by Chelsea Patten
Staff Writer, Dentaltown Magazine
Amir Ghorbani and Lily Sarafan are married.
He is a dentist. She is the COO of an international
senior care company.
Now, with a mix of forward
and backward thinking, their
professions are married too.
In 2009 Ghorbani and
Sarafan founded Home Care
Dentist (HCD), a mobile dental
practice serving the San
Francisco Bay Area.
Prior to HCD, Ghorbani,
a USC graduate, owned his own dental
practice. While he enjoyed working at his practice, he craved a
more humanitarian approach to dentistry. The couple explored
their options, considered Doctors Without Borders, but couldn't
see themselves living abroad long term. They found their niche
somewhere between their two professions.
"We never thought our two professions would collide,"
Sarafan, the Stanford graduate says. Working with elderly
people, she knows many who receive in-home care for meals
and bathing, among other services. The couple decided dentistry
should be one of these available in-home services. "It's
one thing to think of doctors in the 1950s with their black
bags and stethoscopes going into people's homes. It's another
thing to think about the very real and practical nature of the
dentistry we're doing," says Sarafan. Ghorbani serves a wide
range of clients by offering his in-home services. While the
less mobile senior population serves as their primary clientele,
the several additional markets that use their services initially
surprised them. These include people with agoraphobia (fear
of public or unfamiliar places), dental phobia, disabilities, and
even busy professionals just seeking convenience.
Home Care Dentist operates with a philosophy of practicing
minimally invasive dentistry. Sarafan mentioned a 102-year-old
patient who, prior to seeing Ghorbani, was told she needed
$35,000 worth of work. Sensitivity to the needs of their older
patients, as well as gauging their ability to handle dental work
are HCD's top priorities.
The couple lives in Los Gatos, California, but branches
throughout the Bay Area. Although a portable practice, a typical
day still plays out similar to a regular practice. Ghorbani
takes calls from referral sources and prospective patients. He
answers insurance questions. He converses with patients, does
initial exams and treatments. A similar process, except he must
get everything into his car.
|Similar to the backpacking department at a sporting
all of Ghorbani's tools deflate, collapse or fold.
Believe it or not, up until recently he operated his practice
out of a Mini Cooper. Sarafan laughingly recalls one time he
pulled up to a senior care facility and they thought it was a
mistake. Ghorbani has since purchased a Dodge Magnum for
Below: Dental equipment and supplies pack up
into a series of silver boxes, which fit
Care Dentist's Mini Cooper.
|Name: Amir Ghorbani, DDS
Graduate From: University of Southern California
School of Dentistry
Name: Lily Sarafan
Graduate From: Stanford University (Bachelors, Masters in
Management Science and Engineering)
Practice Name: Home Care Dentist
Practice Started: 2008
Staff: Ghorbani-Full-time, Sarafan-Part-time, two assistants
who rotate and one full-time patient coordinator
Web Site: www.homecaredentist.com
|Ghorbani's portable tools pack up into a series of silver
boxes. Sarafan compares the unloading process to the movie
Transformers. The setup includes collapsible patient and doctor
chairs, a small compressor, a suction and light that are actually
embedded in the boxes into which they pack up. He uses a
portable X-ray, comparable in size and shape to a glue gun. He
can develop the X-rays manually with solution or can view them
digitally on his laptop, both on-site. This sophisticated and
functional setup certainly trumps the once popular little black
bag used for house calls.
Ideally, Ghorbani needs a 10x10 foot area to set up his
equipment comfortably. But he must exhibit flexibility since
that 10x10 area might be a kitchen, a bedroom, or a living room
– his environment constantly changes. Sanitation in his practice
space remains under complete control since he brings all the
equipment with him.
Ghorbani can perform anything in-house that he would be
able to perform in his practice, with the exception of procedures
The couple's service impacts many in their community.
"We've definitely had people get teary eyed on the phone," Sarafan says. "They'll say 'you
don't know how long we've been
looking for a service like this. I
thought, I don't know what I'm
going to do about my mom. I am
so glad there is something like this
out there!'" Ghorbani and Sarafan
are just as affected by those they
are able to help.
Sarafan mentions patients or
families of patients who have given
up on the chance of dental care.
"They're just living in pain. They
can barely eat. Sometimes it's a matter
of something simple like dentures
not fitting and they just aren't enjoying food anymore. It's
amazing how a couple of these visits can turn everything
around." She says they often hear from people who have gone
without dental care for nearly a decade because of their inability
to leave home. Ghorbani finds it particularly rewarding to listen
to patients' life stories, which patients offer comfortably due to
their familiar environment.
Sarafan credits much of
HCD's success to their comprehensive
marketing. She says about half of
their new patients find them via
the Internet – by press release,
Yelp reviews, their blog, social
media outlets, or their Web site.
She names their Web site as a
"mainstay" and an "integral part"
of their practice. "It's a different
world than it was 10 years ago,"
Sarafan says. "You need to have a
Web site. You need to have an
online presence." Fifty- to 60-year-olds
are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook and since
it is often the children of older parents who contact them, HCD
markets with a Facebook page as well. The other half of new
patients come from referral sources – particularly geriatric or
As a visionary in both business and dentistry, Sarafan would
like to see the perception of dentistry change in the next 10
years. "In this economy, dentistry is often put off. I'd like to see
the perception of dentistry more in line with overall health
rather than distinct." Poor dental hygiene is directly linked to
heart disease, lung problems, and diabetes among other ailments.
She would also like to see better consumer education for
oral hygiene practice.
Sarafan notes Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, as a
model for how she would like to see the profession of dentistry
progress, as well as cites him as an inspiration for Home
Care Dentist. Bezos said, "There are two ways to extend a
business… Take inventory of what you're good at and extend
out from your skills. Or determine what your customers need
and work backward, even if it requires learning new skills."
Ghorbani and Sarafan brought this business mentality to
fruition. By figuring out their clients' needs – at-home dentistry
with a minimally invasive approach – they landed their
niche. Sarafan hopes dentistry progresses in a way that is
When the couple is not working, they enjoy traveling the
world, as well as the food that accompanies the journey.
Ghorbani enjoys working on classic cars, as well as going to
shows and auctions. Sarafan compares her husband's love for
classic cars to his ability to take the antique concept of a house
call and turn it into a modern, accessible service. "My husband
was able to be forward thinking by being backward thinking,"
she says crediting him with the idea of home care dentistry.