Affinity Dental Management’s Chief Dental Officer Discusses Overseeing Quality and Risk Management

Dr. Mariz Tanious is creating a culture of education and development for Affinity Dental Management to ensure that everyone from the front office staff to the operatories is providing the optimal patient experience.

DSOPro: How did you become interested in dentistry and make your way to working with a DSO?

My history in dentistry goes all the way back to eighth grade. I didn’t know much about dentistry, I just knew I liked my dentist, and I thought it was a good career for a woman. My dentist had five brothers, one of whom was an oral surgeon. At the time, my dad had advanced periodontal disease and he had to have all his teeth taken out. The oral surgeon asked me if I wanted to observe the procedure because he knew I was interested in dentistry and I thought, sure! He allowed me to assist—I held the suction tip—and it was very interesting. I knew right then and there that I was going to be a dentist.

I was very ambitious and worked hard to make my dream come true. I went to UC Davis for undergrad and got my bachelor’s degree in neurology. Then I went to NYU for dental school. After dental school, I completed a GPR at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan. It was oral surgery intensive, which I loved.

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After completing my GPR, I practiced in Manhattan for a couple years, working for a small DSO in the Bronx and a private practice on Park Avenue with an amazing general dentist. He did everything including complex surgical cases, and I learned a lot from him.

When I became pregnant, my husband and I moved back to California where my family lived. I worked for some private offices as well as Western Dental for a very short period of time. That was my intro to a large DSO. At Western Dental, I transitioned over to Quality Management and began a new chapter in my career. 

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DSOPro: What clinical differences did you find between private practice dentistry and a DSO?

In private practice you are a solo practitioner. When you are part of a DSO, you have a community of dentists and specialists to work with. The provider has the opportunity to get guidance from a colleague or a mentor if they want the support. The possibilities are endless for professional development and growth when you are part of a DSO.

DSOPro: What happened next?

After my first child was born, I did not go back to practicing clinical dentistry due to health issues. I was devastated and needed to find an alternative career. One of my mentors at the time introduced me to Dr. Louis Amendola, who was the Chief Dental Director at Western Dental.

Because I was just starting out in my dental career at the time, they were a little skeptical about offering me a position because most doctors in quality management are retired from clinical practice and transitioned over to the management side of dentistry.

However, Dr. Amendola gave me a chance. When I started as a dental consultant for Western Dental, it was a really eye-opening experience. I had never heard of quality or risk management before and now I was immersed in it. I was part of the Peer Review committee and Grievance Committee, including claims review and counseling doctors. That experience was very valuable. I learned a lot from Dr. Amendola and my time at Western.

After about six and a half years, I joined West Coast Dental as their dental director. As a newcomer to leading quality management, I was determined to demonstrate my leadership abilities. I positively impacted the doctors’ documentation practices and helped them navigate through clinical and non-clinical challenges. Despite resigning due to plans to move back to New York City prior to COVID-19, I ended up staying in California. Dr. Amendola introduced me to his friend, Ariel Wiener, COO of Affinity Dental Management.

Starting out as a dental consultant for Affinity, I was later offered the position of Dental Director, which I took on with enthusiasm and dedication. After serving in this role, I was honored to receive an offer to become their Chief Dental Officer, which I gladly accepted. Through my experience and hard work, I was able to demonstrate my knowledge of the field and my commitment to the company’s goals. This opportunity allowed me to expand my leadership skills and make a greater impact on the organization’s success.

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DSOPro: What does risk management entail?

It basically involves identifying and mitigating any potential risks that could arise while providing dental services. This can include things like ensuring patient safety by properly sterilizing equipment, minimizing malpractice liability risk, and addressing any quality concerns that may arise in a timely and effective manner. In short, it’s all about making sure that everything runs smoothly and safely so that patients receive the best possible care. Through education and guidance, we ensure that they produce top-notch work and maintain their standards. Risk management encompasses a diverse range of topics.

DSOPro: Explain your role as Chief Dental Officer for Affinity Dental Management.

Affinity is a midsize DSO that has experienced rapid growth, and our unique feature is that we offer 50% specialty services and 50% general practices with specialty services. Our specialty services include orthodontics, oral surgery, endodontics, and periodontal offices, which sets us apart from other DSOs.

My primary objective is to create a quality management and assurance program that enhances the patient experience. This entails ensuring proper documentation, educating doctors, and improving their clinical expertise. Recently, we received approval from AGD PACE to provide our own continuing education program, which we are calling Affinity University, and intend to develop it further. We also have mentorship programs that assist new doctors in adapting to our organization, while providing support.

Additionally, I have established a Clinical Review Committee comprised of providers from within our company to develop policies, procedures, and clinical guidelines and evaluate new products. The team is comprised of a periodontist, an oral surgeon, an endodontist, prosthodontists, and several general dentists and hygienists.

Our goal is to involve everyone in the day-to-day clinical operations and educate them all on what it takes to run a DSO efficiently. We conduct chart assessments to identify areas where we may need to strengthen our preventive treatment or hygiene protocols. Recently, we developed a comprehensive hygiene program to improve patients’ overall health and well-being.

By creating a culture of education and development within the company, we can ensure that everyone, including front office staff, back-office staff, and office managers, are knowledgeable and well-equipped to provide the optimal patient experience.

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DSOPro: How do you roll that education out to them? What are the logistics?

Affinity Dental is dedicated to providing comprehensive education and training for our staff and providers. Our education program is still in its infancy, but it is tailored to meet the needs of our providers, and we incorporate the latest science and technology available in the dental world. We use polls and evaluations to understand what our providers are interested in learning to develop their skill set. We offer a range of training methods, including in-person and online live courses. We held our First Annual Leadership Symposium on May 5-7, which offered 13 units of CE credit. This symposium was a great success, bringing together colleagues to network, team build, and learn from each other. We strive to create an environment where our providers can continue to grow and excel in their profession.

DSOPro: How do you evaluate new dental products, and what’s your involvement in that?
Our Clinical Review Committee is responsible for thoroughly assessing new dental products to ensure they align with our company’s values and goals. This process involves conducting extensive research on products of interest. Once we identify a potential product, the clinical review committee conducts pilot tests in several offices over a few months before evaluating the product’s overall effectiveness. We also evaluate each potential partnership with product manufacturers to ensure we have a strong relationship with the company. For me, a strong partnership is a top priority.

As part of our commitment to providing the best possible care for our patients, we have forged partnerships with leading companies in the dental industry such as Overjet, Epien/Hybenx, and Perio Protect. By constantly seeking out new and better ways to enhance our services, we can help our patients achieve optimal oral health and overall well-being.

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DSOPro: Any final thoughts?

There are numerous topics that fall under the umbrella of quality management, and my primary responsibility at Affinity is to support our doctors and ensure that patients receive top-notch care through the implementation of specific processes and protocols. Building a strong organizational culture is also a key component of my role. Education is one of my primary focuses, as it forms the foundation for growth and development. Without education, we can’t advance to new levels in terms of patient care experience. Ultimately, my goal is to elevate both doctors and patients to the next level.

DSOPro: Any advice for those interested in your type of role?

As a highly detail-oriented individual, I believe that being successful entails maintaining positive relationships not only in the dental world but also in everyday life. My core principles include treating others with respect and holding myself accountable for my actions.

To stay organized, I create numerous to-do lists, a skill that was passed down to me by my mom, Mona, who even had a to-do list for her to-do lists. Achieving success in this field requires a great deal of organization, especially as a woman with family responsibilities. My oldest son has autism, and although he is high functioning, he requires a lot of attention, as does my younger son.

Juggling multiple roles as a mother, wife, and Chief Dental Officer is not without its challenges. Knowing when to take off my professional “hats” and simply be a mom can be quite difficult at times. Over time, however, I have learned to refine my organizational skills, both professionally and personally. The key to achieving success is not just focusing on what I do for Affinity on any given day, but also how I prioritize my family and myself. It’s essential to take care of oneself and one’s health to avoid getting lost in the everyday chaos.

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About Dr. Tanious

Mariz Tanious, DDS, has worked in the dental field for over 13 years and brings her 10+ years of expertise in Quality Assurance to Affinity Dental Management. She joined Affinity in 2021 to develop a Quality Improvement Program to aid Affinity’s doctors and staff in delivering optimal dental care to patients. Dr. Tanious believes in creating a positive culture that allows the company to uplift and develop their employees.

Before joining Affinity, Dr. Tanious was the Dental Director at West Coast Dental Services and worked as a Dental Consultant at Western Dental Services in their Quality Management Department where she held key roles for their Grievance and Peer Review committees. She earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the New York University College of Dentistry, completed a general practice residency through Columbia University, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Neurology from the University of California, Davis.

When Dr. Tanious is not immersed in the world of dentistry, she loves spending time with her husband and her two boys, Alexander and Nicholas.

Affinity Dental Management

Affinity Dental Management is a dentist-run dental organization that provides comprehensive practice management and administrative support services for practices across the northeast United States. We began as a single office practice in 1999. Since then, Affinity Dental Management has grown through affiliations and new practice openings, building a strategic network that offers general and specialty dental services. We are committed to and take great pride in offering quality patient care and physician and practice support. Whether you are a new dentist starting your first practice or a seasoned dental expert with years of experience, Affinity Dental Management can assist you in developing a business plan while providing ongoing support to keep you on the cutting edge of the industry.

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