Driven to become a dentist since she was in high school, Lyudmila Kravchuk, DDS, hasn’t let any obstacles stop her from achieving her goal. Originally from Ukraine, Dr. Kravchuk trained in Latvia and now runs a practice in Citrus Heights, California.
Her passion for transforming patients’ lives through dental health motivates her work as a dentist and keeps her patients returning to her practice year after year.
Our Dental Health Partner of the Month for August, Dr. Kravchuk has also been recognized for her dental work in the local community by Russian Time Magazine and the Slavic Community Center of Sacramento.
We caught up with Dr. Kravchuk after a busy week to discuss her story and why she still loves dentistry after four decades.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Dr. Lyudmila Kravchuk, I own a dental practice in Citrus Heights, California, and I do general dentistry. I work with patients of all ages. I opened my solo practice 17 years ago.
I was born in Ukraine. I decided to become a dentist after I graduated high school. I was living in Ukraine at the time. As a Christian, I didn’t join the Communist Party because it was against my values. But because I wasn’t a Communist Party member, no dental school in Ukraine would admit me, so I attended dental school in Latvia. Latvia was also a country in the former USSR, but they had slightly more religious freedom, so I was able to move there to go to dental school.
After finishing the dental program, I moved back to Ukraine, where I started working as a dentist. I worked in Ukraine for 15 years.
Why did you decide to become a dentist?
When I was in school, I knew I wanted to be in medical field the whole time. I thought I’d like family medicine, but it was extremely difficult to get into school for that. So, I decided to go into dentistry, and I really liked it! I’ve been working in dentistry for 41 years now.
When did you move to the United States?
I moved in the United States in 1994 with my husband, two children and my in-laws. I learned that California had a program for foreign dentists, and after passing the board exam in 1995, I got a California license.
When I arrived, I didn’t speak a word of English ― I’d never even heard English before. To teach myself, I started with a dictionary. I would read, and then I would write on the other side of the paper what the word meant. Those were my English classes, basically: dictionary, paper and a pen.
How did you settle on Citrus Heights? What made you decide to move there?
The Sacramento area has a large Slavic community, and I already knew a lot of people here. For my first five years in the U.S., I worked for a dental group. They told me that I was the dentist the doing most production for their office, so I decided to start my own practice! I opened my dental office here in 2005.
Tell us about your day-to-day. What kind of patients do you see? What do you do?
I see all different kinds of patients. My assistant takes x-rays, but I do the exam and treatment plan. I do everything from start to finish except for implants.
These days, I try not to work on Fridays, but I work on demand. If people tell me that they can only come in on a Friday, then I’m happy to come in. Sometimes people even come from San Francisco and Seattle. I have a couple of patients from Boise, and I even have one who called an hour ago coming from Missouri.
Wow! Why do you think patients come from so far to see you?
I think it’s because they trust me. Some of them have known me for 40 years.
What do you enjoy most about being a dentist?
Well, I like to do root canals! I like challenges. I like when people leave happy and smiling. And sometimes when people get new teeth, it can even be life changing. They’re more self-confident when they have a nice smile ― they’re no longer depressed, and they make new friends. Making people happy, when they leave my office happy — that’s what I enjoy most.
As I mentioned, there’s a large and diverse Slavic community here, and many of them come to my practice because there’s no language barrier, especially in the case of the elderly population. Many people are often anxious about going to the dentist, so I try to make it a simple, relaxed experience for them — no pressure.
When you’re not practicing dentistry, what do you like to do in your free time?
I love gardening, I love traveling, and I have seven grandkids in the area who come by my house on the weekends. They keep me busy! Even though I love gardening, I’m doing it less and less every year. I’m busier with the grandkids and with traveling to new places with the family.
I understand that your son has a pretty interesting job.
Yes, he does. He graduated with a degree in master choral orchestra conducting. He’s a high school music teacher, but he also has a non-profit choir, Slavic Chorale. They perform at all kinds of different events and perform in different languages. He absolutely loves choir — he’s into it every day. By the way, I wanted him to be a dentist or doctor, but it wasn’t his thing.
My daughter has been a physician’s assistant for 12 years, though, so I did get one child involved in the medical industry!
What challenges do you see facing the dental industry in the future?
I think that the biggest challenges that I see are dentistry becoming more corporate and the increasing student loans for dental students.
As dentistry becomes more and more corporate, small private practices might get pushed out of the competition. As a result, it’s going to be more and more difficult to have a dentist who can truly be your family dentist over the years. It’s going to be more like a factory instead.
Also, student loans are getting larger and larger, which makes it so much more difficult for new graduates to open their own practice.
It sounds like there are a lot of challenges for recent graduates of dental school. What advice would you give them?
I’d advise them to go to work with another dentist as associate in an office and try to do different kinds of procedures.
Also, try to be nice to people. Be patient. Make them smile.
Congratulations to Dr. Lyudmila Kravchuk on being our Dental Health Partner of the Month! Thank you for sharing your story with us. To learn more about Dr. Kravchuk and her practice, check out Lyudmila Kravchuk Dental Corporation on Facebook.