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Inspiring Conversations with Dr. Alex Otto & Mr. Tim Otto of Kids Tooth Team Pediatric Dentistry

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Alex Otto & Mr. Tim Otto. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Dr. Alex Otto and Mr. Tim Otto are the founders of Kids Tooth Team Pediatric Dentistry. With locations in Buda and South Austin, Kids Tooth Team is proud to be the most loved and well-respected pediatric dental practice in our community.

Kids Tooth Team began as a partnership in 2016. This is not when our company was founded, rather, it was when my husband Tim and I were married. We didn’t know it at the time, but our seemingly divergent career paths would eventually line up to create a pediatric dental group practice that we are incredibly proud to call our own.

After completing a 4-year doctoral program (DDS) and a 1-year general practice hospital residency, I went on to work as an associate dentist in a large group pediatric practice. During this time, my husband Tim, who has an international MBA and an extensive entrepreneurial background, was working as a national distribution manager in a Fortune 500 company. We would constantly talk about the challenges facing dental practices and the dental industry, and it eventually became clear to us that there was an opportunity to meld Tim’s business expertise with my aptitude for clinical excellence and organizational leadership to create a really special and unique pediatric dental practice.

After making the decision to start a practice together in 2018, I was accepted to the NYU Langone Pediatric Residency program serving Alaskan native children in Anchorage, Alaska. Tim and I both left our growing careers, sold all of our belongings, and moved into an RV. We joke that we went from 4000 square feet to 400 square feet overnight. We spent two months in the RV traveling across the country and up to Alaska. For the next two years, we remodeled an Alaskan Chalet, lived through a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, had more adventures than we can count, and achieved my goal of becoming a pediatric dentist.

After years of planning, Kids Tooth Team was born with the goal of transforming modern pediatric dentistry to better align with the needs of everyone involved; employees, parents, doctors, and most importantly, the children. With mentorship and servant leadership at the heart of our operation, we strive to be the safest and most efficient pediatric practice that employs no one but the most open-minded and forward-thinking team members and provides guidance and support at every step of the way.

Our vision statement is to elevate the quality and expand the availability of children’s oral healthcare in Texas, and our mission statement is: At Kid’s Tooth Team, we believe that all children deserve the best care in the world by the most well-trained doctors and staff, in the safest and cleanest facilities – regardless of their socioeconomic status or geographic location. We can achieve this by creating a pediatric dental home that puts patient experience and safety above all else; an environment where kids love to visit, doctors love to practice, and team members love to work.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Absolutely not! We faced many obstacles and struggles along the way, the first of which was simply getting ourselves out of our comfort zone. I don’t know many people who would leave everything they know behind to move to Alaska as the first step in achieving their dreams. Before uprooting our lives to Alaska, we had a beautiful house and secure jobs- to anyone looking in from the outside, we had already “made it.” But neither of us felt like we were living up to our fullest potential. We both knew we had more to offer our community and always had a goal of being a part of something bigger than ourselves. We were in love with the idea of creating incredible jobs (that people would love to come to) and serving the children in our community who need us most.

So we risked everything- literally our entire life’s savings- and started completely from scratch, knowing that we would figure it out. We spent two years developing our business plan together and securing the financing required to begin a start-up dental practice. After all of that, we signed the lease on our Buda space in March of 2020. This was of course a time when anyone else would have probably cut and run instead of pushing ahead with a start-up in a global pandemic, but we knew we had no other choice than to make this work. The dream we had envisioned for our lives -and had sacrificed so much for- was on the line.

We spent the summer of 2020 designing, permitting, and building our office in Buda from scratch. We implemented high-grade HEPA filters and air scrubbers, designed our space with COVID safety in mind, and then opened the doors September of 2020. We crossed our fingers and hoped that people would brave the world to come out and bring their kids to the dentist.

Fast forward to our one year anniversary that we celebrated last month. We have grown at an exponential rate, opened a second location in South Austin, and have a thriving business. We employ 12 incredible team members and are so proud to be able to offer them paid health insurance, matching 401k, 18 days of PTO per year, and a work culture unlike anything they have ever been a part of. We have been welcomed and embraced by our community and couldn’t be happier and more grateful to everyone around us that have made all this possible. It’s even better than we had imagined.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Kids Tooth Team is a pediatric dental practice that specializes in comprehensive dental and oral healthcare for children 0-18 years old, including those with special healthcare needs. We offer a wide variety of minimally invasive and surgically complex services and focus on patient safety and comfort as our most important core values. As a specialist who completed three additional years of residency training compared to a general family dentist, I am able to offer many specialized services for children such as:

Sedation Dentistry: Pediatric dentists are specially trained to offer a variety of sedation options to children who may need a little help feeling comfortable at the dentist. At our offices, we offer nitrous oxide (laughing gas) sedation, oral and intranasal sedation, and IV sedation or in-office general anesthesia alongside a residency trained anesthesiologist. I am also one of the only pediatric dentists in Austin that has credentials to treat children at Dell Children’s Medical Center, so we are especially equipped to provide care and services to children with medically complex or special healthcare needs.

Zirconia Crowns: Silver crowns used to be the only option for baby teeth, but I am proud to be able to offer white Zirconia crowns (a much more cosmetic option) for front or back baby teeth that may need a treatment. Many pediatric dentists feel uncomfortable offering white crowns for back baby molars, but I’ve sought out advanced training to be able to offer this cosmetic service to any of my kiddos who prefer a white crown option.

Special Healthcare Needs: Both of my residencies focused on providing comprehensive and compassionate care to children with Special Healthcare Needs, so it was my goal for Kids Tooth Team to go above and beyond for these families. We have participated in basic ASL training for a dental setting and host bi-annual (free) Inclusive & Sensory Friendly open houses with our friends at Providence Behavior Therapy. At this event, we close our office down and book one family at a time to come in so that children are free to explore the office with less noise and stimulation. This allows neurodiverse children or those with a history of past traumatic experiences the space to feel comfortable and safe in a dental environment. A behavior health analyst and speech language pathologist from Providence Behavior Therapy are present to provide support to give parents and kiddos the tools they need to have a great experience at the dentist.

Giving back to our community: The sad reality is that very few pediatric specialists accept Medicaid in their practices. We are proud to be able to offer specialty care to all children- regardless of their socioeconomic status or geographic location. Our mission statement is not just fluff – we seek out opportunities to break down barriers to care and help the kids who need the care of a specialist the most. In addition to accepting government-subsidized insurance in our practices, we are also a community partner with St. David’s foundation to help them provide care to the most complex and in-need children in our community. Our entire team gets so much joy out of serving children in our community in these ways.

We are also proud to sponsor our local schools and support our fellow small businesses in as many ways that we can think of. Tim volunteers his time by participating on the Board of Directors for the Buda Chamber of Commerce as well as the Buda Economic Development Council. I volunteer my time as a national speaker for the American Dental Association (ADA) and as a member of the ADA’s Institute for Diversity in Leadership. Giving back through leadership and sponsorship to our community is a driving force for us.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
Surround yourself with team members who are just as passionate, driven and hard-working as you are. We are an intense, energetic and passionate bunch of people over here at Kids Tooth Team, and we are always looking for ways to improve and get better. We are direct communicators and practice extreme ownership of everything in our world. This type of culture isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok! We are determined to find, encourage, and promote those team members that share this same excitement for what we all do. We all feel that it is an incredible honor to be a part of children’s lives that we serve and never take that for granted.

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