education influence igniteDDS?

DR: After I graduated from dental school and completed my postgraduate training, I realized that I had no dentist mentors in my life. I was the first person in my family to attend dental school, and after graduation, with a significant debt load and no business or office management experience, I did not feel prepared to start a practice. My experience mirrors what many of today’s dental students and new dentists are going through.  I continued my education and training at the Pankey Institute and Dawson Center to gain more experience. With this additional training and my good fortune of working in a practice where I met people who wanted to help me be successful in both dentistry and practice management, I began to learn the basics of patient communication, management, and using technology within my practice. With igniteDDS, I hope to equip dental students with the additional information and training they need in order to succeed after graduation, and to work as a partner with dental schools to improve students’ skills and knowledge. IgniteDDS also serves as a helpful resource for new practicing dentists to ask questions or offer insight into the topics that dental schools don’t have time to cover.  


How does your program help to resolve the challenges facing dentistry and dental education today?

DR: Debt from a dental school and undergraduate education heavily influences a young dentist’s decisions and options when starting or joining a dental practice. With seminars and resources pertaining to debt management, dental students have access to helpful information about ways to reduce debt and plan for the future. Our programs and online access is free, and igniteDDS additionally provides information on clinical aspects of dentistry and other practice management topics. Our goal is to complement dental programs and work with them to provide additional information to students and new dentists at no charge. I continued my education after dental school to gain a better understanding of dental techniques, and my hope is that students can use igniteDDS to cultivate that same knowledge without the added cost. Additionally, igniteDDS provides an avenue and place for open communication for dentists with all levels of experience. While many dental schools can’t afford investing in technology, igniteDDS offers a mechanism for training and information exchange regarding the latest dental technologies, which can benefit dentists of all experience levels.   


What are the biggest benefits for practicing dentists and manufacturers to participating in and sponsoring the igniteDDS community?

DR: For new practicing dentists, igniteDDS provides resources and information about the challenges they are facing in their own practices. Whether their issues pertain to practice management, technique, technology, or financial questions, dentists can start a forum to solicit perspectives and advice from their colleagues. In addition to this information, more experienced dentists can use igniteDDS to start conversations that they know are important to the next generation, or participate and offer advice in existing conversations, influencing the next generation of dentists and the dental community.  

Statistically, 85% of dental students practice the dentistry they learn in school. For dental manufacturers, exposing dental students early to their products affords them the opportunity to be incorporated into practice. Through igniteDDS, dental students and new dentists are introduced to a variety of emerging technologies and materials to better equip them in making ideal choices in their own practices. Introducing dental students and new dentists to high-quality companies that offer either clinical or practice management applications contributes to a well-rounded experience and understanding of what’s available on the market, and it provides manufacturers with an environment in which to introduce their products.


What do you think is the best approach for helping dental students and new dentists reach their educational and career goals?

DR: Dental students and new dentists lack the resources and time to learn everything there is to know about clinical techniques and practice management in dental school. In order to meet this need, igniteDDS tries to work with dental schools to supplement the necessary information that dental schools don’t have the time to cover. On our website, we post information that pertains to practicing dentistry today. Our forums provide a place where students and dentists can ask questions or discuss dentistry related topics. Additionally, we customize everything for students. From webinars to live events, our programs are student driven, and we try to tailor our presentations to answer any questions that new dentists or dental students may have. For example, after dental school, dentists typically have little experience with patient communication. By providing tools and tips for helping patients understand what treatments are necessary, why they are needed, and how to gain patient case acceptance, we are fortifying future dentists with skills that will help them be more successful in their practices.


How do you see igniteDDS growing, and how will you achieve that?

DR: After 2 years, igniteDDS membership includes about 3,000 dental students and reaches all dental schools in the United States. Our hope for igniteDDS is continued and sustained growth, with more sponsors, more teaching opportunities, and more practical tools for students. I like to dream big, and I see igniteDDS as a dynamic resource that all dental students use to help supplement their dental school knowledge and learn about operating a dental practice before they actually begin their career. Additionally, we hope that as students graduate, they maintain involvement in igniteDDS as resource and for encouraging new dental students. I would love to ultimately have 80 percent of dental students involved in igniteDDS, with the goal of retaining them as they walk out of dental school through their first 5 to 7 years. So, in 5 years from now, we could have 12,000 to 20,000 students and young dentists as part of the igniteDDS community.