FYI

Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Category: Meet Delta Dental dentists (Page 1 of 3)

Get to know the real dentists and dental staff from Delta Dental’s dentist networks. You’ll get a glimpse into their lives and work through profiles, interviews and more.

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Marta Nieto

Dr. Marta Nieto knows a thing or two about having a passion for dentistry. Born in Cuba, Dr. Nieto came to the United States in 1988, where she obtained her license in 1992 from the University of Florida. She established her own practice, Marta Nieto Dental Spa, in Miami in 2012.

Dr. Nieto says that what drives her every day is a love of perfection and a passion for helping people. Delta Dental caught up with Dr. Nieto during a busy day at her office to discuss what originally inspired her to become a dentist, the ins and outs of practicing in Miami and what she sees ahead for the future of the field.

How and when did you decide to become a dentist?

My whole life I wanted to do surgery. My only game as I grew up was to play surgeon or doctor. I pretended that I did everything in the hospital. If I played with other children, I had them be the mother and father of the baby. I think I just love to help people. I also love beauty and cosmetics.

It was originally my dream to do facial reconstruction. When I started to study to become a dentist, I wanted to have a specialty in maxillofacial surgery for people with congenital malformations.

I graduated in Cuba in 1986 with honors because I was the best student in my class in my year. I came to the USA in 1988, when my son was three years old. In 1992, I got my Florida license.

I wanted to bring my family — my parents, my grandmother — from Cuba, and I had to work very hard. For me, it was very difficult to get a specialty. But I still do cosmetic procedures. I love beauty. When I finish my work, the patient is so happy, because they feel much younger, they feel healthier.

Why did you decide to open your practice in Miami? What are some of the challenges and rewards of practicing there?

I decided to put my practice in Miami because when I arrived from Cuba, my only family in the U.S. was my brother. He lived in Miami. This was why I got established here in Miami. It was for the language, too. My language is Spanish, and half or more of the community here speaks Spanish. It’s easier for me to find patients.

Many years ago, I thought about moving to another place, maybe a more typical American city, but I’m a very family-oriented person. I had my grandmother, my mother, my father, all my family with me, and my son in school, so I didn’t move. Now, I feel happy here in Miami, because my patients are very happy with my work. I love to work with the Spanish community.

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, would you have any advice for young Latina women who want to study a career in dentistry?

You need passion to study dentistry. It’s very hard work. Many people think dentists earn money very easily, but it’s not true. Our career is very stressful. It can cause pain in your back, in your body. You need to love it.

In my opinion, in the university, many people study this career only for money. I’m frustrated when I try to contact new graduates to work in my office, and I don’t know if they have the love they need for the profession. They see the profession as just a way to make money.

Don’t misunderstand me: It’s OK to want to earn money, but you have to care about the health of people. My recommendation is: It’s a beautiful career, but if you don’t love it, don’t do it.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to travel! I love Europe. I love hiking, and I love the beach, the mountains, the rivers — everything to do with nature.

What do you think are the biggest challenges to the practice of dentistry? What do you think is ahead in the future of the field?

I think dentistry is at a revolutionary stage. There are a lot of new procedures and materials arriving to the practice. Years before, dentistry was a career just to do fillings and things like that. But now, dentistry is a much wider career. There’s so much new technology — I think dentistry has a very big future.

If I had to study dentistry again, I’d do it for sure. I have a dream that one day it will be possible to create new teeth with modal cells, with no need for an implant. Maybe I will see it, but maybe another generation will come to do it.

Congratulations to Dr. Nieto on being our Dental Health Partner of the Month! Learn more about Marta Nieto Dental Spa.

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Jason Skinner

When Dr. Jason Skinner isn’t basking in the quiet calm of the outdoors, he’s relishing in the incredible technological advancements that have kept his office an evolving workspace over the last three decades. The father of five (and grandfather of five more) left his hometown of Alberta, Canada to study dentistry in Utah and Virginia before settling down with his own practice in Murray, Utah. Though he received his degree many years ago, Dr. Skinner says he’s never stopped learning, and that’s why we’re excited to name him our September Dental Health Partner of the Month.

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

I decided early on that I didn’t want to get to college and make a lot of changes. I picked about five things that I was interested in and narrowed them down one by one. I wanted to fly jets in the Air Force or be a park ranger or a chiropractor. The last one standing was dentistry. I had a family friend who was a dentist that I looked up to and admired, and he made it sound really interesting to me. Once I made the decision, I did what I needed to do, and I really enjoyed my time at dental school.

What do you love about being a dentist?

I enjoy owning and running my own business. I prefer to be in charge of my own destiny, and I enjoy making decisions and solving problems. Dentistry has countless problems each day that you’re solving.

Additionally, I love building and making things with my hands and dentistry allows that every time you sit down with a patient. The creative juices get flowing when you’re doing dentistry.

On top of that, I love the technology. We’re in a day and age where technology is such a part of our lives. I’ve been in dentistry for 30 years if you count dental school, and there have been so many changes in technology and the way that we practice and perform dentistry. Most of these changes are for the better. They make things safer, faster and more comfortable for the patient. They’ve improved the practice greatly.

How did you get to be so interested in technology?

I could discuss this for an hour, but I’ll try to sum it up: It’s really, really enjoyable to take somebody whose teeth are a mess through the process of cleanings and restorations and maybe some braces or Invisalign. They come in feeling bad about themselves, and you can take them from a difficult place to place where they love their teeth and are proud of their smile. That’s how you develop a really great relationship with your patients. They have a better view of themselves with a new smile and a new confidence. That’s just fun and rewarding.

Technology is involved in all of that. In day-to-day dentistry, we’re using digital scans and x-rays and cameras and digital models. Everything is safer and more accurate. It all works together to make the dental process better.

What are the biggest challenges in the industry?

Staffing is a standard challenge: making sure they’re well trained and available, especially with the difficult employment situation in the country. Our economy is pretty hot in Utah and not as many people can come help out. That’s a challenge.

Working with patients and their insurance or patients who are uncomfortable with the dental office — those are the typical day-to-day challenges in dentistry.

What advice would you give young dentists just starting out?

Embrace new technology and embrace continuing education and learning. I’ve found through the years and many, many courses in medical and dental education that it can cost a lot, but you can also learn a lot. You’re investing in your own skills and your own knowledge. I really appreciate the consistent learning throughout my career. It often seems like the more you learn, the more you realize what you don’t know and how much more you want to continue to learn. 

How do you balance your work and family life?

It’s been a challenge to have a good work-life balance, but dentistry has been good to me in that way. I found that working more than four days a week was rough on my neck, back and shoulders, so I decided to work four days a week early. It’s allowed me to spend Fridays with the kids and doing little trips to Bear Lake, which we love. We’ve enjoyed that time over many years.

We’ve been able to have this family time because of the good schedule that dentists have. I think dentists have been known and criticized for those kinds of office schedules, but I think everyone can see the value of having Fridays off. It’s a great way to get caught up on all the things you can’t do during a regular work week. 

How are you adjusting to life as a grandfather?

Grandpa life is the best! There’s no better time and it’s been great having all these grandbabies coming along, even if they’re coming quick. It’s been a lot of fun. I love that part.

Congratulations to Dr. Skinner on being our Dental Health Partner of the Month! Learn more about Skinner Dental.

Staff spotlight: Debbie Jones

What does work at a dentist’s office look like for an insurance administrator? We asked this month’s Dental Health Partner of the Month, Debbie Jones of Orthodontic Associates in Baltimore, Maryland, that question, and she told us that it looks like a rewarding career spent helping people and working alongside inspiring co-workers. Debbie started out at the front desk, doing consultations and treatment planning with patients. From there, she became the insurance administrator of a multi-office practice serving the greater Baltimore area.


What originally attracted you to the field? What made you want to stay once you were in?

My son was in school, and I was looking for a part-time job. I found one at a general dentistry practice. I learned a lot from the owner’s wife, who was the office manager and very knowledgeable. I started working the front desk, answering phones and doing insurance claims.

When I left that job, I was looking for something full-time and closer to my home, and then I came across Dr. Miller’s practice. They had an opening for an insurance administrator, and I’d loved doing that at my previous job. Helping people figure out their coverage feels like solving a puzzle, and the codes for orthodontics are very easy to familiarize yourself with. With the doctor’s training and advice at this practice, I’ve learned a lot, too.

This is also a very nice place to work. The office feels like a family, and Dr. Miller in particular feels like a cousin. He has a great relationship with the doctors he works with. A lot of them started with us right out of dental school. Dr. Miller’s youngest son joined the practice just this past year, in fact!

What does an average day look like in your role?

Generally, I come in in the morning, check messages and email, and try to help patients who are having problems with their claims and insurance companies who have reached out to us for information.

Back when I first started out, most patients only had insurance from one carrier, and it rarely changed. Now, I would say at least 50% of our patients have dual coverage, so coordinating benefits gets interesting.

Talking to insurance company reps that really understand their product makes it an enjoyable experience. I’ve found Delta Dental’s reps are generally very stable and knowledgeable about their product. They’re easy to work with.

What do you think is the best way for a dentist’s office and an insurance carrier to work together to take care of patients?

Having good customer support and an easy-to-use an online system go a long way towards helping dentists care for their patients. It’s nice to be able to call on a phone and speak to a rep when need to reach out about an issue, but being able to get patients’ info with just a few clicks is very helpful.

September is Healthy Aging Month. What do you think dentists and dental office staff can do to best serve senior citizens and aging populations?

We don’t do general dentistry, so I don’t have much information on that. But I can tell you that Dr. Miller and his associates believe strongly that we should accept patients of all ages. We have patients who came in with problems that are caused by the natural aging process, and sometimes orthodontic treatment can help them and get them to a better place. So we advertise to and educate patients of all ages, not just teenagers or 20- and 30-somethings.

Dr. Miller offers free consultations with no obligations, and we go over the patient’s insurance and their payment options, and we emphasize start-to-finish total costs, so everything is very easy for people to understand.

What do you do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies you enjoy?

Well, my husband is an ex-chef. He does all the cooking, and we watch cooking shows together for fun. I’m also an avid reader. A few years ago, my son gave me an iPad, and I use it to download and read e-books.

Also, and I’m not going to be ashamed of saying it: I’m a huge Judge Judy fan, and I watch her every day. Finally, I spend a lot of time with my grandchildren. I have three, and the two older ones are involved in a lot of sports, so the whole family goes to their events.

If you could go back in time to when you first started your job, or if you were speaking to someone just starting today, what advice would you give?

What I would say is the thing my first office manager told me: It’s your job to know everything about the patient, the patient’s chart and the doctor’s treatment plan. Ask questions. Look at everything and review it closely.

I remember when I started, I would say, “Oh, I don’t really need to look at the patient’s treatment card, because that’s not my business.” And my office manager would tell me, “No, you have to know your patients and what the doctors are doing so that you can give the patients the best service.”

If you don’t know the answer to a question, find someone who does and ask. If you know the answers to questions, or where to find the answers, nothing can upset your day.

Is there anything that you wish dentists better understood about your role as an insurance administrator?

That’s a hard question. I would say, “If we do our job, you don’t have to worry about what’s going on.” I’ve known Dr. Miller a long time, and in this practice, the staff does a good job keeping on top of everything. Dr. Miller and his associates have explained their business philosophy to us and they’re always available when we have questions.

But we strive to not have any of the doctors worrying about patients’ insurance. Their main focus should be on the patient in the chair. They can lean on the staff, and we’re going to get it done.

Any last thoughts?

This is rewarding work. We’re not on the front lines of medicine, stitching people up or anything like that, but I do know that we’re helping people out. It’s rewarding to know that you’re providing a smooth experience for patients and making it something they don’t have to worry about.

We have patients we’ve treated since they were small, and patients who bring the children and grandchildren to us when they need care. My son introduced me to a friend of his, and she remembered me from helping her with her orthodontic treatment when she was a teen. That’s what I like about working in dental insurance. That and the flexible hours!


Congratulations to Debbie Jones of Orthodontic Associates for being our Dental Health Partner of the Month! We appreciate her taking the time to speak with us, and we know that the patients she’s helped make sense of their insurance coverage appreciate her, too.

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Eric Huynh and Dr. Saranya Viyapon

When dentistry is a family affair, work-life balance is more important than ever. For married dentists Dr. Eric Huynh and Dr. Saranya Viyapon, staying busy is a virtue, but so is taking time to focus on themselves and their family. Not only does the Texas twosome owns and operates Oasis Dental in Keller and Confi-Dental in Fort Worth, they also find time to run multiple other businesses and tend to their three daughters. The busy couple works hard, plays hard and enjoys every minute of it.

How and when did you two meet?

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

Dr. Saranya Viyapon: I’m originally from Thailand and we believe in taking care of people, so I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field. I like my schedule to be 9 to 5 but as a doctor, you need to be on call. I knew that wasn’t going to be a good fit for me, so I decided to study dentistry.

I love being a dentist. We’re very busy, but we’re very lucky!

Dr. Huynh: I was pre-med and studying quite a bit, but, to be honest, my score was only a little above average and I wanted to excel at whatever I did. I liked dentistry, also, so at the last minute I switched. It was such a blessing and it worked out quite well. I love being a dentist so much! 

What do you love about being dentists?

Dr. Huynh: Well, I talk a lot, and I love my patients. Most of them have been with me since 1997, when I graduated and was just starting out. We have three or four generations working in my office and everyone feels like family. It doesn’t feel like work anymore. It’s really fun. We’re very blessed. People come here and they stay here. My staff has been with me for 20 years. We’re growing old together. 

Dr. Viyapon: Being a dentist, I just love checking in with my patients. Once in a while, we get patients who are uncomfortable with the dentist and after a while they feel better about it. That’s very rewarding to me. Sometimes we’ll see patients and they’re excited to see you and tell you that they love the way their teeth feel after a cleaning. It’s the little stuff! Plus, it’s great to help people get out of pain.

What are the best and worst parts of being married to another dentist?

Dr. Viyapon: It’s so nice being married to another dentist because we understand each other’s work. We can talk about our days so easily.

Dr. Huynh: We don’t work together in the same office, so the good thing is that we can refer patients to each other if they have certain preferences about their dentist. We can also consult with each other for different cases, which is really nice. But worst? We don’t really have many issues. We have three kids, and that’s enough!

What does quality patient care mean to you?

Dr. Viyapon: Taking care of a patient as a whole and the best that we can. If something is out of our comfort zone, we’ll refer them to a specialist. 

Dr. Huynh: For me, it’s taking care of whatever they need to the best of your ability. My patients are almost family to me. I give all of them my cellphone number, but they’re so respectful about it. They only call when they really need to. I try to think of my patients like they’re my mom, my dad, my sister. I want them to feel comfortable expressing themselves. If they have hesitation and don’t trust you, there’s a problem. 

I think that’s why we don’t have many issues. If there’s a problem, we want them to know that we’ll take care of it. Basically, if they’re happy, I’m happy. 

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

Dr. Huynh: You don’t need to do everything. I was trying so hard to do it all when I started and I had to learn to delegate more. Don’t let everything stress you out because it will work out.

I think dental school can be a rough time for a lot of people. Instructors could be really hard on us and I think they’re much tougher on you than the patients are. Nothing can faze you after that. It made us better people now.

Dr. Viyapon: I’d say, don’t take it too personally. When I started out, nobody told me that, and I’d get patients who just didn’t like going to the dentist. Sometimes it’s nothing personal and we just need to be more understanding with the patient. 

Some patients have a hard time opening up because they think we’re just trying to make money and doing unnecessary work. That’s hard for younger people to learn, because when you’re starting out you think everything will be so ideal. 

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

Dr. Huynh: I am quite busy, besides dentistry. We have three daughters. After the first one, I decided to not work so much because I wanted to spend time with her. We’re very hands on with the kids. As I got older, I got into other businesses. I do real estate outside of this, and it’s tremendously fun. We also own an event center. Dentistry is our 9 to 5, but after that everything is very different.

If I wasn’t a dentist, I’d be an event planner. I love the creative side of it. We really love it, and the kids get involved, too. It’s great for learning business but also brings us closer. We’re always bouncing ideas off each other and working together. It was never supposed to be like this, but I’m very grateful that it is.

Dr. Viyapon: We have three jobs, but we enjoy all of them! On top of that, our oldest daughter just became the president of the drill team this year, so now I’m president of the dance moms! 

To relax, I do yoga and we always take breaks from work. We take long weekends and we go out with friends — especially on Friday nights! During the week, Dr. Huynh does all the cooking, but on the weekends the kitchen is closed, and we always go out to eat. We like to take vacations when the kids are out of school. When we go out or take a break, we only focus on that.


Congratulations to Dr. Eric Huynh and Dr. Saranya Viyapon on being our Dental Health Partners of the Month. Learn more about their practices Confi-Dental and Oasis Dental.

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Dean Salo

Early on, Dr. Dean Salo discovered he had a talent and passion for working with his hands. This has enabled him to improve oral health in distinctive ways as a dentist.

“When I was a kid, it started with model making,” he said. “I used to love buying those kits, putting together different model cars and painting them. I had to have a scalpel and a paintbrush, and that was my passion for many, many years.”

Such skills in analysis and design ran in his family, as both his father and sister were engineers.  “I looked at dentistry as a part of medicine that has a lot of engineering,” Dr. Salo said, “and the kind of dentistry I practice has a lot of reconstruction and engineering. My big passion is building things.”

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from UCLA and at age 24 earned his DDS from the University of the Pacific. A Los Angeles resident since early childhood, he started practice at the Personal Dental Office in Beverly Hills in 1992.

Fourteen years later, he took over the practice and became a hands-on working owner. He envisioned managing a thriving patient-focused practice.

The vision: A multispecialty practice

Today, Personal Dental Office is a state-of-the-art dental care center. Dr. Salo works with business manager Renata Kruk to manage a practice that delivers personalized services and care to patients.

“With Renata helping me,” Dr. Salo recalled, “we became one of the few multispecialty practices around, where patients could come in and see an orthodontist, or an oral surgeon, or a general dentist, or a hygienist, and they wouldn’t have to go from office to office. Our staff specialists were able to communicate with each other very well, because we had one chart where every specialist could record findings to share with the others.

Ms. Kruk, a full-time staff member since 2004, noted that the well-equipped office has computer screens for patients to view dental work in progress, and it showcases the latest digital and scanning technologies.

“We have a 3-D CAT camera that takes a video that we email to our lab,” Dr. Salo explained. “We’re able to mill restorations for both natural teeth and implants, and we make nightguards out of video-imaging – which is three-dimensional impressions – so we don’t have to take a physical impression.”

The focus: Knowing the patients

Dr. Salo’s Personal Dental Office is set up to give “very individualized, personalized care” to patients, Ms. Kruk described. The dentists and staff take time to get to know their patients, not just as clients but also as people with unique concerns.

“We are a large family practice that basically accommodates everything for the patients,” Dr. Salo said. “And we want to know everything about the patients, because the more we know, the more we can fit into their lives, and the more we know what to provide for them.”

June is Pride Month, and from the start, the Personal Dental Office has offered a safe, compassionate, welcoming environment for all patients, including LGBT community members.

“We’re open and accepting, HMO or PPO, race or gender, sexual orientation, open and welcoming,” Dr. Salo said.

A dental school student in the 1990s, Dr. Salo recalled his experiences working with patients at the University of California, San Francisco Hospital during the AIDS crisis.

“As a young dentist, I watched people suffer from HIV periodontitis and immune diseases, so I was trained and comfortable in treating any kind of immune disease that came along,” he said. “At that time, a lot of people with AIDS didn’t have a lot of places to go to get dental care, and they would come to dental schools, because a lot of private practices were too afraid to treat them.”

Afterwards, when he started his practice, he focused on state-of-the-art sterilization and disinfection procedures, and established comfort levels with patients. “The main thing was authenticity,” he pointed out. “I wanted patients to tell me what was wrong with them, tell me about themselves and their lifestyle and about what’s important to them. With Pride, you get to know the patients and let them feel comfortable with us. We tell them about us and let them tell us about them. In this way, we can serve and keep this relationship going.”

The environment: Calm and stress-free

Sensitive to patients who have “dental-phobia”, Dr. Salo makes sure his team takes steps to alleviate anxiety during treatment.

He has an anesthesia license and, through calm demeanor, he and his staff “build confidence through painless procedures”.

If gentle techniques don’t work, the office accommodates patients with more severe anxiety. For 20 years, a certified anesthesiology group has provided customized treatment. “Our staff is trained to deal with patients who are dental ‘chickens’, like myself,” Ms. Kruk added. “We have fun working with them, and 98 percent of our patients’ nerves are soothed here.”

The art: Perfecting the smile

The challenge of creating beautiful smiles has inspired Dr. Salo in his skillful work as a dental architect.

“It’s part of our first attraction,” he said.  “When you see a beautiful smile, it’s the pleasure of a conversation. You know this person has nothing to hide and is confident, and you’re ready to open up and discuss things with that person. That was always my incentive, to make patients feel confident.”

Although patients may have different ideas about outcomes, whether to look natural for their age or maybe younger, Dr. Salo takes their information and goes to work “to architect the smile to their desires and to their facial structure.” This involves discussions about tooth length, color, angle, brightness and customization to arrive at what the patient wants.

Although he now focuses his efforts on reconstruction and implant cases, he does collaborate on aesthetics cases with his daughter Madelyne, who joined the practice after earning her dental degree during the pandemic.

“We are different than other offices in that we’re trying to give the patient a trial moment,” said Dr. Salo.

Ms. Kruk added, “We design it and let them try it on and see how they feel, before they commit a whole new look. And we give them an opportunity to wear it and see what the experience is like and how life-changing a new smile is.”

The return to normalcy: Lessons from COVID

The Personal Dental Office has stayed busy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My house became a call center,” Ms. Kruk said. “We were working nonstop, and we were getting patients from other clinics, because doctors were not accommodating patients. We became emergency central.”

Dr. Salo noted one pandemic side-effect boosted patient activity. “Everybody wanted a great Zoom smile. That has been the blessing for dentistry for the last year.”

He looks forward to patients getting back to regular appointment scheduling and care without worrying about office safety.

“I want to see them get their oral health back in place, not only beautiful teeth but healthy gums,” he said. “My number one goal is to reinstate them back into our hygiene department. We will make sure they’re comfortable coming back into the office and know how safe it is.”

The business model: Being authentic

With his accomplishments, Dr. Salo finds the most fulfillment in the depth of relationships, with his family, his community, his staff and patients, some of them with 30-year histories.

“I am very transparent in who I am,” Dr. Salo said. “I’d like everybody to be as authentic as my family. I truly have the longest-serving employees in the industry. Employees who leave will come back. Every one of our employees represents us and represents me. They are happy working with us, and it’s same thing with our patients.

“We want to know how we can help them, if they need a ride, if they can’t afford care, how we can better their lives and how we can fit into their lives, looking at a long-term relationship. It’s not just making you beautiful, it’s to keep you healthy.

Dr. Salo’s Personal Dental Office has a business model matched to his personality. “We are authentic, humble people and want people to be comfortable with who they are. It’s all about your kids and your friends, and doing good work, having happy employees and happy patients.”

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Erin Bang-Crooks

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.

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