Togo native develops dental practice in Springdale
Dr. Ami Agbabli, a dentist and owner of Faith Family Dental in Springdale, said a lack of dentists in her home country led her into dentistry after she had considered becoming a physician.
Agbabli was born and raised in Lome, Togo. It is the capital of the French-speaking country in western Africa. Her father persuaded her to move to the United States after her older brother moved to Alabama. She came to the United States in 2002 when she was a senior in high school.
She learned English, and after completing high school, she earned an associate degree in 2005 from Gadsden State Community College in Alabama. She received a bachelor’s degree in pre-med/pre-dentistry in 2007 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and graduated in 2012 with a Doctor of Dental Surgery from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn.
The same year, her son was born. She started to practice dentistry the following year and worked at a practice in Nashville between 2013 and 2014. At the end of 2014, she moved to Arkansas. Her husband’s position at Walmart led her to the area, and she worked here in dentistry for nearly two years.
In 2016, she decided to open her own practice. She explained that owning her own practice allowed for more flexibility with her schedule and a greater ability to be with her family. But she was unsure she could do it on her own. She opened Faith Family Dental in early 2017, and the decision to open her own practice was one based on faith, and the business was named accordingly, she said, adding that it is not a community clinic.
“I had that fear to start something from scratch and be on my own,” she said. “I had to put my faith in God and trust him to kind of lead me for this to happen, because I didn’t know how to open a practice.”
She provides pediatric and adult services in general and cosmetic dentistry and completes nearly every dental procedure, except for placing implants. However, she looks to start placing implants next year after completing the training.
Major dental insurance plans are accepted, including ARKids First, a health insurance program that provides coverage for more than 70,000 children in Arkansas. The office also offers an in-house membership plan that allows patients without insurance to receive between 15% and 20% off procedures. Members pay monthly payments and receive cleanings and exams twice annually.
The majority of her practice’s business includes extractions, bridges, root canals and cleanings. Agbabli declined to disclose revenue but was optimistic about the growth of the business.
“The office has been growing steadily since it’s opening, and we are expecting to finish 2019 strong,” she said. “It has been a good year so far, and we are looking forward for the blessings that 2020 will bring to us.”
In Arkansas, 820 people are employed as dentists and earn an average of $165,480 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationwide, more than 113,000 people are dentists and earn an average of $175,840 annually. Average revenue for a dentist in private practice was $718,790 in 2017, according to the American Dental Association.
Agbabli’s 1,700-square-foot dental office at 1301 E. Robinson Ave. has three exam rooms and three employees: one hygienist, one dental assistant and one front-office staff. The clinic looks to hire another dental assistant and one front-office staff by the end of the year. She expects that as the business grows, she will have to move into a larger office.
Hours are Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Agbabli said something that makes her practice unique is her background and how she used to go on mission trips. It’s allowed her the opportunity to meet with people she doesn’t know and to be able to connect with them. She explained the work at her office is like being on a mission trip and connecting with patients.
“We talk about everything and anything,” she said. “I just feel that connection like I’m just doing something more than dentistry, like I share a piece of myself. It’s not just dentistry to me. It’s more than that. I don’t get to travel like I used to, so I try to pour that into my office and make people feel special.”
Since college, Agbabli has participated in mission work, including building wells in developing nations. She’s also taken part in dental mission trips and was recognized as a global goodwill ambassador after she was nominated by a dentist in Mexico. She explained that she’s remained involved in mission work but has not had the opportunity to travel as much as she used to.
She and her husband, Adam, have recently started to build an orphanage in Togo. They purchased land in 2018, and work to build the orphanage continues before furnishings are installed. The orphanage will be unique because it won’t be a place only to provide food and shelter. Those living there will be expected to earn an education and leave with plans to go to college or find a career. This will allow those in the orphanage to become independent.
Agbabli said she was inspired by her parents to give back and do mission work. She explained that her parents used to give a lot by supporting children and giving school supplies.
“I realized early on in life that I was really privileged,” Agbabli said. “I came from a great home that everything has been given to me. I just think I’m really blessed growing up.”
Agbabli said her mother died soon after she moved to the United States, and her father died after she completed dental school. She said her father was proud of her to make it in the United States, and she believes that her mother also would be proud of her.
“My biggest accomplishment is just surviving … because it was rough,” she said. “Imagine coming to a country that you have no idea where you are. You can’t speak the language.”
Her native language is French, and she said she was still learning English in her first year of college. She continues to learn as sometimes her patients tell her that she’s not speaking English but French, she said with a laugh. She’s also learning to speak Spanish. Her dream is to travel and do mission work. She said she loves being where most people don’t want to be, and noted how she had worked in prison dentistry on the weekends after she started her practice.
She and her husband have one son and one daughter. She spends her free time with them and enjoys exercising.