Lake Merritt Dental: Polishes its Potential with Technology

Lake Merritt Dental

Industry Healthcare
Location Oakland, CA
Customer since 2016
Employees 1-10
Zenefits solutions
Commuter Benefits, Certified Broker Partner, Payroll, Onboarding, Time And Scheduling, Core HR, Compliance, Performance Management, Benefits, Compensation Management, Paid Time Off

What to do when you find your calling as an operations dynamo, but your mom hoped for you to take over her thriving dental practice? If you’re Paulina Song, you put your passion and tech-savvy to work building not only the family business, Lake Merritt Dental, but also set up a side hustle to make it easier for dental professionals to focus on the work they love while ensuring easier operations.

Paulina got so good at managing operations for her mom’s business she’s now freed up enough time to also co-found a startup. The secret sauce: smart use of technology (and a lot of personal drive).


Private dental practices are chronically less efficient than bigger practice groups. This makes them less competitive and more costly for their patients. In an industry that is pretty stable “because everybody has teeth,” there was room for Lake Merritt Dental to streamline their operations to free up more time for more patients — then pass along some of the savings.

“I saw a playground of possibility for technology to help compound my operations efforts,” says Paulina. She methodically worked her way through every back-office process when she got to the point that “HR was my only remaining problem. But it was a big problem due to its complexity; HR is not easy to outsource or automate.”


She started her research on HR options in 2010. But nothing on the market delivered the “meticulous” level of analytics she required to show what was working well and what wasn’t. That was critical to scale the business. So, Paulina took her personal time to ensure the HR heavy lifting, from scanning documents, storing required content in Box files, and more.

In 2016 she found Zenefits.

We've been Zenefits fans since 2016. We've saved more than $160,000; and are glad to see the creative solutions keep coming!

Paulina Song
Executive Director
Lake Merritt Dental

“My HR stress used to be through the roof as I spent hours organizing documentation in compliance with labor law codes. With Zenefits, now we can focus our time on our patient engagement and quality of patient care. And we can offer our team benefits, transparency, and self-service.”

Tech: Taking a Bite Out of Limited Dental Access

Lake Merritt Dental is the expanded and rebranded practice started in 2004 by Dr. Hai Huang, DDS. Since then, she’s brought on associates for a wider range of dental and orthodontic care. Because of the heavy use of tech for operations, this frees up time for Dr. Huang to invest in the team’s education, benefits, and engagement to better support their local Oakland California community.

One interesting way their practice differentiates itself is by its annual participation in “Dentistry from the Heart,” offering a day of free dental care for local community members. Paulina estimates a thousand people have received free care over 10 years of program participation.

This year (2020) is different, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With the universal shortage of personal protection equipment and extremely high exposure to respiratory droplets, dentists are the healthcare professionals with the highest risk of catching the virus. So, thanks to an early and aggressive move to tap technology, Lake Merritt Dental is set up better than most private dental practices to offer teledentistry with emergency consultations and prescriptions as needed.

“Typically, dentistry does what medical practices do…but 10 years later,” says Paulina. “Those that lagged on getting their technology together before this, have too far to leap to catch up right now.”

Team Engagement and Savings

That tech-powered efficiency is also a recruiting advantage. The growing dental practice looks for —and attracts— tech-savvy staff, who will help them stay current. New team members love that they have self-service access to everything they need to do their job and manage their own personal benefits. Zenefits makes it that much easier with integrations to other tools the practice uses including Bonusly, Asana, Guideline 401k, G-suite, and Slack.

“Transparency in HR is critical to building employee trust in the management team. Allowing team members to participate in their own HR management sets expectations from the beginning and sets them up for success. We are proud to say that our turnover is under 8% — which is incredible for dentistry!

“Our management team also loves the time we’ve saved on documentation and organization with Zenefits. As a small business, we appreciate that Zenefits helps us administer time tracking, payroll, FSA, health, and commuter benefits in a cost-effective and non-cumbersome way. We’ve been impressed, too, with newer features such as performance and compensation management.

“For example, in the dental field, people don’t know how to benchmark their own wages. So having a third-party source of truth makes it much less like a personal thing.

“We’ve been Zenefits fans since 2016! In the last 3 years, we’ve been able to save over $160k from our budget in HR administration. We’re glad to see that the products and creative solutions keep coming!”