Home Outside The OP Go “Outside the Op” for a Wellness Break with Dr. Dennis “Dennie” Jenkins

Go “Outside the Op” for a Wellness Break with Dr. Dennis “Dennie” Jenkins

A successful Indiana dentist-owner since 1988

by Dennis Jenkins

Reconnecting with a good friend and great dentist...

Dr. Jenkins is a longtime friend of The Profitable Dentist Magazine, having been featured on both the cover, and in an editorial on successful small town dentist practice owners by Dr. Woody Oakes! It's been 22 years since we talked to Dr. Jenkins, but he still he exudes the same passion for his profession, and his dedication to the success of his practice, team and patients is evident.

Let's Go "Outside the Op" with Dr. Dennie Jenkins!

Intro by Paula Parker

Celebrating 35 years with his practice, Designing Smiles, Dr, Jenkins openly and candidly shares his journey as a solo practitioner through the challenges he’s faced, and ultimately the lessons learned along the way that have served him well.  More importantly he talks about the value in finding a life balance beyond his practice and acknowledges the critical need to find your passions outside and alongside dentistry.  

Let’s hear more from him about his approach to personal well-being and how he handles the ongoing demands of being a successful dentist-owner.


  • Undergraduate:  Indiana State University, Biology
  • Dental School:  Indiana University School of Dentistry    

Early Career

Opportunity found me as I graduated from dental school, landing me in a practice near my hometown.  Little did I know, this would ultimately become my practice for the run of my career. 

Very early on, I realized the influence of my competitive DNA, and my need to differentiate myself from other dental practices.  In parallel, cosmetic dentistry was exploding and I found my niche. 

Building a Dental Practice

With a cosmetic focus for my practice, the possibilities were abundant.  Success takes time and I quickly found it critical to leverage the resources I needed to get established and grow.  Through innovative opportunities with hands-on CE courses along with evolving materials and techniques, my practice naturally became “Designing Smiles”.  I was fortunate to learn from and eventually teach with many of the leaders in dentistry at the time and for 15 years, I benefited from the great minds, ideas, and materials I surrounded myself with, as well as the relationships I forged over these years with key dental leaders that cumulatively, helped set the business blueprint for Designing Smiles.

Designing Smiles in Sellersburg, Indiana

Building a Family Life

I’ve been happily married to my wife, Jolie, 31 years and have two great kids – Devin and Gabbi.  Jolie is the rock for all of us, but she’s also my biggest supporter.  Having a supportive and loving partner has been critical to my success as a dentist. 

As parents, we were committed to supporting our children in pursuing their dreams and over the last 25 years, enjoyed many successful seasons of golf, baseball and softball at the youth, high school, and college levels.  Devin played golf in college and chasing his tournament schedule around the country was an ongoing lesson of life as the game can be both generous and stingy all at the same time, as it truly groomed him for his banking career.  Gabbi played softball in college, and we’ve had the pleasure of traveling to many campuses over the years for her games.  Watching your kids achieve and succeed is far more gratifying to me than any of my individual accomplishments and the time away from my practice with my family has proven invaluable to me as both a husband and a father.  I am reminded of how amazing Jolie is when I think about the 25 years of unforgiving weather conditions she endured throughout endless games and tournaments and know I am truly blessed.

We’ve had a great run and now that our children are grown and building their adult lives, we’re enjoying a renewed focus on our mutual love of Indiana University football and basketball, and always have a great time in Bloomington cheering on the Hoosiers together!         

Talk About Stress As A Dentist

Dentistry can be very hard and very stressful.  The way we react and cope with that stress determines our own health, our happiness and certainly the fulfillment felt by our teams as well as our families.  The ability to find balance as a dentist-owner with a busy practice, continuing education, study clubs, and family is a juggling act that can seem impossible at times. 

Learning to prioritize the important things like family and faith above has helped me, but it has come gradually and with the support of others along the way.  My wife would agree that I am guilty of self-inflicted stress as many of us are as I say YES far too often, so I’m working on that.  My story would not be complete without emphasizing the impact my faith in Jesus Christ has had on casting peace on all the other areas of my life.  It is the anchor that steadies my ship both at home and at Designing Smiles.

As I sought direction for my practice model, the turning point was when my team (my Board of Directors) helped me realize our shared goal of creating a practice that supports the segment of our community that seeks exceptional patient-focused care and service and strives for a higher quality of life.  In response, we opted to differentiate our brand and practice dentistry our way by delivering care without the influence of insurance networks and restrictions versus what the traditional dental office provides.  

Because I feel like the profession is so focused on busy rather than on productivity, this approach has not only shaped the culture of our practice but has also allowed me to find joy in practicing which in turn spills onto the overlapping circles of influence in my life.  One of my greatest accomplishments has been growing my practice in a community I love …to the point we now attract patients from outside our reach because of our reputation for excellence. 

Being a dentist is hard…how do you create a thriving personal life “Outside the Op”?

I feel a life away from the practice with greater purpose than dentistry is invaluable to our life in our practice.  Personally, as my own seasons have evolved with the growth of my family so have my interests. 

After years on the field beside my kids as a coach and in the stands as a parent, my life continues to be full of sports as my daughter Gabbi has now taken a position on the softball coaching staff at IU, which fits nicely with our enthusiasm for IU sports. 

Another of my personal loves has long been landscaping and maintaining my lawn.  It may sound a chore that others find a burden, but I look forward to Spring each year and it nurtures my need to unplug!  I find planting, growing, and maintaining our home’s lawn is relaxing and a release from the demands of the practice…and one that I truly enjoy.  I appreciate making the lawn look amazing for both myself and Jolie AND my neighbors. 

I love golf and have been playing for as long as I can remember.  It’s something I get to share with my family and friends which makes it even more meaningful.  It is a relaxing activity that I can also enjoy alone. 

Lastly, I find exercise to be a great stress breaker and try to implement some sort of workout into everyday be it early in the morning, during my lunch break or after work depending on my schedule.  It allows for the hyperactivity that follows with my fork, & great food, another passion.

Can you share a few key things you've learned along your journey as a dentist and practice owner?

I have gathered a few philosophical pearls that have shaped me and allowed me to find great joy in dentistry are worth sharing.  

First, I would point out that our nature as dentists will be to “own” the problems of our patients.  We as dentists will feel burdened when our dentistry doesn’t last forever, or we will take ownership in their discomfort or inconvenience that inevitably occurs for various reasons.  Consider the caustic environment that is our world in the mouth, and it is insane to expect that predictability will always prevail.  I will ALWAYS empathize with my patient, and I will move mountains to help them succeed but I will NOT own their problem.  This was perhaps the single most valuable lesson that I accepted and integrated into my daily practice life that has enriched my love of dentistry.

In addition, the belief that I have a gift to provide my patients alongside of my extremely talented Team and that together we can find great joy in creating ways to share that gift.  Some will desire it, and some may not but we always allow our patients to know what that gift is and how they can achieve it.  It may be a beautiful smile through Invisalign or a Smile enhancement with veneers etc… or even better a chance to restore health with lifelike posterior restorations and replacement of missing teeth.  We are so blessed to have the opportunities every day to change lives and that realization is inspirational if we allow it to be.  It is only through my TEAM and their support and talents that I can achieve any level of success!  I understand this and I try and praise them as often as I can.  They are special!

Lastly on the topic of philosophical approaches I would say, enjoy the moment…WIN today.  I spent so many years planning and constantly thinking, if I can just get past this obstacle I will be there.  Success however defined would rush in on me once I accomplished the defined task.  Today my schedule is loosely filled 4-5 days out but I’m busy every day.  I have the freedom to schedule patients very efficiently when needed.  I take more time off than ever, but my numbers are still productive.  I show up for my team and together we WIN most every day and have a great time doing it.  I feel certain we would drive any practice consultant crazy with our approach, but it has allowed me to relax and truly enjoy my Team and my Patients.  I know the ability to spend time with my patients, get to know them, learn their stories, and know their families and to gain relationship with them is what makes Designing Smiles special and my professional career so personally satisfying.

The Power of Giving Back

We as a team enjoy many different aspects of our profession and one of those special opportunities involves giving back. 

Many years ago, we decided that rather than travel to far off places to provide volunteer services to the needy, it was not difficult to find a level of need right here in our own community.  We call the mission Give Faith a Smile, and it has been our conduit for giving back to the community in a way that few can. 

Providing a smile for someone who has forever been ashamed of their teeth or unable to chew is an amazing thing to be a part of and we have seen lives change through this mission.

Final Thoughts...

As I have begun to consider what it might look like to adjust my pace or even consider life after dentistry I have very few professional regrets. 

I have made more than my share of poor investments, business decisions, unwise equipment purchases & the list goes on, But I spend all my time looking forward with a positive attitude every day that will hopefully lift my Team, my patients, and my family, encouraging those around me to experience all the joys to be found in this great profession.

If you are a dentist-owner and would like to share your story on how you find balance between the demands of dentistry and practice ownership and your personal well-being, please reach out!


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