Skip to main content

The City Journals

Refugees from Russia grow successful Utah business

Jan 14, 2020 09:15AM ● By Stephanie DeGraw

Oral Design Dental Family – (left to right) Family members George, Arman, Marina and Nick Oganov at Oral Design Dental. The office includes dental, lab and oral surgery. (Stephanie DeGraw/City Journals)

By Stephanie DeGraw | [email protected]

Oral Design Dental in Holladay is a true American success story. The owners’ journey began as they fled genocide in the Soviet Union to owning a multimillion-dollar and Best of State–winning dental company in Utah. 

In the beginning, Nick Oganov and his concert pianist wife, Marina, thrived in Azerbaijan in the late 1980s. Then their country voted for secession from the Soviet Union by 94% in 1991. Suddenly, 5,000 fellow Armenian countrymen were murdered in one night. The young couple fled Moscow. It was difficult to be Christians in a mostly Muslim area. Their first son George was born in 1987. The family had to wait two years in Moscow until they were granted refugee status and allowed to leave. 

When they arrived in America, they only had the clothes on their backs. "We didn't have any money, no penny in the pocket, and we started a new life," Nick Oganov said.

They didn't know where they were headed or the language. "We were waiting for sponsorship. We have no idea where we are going," Oganov said. "When we were in the embassy, we were told we were going to Salt Lake City, Utah. But we had to open a map to find out where it was located. We didn't know where it was. We knew big cities like Chicago, NYC and LA. At that time Salt Lake was a small city. Now everybody knows about Salt Lake."

The couple flew into Utah and were met at the airport by their sponsor. The government gave them some aid. Oganov had a basic knowledge of dentistry so he could start work in a dental lab. He couldn't practice dentistry in his new country without the proper license. After working in a few dental labs around the area, he wanted to branch out on his own.

Oganov purchased a home and started a business in his basement. His new dental lab served a few dentists in the valley. His company soon outgrew his home. In 2004 he rented a building in Cottonwood Heights behind Smiths on Bengal Boulevard. It was built in 1923 and had never been remodeled.

Oganov applied to the city for a change of zoning and was granted a mix zone commercial and business license. His lab was there for three years and grew to have a few employees. Then he purchased another building in Holladay that is his current location. Later he bought another site in the Foothill Boulevard area.

Oganov dreamed of practicing dentistry again, as he had in Russia. But he couldn't since he didn't have the US schooling for the license. He decided to create a dentist's office and find some American dentists. "I was lucky to find good associates. One of them was an account customer that sent the work to the lab already, and he was one of my best friends. So we started, and everything worked very well," Oganov said.

Over the years, Oral Design Dental has evolved into a one-stop-shop. It includes a dental office, dental lab and an oral surgery clinic. "What this means for patients is that the quality of the work we produce is unparalleled. And it significantly reduces the cost of the beautiful cosmetic work," he said.

Oganov also developed a groundbreaking system that was recently featured in a national dental lab magazine. "Without question, the biggest change was the advent of CAD/CAM technology," Oganov said. "Many think of the decision to go digital as an entirely analytical one, looking at ROI, cash flow, and loan payoff schedules. But for me, the change was a fundamental shift in my thinking as a dental professional."

At first, Oganov resisted changing from his original dental lab procedures. But after reevaluating his business, he realized he was hanging on to an obsolete product. "This was not an easy conclusion to come to; it shook me to my core!" he said. "However, once I was willing to accept it, my whole world changed. Thanks to digital CAD/CAM, my lab is enjoying the most prosperous period of its entire 25-year history. I'm more profitable and delivering better products in half the time. The real moral of this story isn't about technology; the moral is to be open to letting go of your deepest beliefs to grow and move forward."

His new system saves 2.5 hours for dentists. Usually, a patient would tie up a chair waiting for their new crown. But now dentists have a scanner they put in the patient's mouth and send the file to the lab in two minutes. Then the lab does the design, so the dentist can do other procedures for other patients while waiting for the lab.

Most dental offices don't have a CT scan machine, and if they do, they are two-dimensional. Oral Design Dental has a three-dimensional system. Oganov also creates surgical guides to assist other dentists. 

Oral Design Dental's computer network allows dentists to manage patient treatment options better. 

The secure computer network records all the patient's history and all current procedures along the way. It also includes the patient's X-rays and doctor's notes. "What this means for the patient is that the health of their mouth has a complete history. And it allows the dental staff to track the health of your smile over the years," he said. 

The program tracks a patient's oral health and calculates how often they should come back into the office. This allows the patient to get the best preventative and restorative care. "At first, the challenge was that there were many kinds of software under a special license. We also had to find a machine that would talk to the lab machines. It was hard to find a machine and a scanner that could send and accept the open files we had. We had to order the scanner from Denmark. The machine came from Finland. And the Germany machine that creates it is like a robot," Oganov said.

One of the most popular services the company offers is the overnight smile maker. They can deliver a full-mouth restoration in one day. Other dental services offered include implant, crown and bridge restorations, all-porcelain restoration, root canals, cleaning, bleaching and fillings.

Oral Design Dental is at 4802 South Holladay Boulevard and at 1400 Foothill Drive B38 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Website: