Dr. Ashley Fagan is pressing forward since the coronavirus pandemic temporarily derailed her plans to open La Luxe Dental this summer in the District’s NoMa neighborhood.
The 29-year-old said the challenges the pandemic has brought forth haven’t been easy, but what motivates her to keep going with her own practice is one thing: autonomy.
“I don’t want to have someone telling me how to treat a patient and how much time I should spend with a patient,” Fagan said.
“I want to be able to spend as much time as I need and talk to the patient to find out what they want and what they need. And for them to leave feeling better and having a good experience at the dentist.”
Fagan says the patient experience will be a key component to La Luxe Dental, which will distinguish her practice from a typical dental office.
“I wanted autonomy over my patients, but also the atmosphere. I wanted a certain vibe,” she said.
“Even from the name, I didn’t want it to feel like a dental office. I wanted a spa-like feel with essential oils, calming music, a luxuries and comfort menu that you can choose from that includes pillows, blankets…just little things that will make your dental experience better.”
Fagan was born in D.C. but moved around a lot in childhood due to her father, who is also a dentist, being in the military.
After finishing at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in Baltimore, she came to the District to start her career, deciding in year three to venture out on her own.
Fagan got started by hiring consulting firm Ideal Practices to assist with the process of opening a practice including financing, real estate, construction and permits to dental vendors.
In March, Fagan signed the lease for La Luxe Dental and was planning a summer opening, but then the pandemic hit twisting an exciting time to an uncertain one.
“When the pandemic hit, I definitely questioned if I was supposed to be doing this,” she said. “It was very stressful…there were times I was just questioning and wondering.
“But there was also a lot of times where I just felt like this is where I should be. This is the time. I’ve already started. I have a team to back me up and I have some savings to get me through.”
According to the American Dental Association, Black dentists are proportionally less represented in the profession when compared to the U.S. population.
Only 3.8 percent of dentists in the country are Black, of that number the majority are male. Fagan said the bleak statistics of Black female dentists aren’t lost on her. She contends that’s why representation is so essential.
“When I had younger patients come in with their moms…they were just so shocked to see me. They get really excited,” she said. “They feel more comfortable, and you see them relax a little.
“They are a lot more open and honest, more at ease. It means a lot to me and I don’t think we realize how much it matters or it means to them.”
Being an advocate for young girls will be a pillar for La Luxe Dental. For every new patient, the office will sponsor a girl for Girls On the Run DC.
“I run a lot especially now with the pandemic. I’m like, ‘This is so great’ and it’s empowering girls with confidence,” Fagan said. “At their age I was not a confident girl at all. So, when I found out about the program it was an inspiration and I definitely wanted to give back to them.”
With construction still underway, Fagan says La Luxe Dental will open to patients in late November-early December. She adds that she wants to change some of the negative feelings people associate with the dentist.
“I don’t want people to be scared of the dentist. I want people to come into my office and leave feeling better.”