Dr. Erin Bang-Crooks, DDS, knew she wanted to work in the dental industry since she was just a teenager. Passionate about creating meaningful relationships, Dr. Bang-Crooks says that it was the promise of getting to know her patients while maintaining a solid work/life balance that sold her on the idea of being a dentist.

After graduating from Columbia University and a residency in New York City, she sought out a balance between the hustle of New York City and her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. She landed in Alpharetta, Georgia and opened a small boutique practice called Ivy Dentistry — a nod to her Ivy League education.

Now with two decades of experience in dentistry, Dr. Bang-Crooks says it’s still those same values of creating and maintaining relationships that keep her going — and that’s why she’s our May Dental Health Partner of the Month!

When did you decide that you wanted to be a dentist and why?

I’ve always liked the idea of the health care field and being able to help patients, but it actually started during high school when a rep from dental school came by and gave us a talk about the shortage of women dentists back then. They talked about the flexibility of hours and balancing your life and career.

What do you love about being a dentist?

I love my patients and the interactions and relationships. I like the fact that I’m helpful in educating them about dentistry and understanding the importance of it. I’m happy being a general dentist because I get to see them more often than I would as a specialist.

Generally, dentistry allows you to have a relationship with patients over a long period of time. There are not many jobs where you have that kind of privilege. I get to see my patients every six months over many years. It’s the best watching young patients grow up right before your eyes. That’s how you really know you’re getting older!

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to yourself when you were first starting out?

It’s helpful if you know early on what you want to do, but if you don’t, just keep exploring different things until you figure that out. Once you’re committed, just go for it and give it 100%. You’ll just sort of become your authentic self. You can figure out who you are through that.

Most importantly, balance your life. I think if you do too much of anything you can lose sight of other priorities, responsibilities or interests, and it sort of takes over. The challenge in life is to have a nice balance with family, career, friends, relationships. In the end, that’s what it’s about: relationships.

How do you do stay balanced?

It’s a constant struggle. Being a working mom, wife, sister, friend. We wear many hats. Dental health is important, but your overall health is really important. If you don’t have your health, everything is harder to manage. I like staying fit and having a healthy attitude towards life.

We all expire. If you think about that, it puts a lot of things in perspective. When we have hard times, we have to remember that we’re all here and we all have an expiration date, so try to make the best of it. If you think about things that way, that problem that you have might not feel so gigantic. Make the best of it every day.

Do you have any funny stories from the dental office?

It’s HIPAA protected, so what happens in Dr. Bang’s office stays here. My lips are sealed. I have plenty of funny stories, but I can’t tell you.

What are the biggest challenges in the industry?

I think the nuanced language in insurance can be confusing to patients. It can be very tricky. I’d like to see it simplified as much as possible so that anyone could understand it.

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’d love to know more about the AAPI figures that you admire. Who are the people who have motivated you in your life and career? How do you use what they taught you?

For me, it’s just family, especially my father who passed away many years ago. He’s always been an inspiration to me. My brothers and I try to emulate his values. I guess that’s how you know what’s important. Even if someone passes away, they still can have influence over you. 

He was a very simple man. He was the strong silent type and didn’t say much. It was always shown through actions. He valued family and friends and wasn’t pretentious. He was a very moral person, and it was a good foundation for our family.

He walked a lot, too. He walked every day, and now I find myself doing that. It’s weird how it just subtly becomes part of you. I find myself doing a lot of the things he used to do. He was a great dad.

What do you do in your free time? Any hobbies?

I’m into fitness and I like being healthy. I actually have a very inspirational personal trainer named James, who I’ve worked with for about two years and want to give a shout out to. In the beginning, I really hated the strength training part, but I’m beginning to embrace it more.

Personal training comes with a lot of life lessons. It’s not that I enjoy the process, but once you do it you feel stronger and you feel proud because you made it through. You kind of just endure. You can apply that towards life, in a lot of ways. It can be intimidating, but the more you practice and do it, the more you see the value in it.

In some ways, I hope that patients feel that way about dentistry. They can be very intimidated about coming in — they don’t want to be here. But once they get to that point where they see the value, the light switch goes off. These days, everything is quick and easy, but I’m trying to preserve those relationships with my patients. I try to treat them like family and help them relax and slow down a bit.

Now that COVID restrictions are beginning to change across the country, what are you looking forward to this year?

It’s been a difficult time, but at the same time I think it helps you self-reflect. I think this true for a lot of people. It makes you prioritize things a little better. It’s really about relationships. That’s what was lacking during COVID. We physically couldn’t be near anybody. When you’re deprived of something, you realize how much you appreciate it.

I really appreciate the simple things in life. I walk more. I take my time sipping my coffee a little longer. I’m looking forward to having a deeper relationship with the people around me and diving in to make them more meaningful. It starts with working with the people who are already around you.