Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Tag: dentist of the month (Page 1 of 3)

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Lyudmila Kravchuk

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.

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Scott Lafont

Dr. Scott Lafont’s career as a dentist has taken him across the globe to help his patients achieve healthy smiles and great outcomes. These days, he lives with his family in Alabaster, Alabama and practices at StoneCreek Dental Care. In this interview, he shares the story of his career, his thoughts on the future of dentistry and his love of fishing.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your practice. What does an average day look like for you?

I’m originally from New Orleans, but Alabama is my home now. I have the best team — without them, I couldn’t care for patients like I do. I normally see patients in two separate rooms, doing crowns, emergencies, extractions, evaluations for implants and dentures. It’s a multi-faceted practice.

How and when did you decide to become a dentist?

My wife inspired me. When we met, I was a young, enlisted guy in the National Guard with an active-duty job. I wasn’t going to school, but my wife studied dental hygiene. She ended up doing very well and became a teacher at the dental school, and I decided that it was time for me to go back to school full time and finish my bachelor’s degree in biology. Two years later, I went to dental school, graduated from the Louisiana State University School of Dentistry in 2002, and it’s been a blessing ever since.

What led you to practice at your current location?

Over the years, I’ve lived in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Arizona. After I retired from the Air Force, my wife and I knew we wanted to head back to the South from Phoenix. But we didn’t want to deal with the hurricanes and stuff like that in Louisiana. We looked at schools, at places where it would be easy to travel, at places where we would be close to family, at places that had charm and good food, and we decided to settle in the general area of Birmingham, Alabama. We prayed a lot about that decision, and the whole family agreed it was the right choice. Once we arrived, I went into private practice, but I didn’t want to own the practice. StoneCreek Dental gave me the autonomy and support I need to practice dentistry the way I want to practice.

I see that you specialize in implant, cosmetic and complex dentistry. Can you talk about that?

When I was in the Air Force, I was known as a go-getter, and I had a couple different bosses encourage me to get training for implant dentistry. I’ve always been interested in new technologies and learning new ways of doing things that let me work more efficiently and produce better results for my patients. Over the years, I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into learning more and getting training.

You served as a dentist in the armed forces. Tell me about your experience.

I come from a blue-collar family, so joining the National Guard was a way for me to afford to go to college. I did an active-duty job for a few years, met my wife, and was part of the Air Force National Guard for almost 10 years. When I went back to school, I had a scholarship from the military and went back to the Air Force as a dentist. I served my country from 2002 to 2016, both in the US and overseas in Guam and Japan. I’ve cared for new recruits and four-star generals, for Marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers, and sometimes their families. Finally, after 14 years in the military as a dentist, I retired from the Air Force in 2016.

Looking back, it was a blessing to be able to serve my country through my career. I helped a lot of good men and women, learned a lot and was able to take advantage of the opportunities that the Air Force gave me.

What do you enjoy most about being a dentist?

I just love doing dentistry. I love treating patients, and I love dental work in general. I like looking at a situation and figuring out what the best way to fix it is in the way that’s best for the patient. I try to give the best service I can to my patients, but also to listen and see where they’re at, what their wants and needs are and what they can afford.

Often, I’ll see patients who are coming to me for a second opinion. They’ll have seen somebody else who gave them a treatment plan they didn’t understand. Helping patients understand their care, going through the process, explaining different options and opportunities and advancements in dentistry and finally settling on the best plan is probably the thing that excites me most about dentistry.

What challenges do you see facing the dental industry in the future?

I think the biggest change coming to dentistry is the growth of 3D technologies, like 3D printing. That’ll bring down prices for dentists. In the military, I ran a multimillion-dollar practice, but I’ve been on the other side as well, where every dollar matters. It can be a real challenge to bring patients affordable dentistry that’s still at a high quality. I think both dental practices and the insurance industry will need to align to embrace these technologies and settle on new standards of care.

What advice would you give a fresh dental school grad?

“Dental school is not the last place that you learn.” That means if you want to be able to grow as a dentist, you need to put out the effort. Sometimes that means sacrificing personal time and money, but it’s important if growing as a dentist is what you really want to do. My recommendation is to stay on top of new technology and dental materials. It’s better for both the patient and for the dentist to be knowledgeable.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I wish I had more free time! I’m a little old-school, where my mind’s always on business and work. But I do like to fish when I can. We live in a neighborhood with a little lake, and I’m happy to just sit out there and zone out and relax, even if I don’t catch anything. Dentistry can be a stressful career, so it’s important to find moments to enjoy peace and quiet.

I also really enjoy just spending time with my family. Watching movies and shows, playing board games and card games, things like that. My kids are older now — 19 and 17 — and it’s fun to just chill with them.

Congratulations to Dr. Scott Lafont of StoneCreek Dental Care on being named our Dental Health Partner of the Month! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, and tight lines next time you’re out on the lake!

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Alan Bui

Selling hot dogs may not sound like the most logical starting point for a career in dentistry. But Alan Bui, DDS, who grew up helping out with his family’s hot dog truck in Washington, D.C., says he loved befriending the truck’s regular customers. Cultivating relationships that could sometimes last for years made him realize that a career in dentistry — with its close, long-lasting interpersonal relationships between doctor and patients — would be the perfect fit for him.

Dr. Bui graduated from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in 2020. We reached out to him at his office Simply Beautiful Smiles in Abington, Pennsylvania, to discuss his first few years as a dentist, his advice for others just starting out in the field and what he sees as the biggest challenge for dentistry today.

You grew up in northern Virginia and the D.C. area. Why did you decide to practice in Abington, Pennsylvania?

I went to dental school at University of Maryland. I got a position for my residency at Jefferson Abington Hospital in Pennsylvania. It’s about five minutes from where I work right now. My girlfriend and I liked it a lot, so we decided to stay and make this our new home. I love it here.

How and when did you decide to become a dentist?

I grew up in a working-class family that owned a hot dog truck in D.C. When I was selling hot dogs, I would see a lot of the same faces. I could catch up with them every day, and I really saw them throughout their lives. I knew I wanted to do something very personal. I knew I wanted to see people on a continual basis. I also loved science. Dentistry was the culmination of both those things. I can treat patients, get to know the story of their life, their family. I can see them throughout the years and really take care of them. I’m also able to apply a love of science to that. Dentistry was just the perfect fit.

Can you tell me about your work providing free dental care through Mission of Mercy events? Why do you think it’s important to give back to the community that way?

Dr. Bui works with Mission of Mercy in Pennsylvania, a free dental clinic for underserved Pennsylvanians.

Mission of Mercy is a group of dentists who organize events that offer two days of free dental care. A bunch of people line up at 4 in the morning, and we just volunteer our time doing procedures like extractions, fillings, even root canals. We’re there pretty much the whole day, starting at 6 am and finishing maybe 6 pm.

When I was growing up, my family wasn’t exactly poor, but we didn’t have health insurance and we didn’t have the money for things like dental care. I don’t remember having regular dental visits growing up. Luckily, I had good oral hygiene, but I can imagine many people in similar or worse circumstances where they don’t have insurance and can’t afford the dental care. Having a set day where they can access free care makes a big difference in their lives.

What advice would you give to other young dentists just starting out?

Some personal advice: Be honest. Patients know when you’re being honest with them. They can see it. The stress of dentistry goes away when you’re honest with yourself and honest with your patients. Being honest makes a big difference in having a good career.

A consistent challenge for dentists that’s becoming particularly thorny at this time is staffing. Do you have any advice or insight to give other dentists on the issue?

My advice would be: Take the time to check in with your team. Just now, I was having lunch with my team, and we were talking about our days, about life. Make sure everything’s OK with them, and always ask if they have any concerns or questions.

What do you love most about being a dentist?

Talking to patients. Addressing their nerves and anxiety. For me the best feeling is when a patient comes in nervous — you can tell by the way they talk and their body language. But once you take the time to gain their trust, to be honest with them, and have all that nervousness go away, it’s a really good feeling. It’s a great thing to have as a dentist.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for dentistry today?

I’m still a relatively young dentist, but from what I’ve experienced so far, it’s finances — whether or not a patient can afford things out of pocket. When I try to tell a patient they need something for the best long-term prognosis and the best outcome, it’s usually the thing they can’t afford. The biggest challenge is financial access to care.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like physical activity. A lot of dentists can develop back problems, so I’m always at the gym or playing basketball. It’s almost always something physical. I hike a lot with my girlfriend. I like to be active.

Congratulations to Dr. Bui of Simply Beautiful Smiles for being our Dental Health Partner of the Month, and a big thank-you for taking the time to share his thoughts with us!

Dentist spotlight: Dr. Naweed Najand

“We saw your dancing video!” may not sound like something you’d expect to hear from patients as they settle into the dentist’s chair. But it’s a phrase Dr. Naweed Najand hears all the time at his Las Vegas practice Smile Vegas Dental.

Dr. Najand and his staff enjoy using social media sites like TikTok to familiarize patients with the practice (and they’re not afraid to bust out a few dance moves in the process). We caught up with Dr. Najand to discuss the power of social media, the challenges of COVID and the ins and outs of practicing dentistry in the entertainment capital of the world.

How and when did you decide to become a dentist?

It was my first year of undergrad. I always wanted to be in medicine, but I didn’t know if was going to go the pre-med route or go into dentistry. My cousin’s husband was a dentist, so I kind of shadowed him. I really liked the whole aspect of treating patients, working with your hands, having your own practice. That was really intriguing to me.

Las Vegas is a pretty unique city. Why did you decide to open your practice there?

I grew up here. My mom’s family is out here. People always ask, “How do you live in Las Vegas?!” But it’s a great city. There’s a lot of opportunity out here. I just grew up here and decided to stay.

From what you know of dentistry in other places, do you feel that practicing dentistry in Vegas is different than in other cities?

I think in terms of service it is. Las Vegas is known for its service industry. The hotels and the customer experience are some of the best in the world. Growing up here, I worked in the casinos on the strip. One of the things I wanted to bring to the dental field is the customer service that you would get at a really nice restaurant or an excellent hotel. In terms of patients, I feel it’s the same. But in terms of what we provide, I try to go above and beyond in giving people good service. That’s what the residents here expect.

What do you love most about being a dentist?

It’s the patient interaction, getting to know your patients, understanding what their needs are and being able to provide that. With dentistry, you really have an impact on people’s confidence and their self-esteem; if they’re in pain, you have the ability to get them out of pain. One of my favorite parts is getting to know the patient, building that trust, having that long-term relationship.

What advice would you give to a young dentist just starting out?

That’s a good question. One piece of advice is: Take as much CDE as possible. Take as many courses as you can. When you get out of dental school, you know enough to do basic dentistry, but there’s so much more involved. One of my favorite things is learning advanced procedures. It makes dentistry a lot more fun, and you’re doing a big service for your patients. It helps you get to the next level. Keep learning.

The second thing is: Try to be confident. Keep working hard to get better. There’ll be days when things don’t go according to plan or you’re dealing with a tough patient. If you work on improving every day, things become a lot easier. You get more confident, and the patients see that.

What do you think are the biggest challenges to the practice of dentistry today?

COVID’s a big one. It’s tough because patients will miss appointments. They’re nervous about coming in. They’re not sure if it’s safe or not.

Another one is building a good team. It’s been tough finding staff. My office just opened last year. We’re at 10 team members, but as we grow, we want to bring on more team members. It takes time.

What do you like to do in your time off?

I like hanging out with friends and family. I enjoy working out. I enjoy going on hikes. We have really beautiful hikes around Las Vegas. I enjoy going camping, as well. But definitely spending time with friends and family. It’s tough because you get so caught up in work. You always have to remind yourself to enjoy the other parts of life.

Your practice is active on TikTok, and it seems like your office staff and patients have a lot of fun participating. What inspired you to make a TikTok page for your practice?

I was never really into it, but I have a lot of younger team members. We started doing these videos. One of the reasons I liked it was because of the team bonding. It’s just fun making these videos together. It helps engage with some of our patients. We have a lot of patients in the 20- to 35-year-old age range. I’m noticing a lot of them on TikTok now. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a patient say, “Oh, we saw your dancing video!” It’s engaging for them, they become familiar with your practice. They see that you’re just normal people, and they feel more welcome. It’s been really huge for us.

Congrats to Dr. Najand! Learn more about his practice Smile Vegas Dental and follow him on TikTok.

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.

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