Graduation is just around the corner, and I’d like to congratulate the class of 2018 on all your hard work. In celebration of this exciting time in your life, I wanted to share my own personal journey to finding my dream job and the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
It may come as a surprise, but I didn’t always want to be an orthodontist. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a veterinarian. However, after witnessing an autopsy of a dead bull during one of my shadowing sessions, I quickly realized the profession wasn’t for me. I then started searching for other opportunities in the community and came across an orthodontist who let me shadow for an afternoon. Considering my childhood hobby of crafting faux braces from paper clips, I thought I’d give it a shot. During that four-hour shadowing experience, I knew I had found my dream job.
I fell in love with the profession knowing little about it and even less about the schooling and experience required. As soon-to-be-graduates prepare for their next step, I want to share what I learned in the process:
To be an orthodontist, you’ll need a general dentistry degree plus an orthodontic certification – which means a lot of school!
I earned a business degree from Washington State University and then a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Minnesota. That was eight years of schooling, and I wasn’t done yet.
Before earning my certificate in orthodontics in a three-year residency program, I served for three years on active duty as a general dentist and commissioned officer with the United States Navy.
A good mentor is hard to find, and absolutely critical. My mentor was my hometown orthodontist, who generously allowed me to observe, ask questions and get early hands-on experience with dental tools. Later, Dr. Mark Shoger, whose Murrayhill practice I bought in 2014, provided me with mentorship around business ownership. These two doctors helped form my orthodontic philosophy and business strategies, and I am eternally grateful to them both.
The best orthodontists uniquely blend left- and right-brain power. Every day I have to employ the skills of an artist, accountant, computer engineer and counselor. This is a huge reason why I love my job; when you have to wear this many hats, you’ll never be bored!
The industry is changing, and future orthodontists will need to evolve to keep up. In my practice, we employ 3D imaging, 3D printing, custom braces, aligners and accelerated tooth movement – all technologies that didn’t exist 10 years ago. I participate in hundreds of hours of continuing education each year, and students entering the field must be prepared to work to evolve with changing technology and patients’ needs.
Orthodontics is a field that uniquely blends entrepreneurship and artistry with technical expertise. On the brink of massive growth, the orthodontic industry is projected to grow 19 percent between now and 2026. Plus, it’s incredibly fulfilling. Every day I have the honor of helping my patients to achieve healthy smiles and gain confidence. I get to flex my creativity, explore business strategies and develop meaningful relationships with patients that last forever.
 United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 13, 2018.