Nation’s largest privately-owned dental distributor welcomes Katy Cohen to senior leadership team
A strategic national sales and marketing leader joins the nation’s largest independently-owned dental distributor as its Chief Revenue Officer. Katy Cohen’s expertise in highly scientific and complex industries aligns with her role as a new member of the senior leadership team at Benco Dental.
“It’s a testament to our strong position in the marketplace that we’re able to attract highly skilled and proven leaders like Katy to help fulfill our mission of driving dentistry forward. We’re excited to welcome Katy to our executive team at a time when advances in dental healthcare are occurring faster than ever before and driving new opportunities.”
Chuck Cohen, Managing Director at Benco Dental.
Most recently, Katy Cohen led sales efforts as Vice President with McKesson Corporation, one of the world’s largest medical supply distribution companies, overseeing the Ambulatory Surgery and Community Health sectors. Her extensive sales and coaching experience with other Fortune 500 companies include roles with healthcare logistics authority Owens & Minor, and with a medical device division of Johnson & Johnson. Cohen began her sales journey at SMED international, a modular interior and furniture company after earning a B.S. degree in Marketing from Longwood University, Virginia.
“Benco Dental is front and center with an ambitious mission to lead in disrupting the dental healthcare industry through innovative technologies, game-changing offerings and superior customer care. I’m thrilled to be joining a company with a rich history and proven track record of putting customers first, and I look forward to growing sales by delivering products and services that help dentists compete more effectively in today’s dynamic business environment.”
Katy Cohen, Chief Revenue Officer for Benco
Cohen and her husband Greg are relocating their family, including their two sons Gregory and Edward, from Virginia to Pennsylvania.
Katy Cohen shares a surname with Benco Dental owners, the Cohen family, but is not related.
For more information, visit benco.com or call 1.800.GO.BENCO.
About Benco Dental
Benco’s mission: Drive Dentistry Forward℠ through innovative solutions and our caring family culture. Firsts include CenterPoint design/equipment superstores, OneVisit™ open architecture CAD/CAM, Painless® electronic ordering and automated supply management.
Independent since founded by Ben Cohen in 1930, the company has grown to become the country’s largest family-owned dental distributor. Over 1,400 dedicated associates serve customers at locations coast-to-coast including 400+ sales representatives and 300+ factory-trained service technicians.
Benco is one of Fortune’s Best Workplaces in Health Care and Biopharma for three consecutive years, a NAFE Top Company for Executive Women for two consecutive years, and among Pennsylvania Best Places to Work® for 12 of 14 prior years.
That product was Pulpdent, a premixed calcium hydroxide paste used for treatments like pulp and root canal therapy. Dr. Berk began selling the product in 1947. Today, Pulpdent Corporation’s third generation, Leah Berk, Pulpdent Media and Communications Manager, and cousin Lewis Berk, Pulpdent Strategic Operations Manager, work with their family to continue a legacy that began over 70 years ago.
“Dr. Harold Berk was my grandfather, and company founder. Dr. Berk and Benjamin Rower started a company to manufacture and market the product known as Pulpdent Paste. The company name was eventually changed to the Pulpdent Corporation in honor of Dr. Berk’s original product.”
Leah Berk, Pulpdent Media and Communications Manager.
Today, the multi-million dollar company is a world leader in esthetic bioactive restorative dental materials. Leah, with the company four years, plays a significant role marketing the company’s wide array of award-winning products and its mission.
“My role is to create, package and distribute content for print and digital media channels. I help tell the story of Pulpdent, our products and the people who use them. One of the highlights of my job has been the opportunity to collaborate with practitioners and industry thought leaders to develop content pieces that educate and inspire clinicians.”
Leah Berk, Pulpdent Media and Communications Manager.
She is not alone in her quest. Five family members also work to grow and manage the dental business in Watertown, Massachusetts as part of Pulpdent’s leadership team.
They include Dr. Harold Berk’s sons — the second generation — Ken, Fred and Don, and his grandchildren — the third generation — Lewis Berk, Strategic Operations Manager and Leah.
The Pulpdent family team thrives together; it’s no wonder why the company has continued to grow and provide dental products for industry professionals for nearly eight decades.
“We have two generations working together with complementary skill sets and are continuously learning from one another. The older generation has over 130 years of combined dental industry knowledge, while the younger generation has experience with newer technologies and social media. Having grown up together, we know what makes each of us “tick” and how to communicate effectively with one another.”
Leah Berk, Pulpdent Media and Communications Manager.
Family collaboration and company growth has enabled Pulpdent Corporation to add new and innovative products to its dental catalog. Most recently, the company has introduced the first light cure composite designed to mimic the properties of natural teeth: ACTIVA Presto.
ACTIVA BioACTIVE products help stimulate the formation of apatite (the building blocks of teeth), chemically bonds to teeth and help protect against decay. The products in this line are the first dental resins with a bioactive ionic resin matrix, shock-absorbing rubberized resin and reactive ionomer glass fillers. The material actively participates in cycles of ionic exchange, which helps tooth maintenance and oral health.
Leah shares advice for aspiring family partnership:
“Capitalize on each family member’s unique skills and experience. Have everyone play to their strengths and find ways to compensate for their weaknesses. Understand that what may be obvious to one family member may not make sense to someone else. Take the time to explain and re-explain your ideas and realize that it takes time for everyone, even family members, to assimilate new information.”
Leah Berk, Pulpdent’s Media and Communications Manager.
It also helps to spend time outside the office together. Leah says she and her family have fun outside the dental industry. They often spend their summers together on the sandy shores of Cape Cod, swimming, boating, playing tennis and grilling.
“We all love to cook and often have potluck dinners together,” added Leah.
Want to learn more about ACTIVA BioACTIVE?
Contact your Friendly Benco Rep or visit Benco.com
As a digital platform, Instagram launched on Oct. 6. 2010, and garners over 100 million photos a day. Two-hundred million users visit at least one business profile daily, making the app a wise marketing strategy for businesses in all industries.
Dr. Kahng’s profile, which to date features an impressive following of over 18,700, with a mere 177 posts, presents the 33-year-old as a modern, progressive dental professional. See one recent post below:
In the post above, Dr. Kahng addresses patient concerns about x-rays and radiation. She writes in a conversational tone that can appeal to both her patients and even dental colleagues.
With clear, high quality photos, she leads an average of 5,000 people to her profile weekly, where she shares her persona, dental insights and love for helping others.
“I love being able to work with my hands. It makes the time just fly by when I get in the zone. It’s also incredibly powerful, being able to help a patient build confidence in their smile. It totally changes the way they present in the world both at work and in their personal lives.”
Dr. Joyce Kahng, on being a dentist.
Behind the scenes with this ‘OC Dentist’
The “OC Dentist” brings this enthusiasm with her, from her office Orange + Magnolia Dental Studio in Costa Mesa, California, and presents it with professional portraits, narrative captions and stories on her Instagram profile.
The stories she features in her highlight reel, those little bubbles at the top of an Instagram feed, include daily updates about herself, her studio and dentistry.
A recent story shows a video of her brown puppy curled up on the floor sleeping; the pup naps as Dr. Kahng sweats it out on a Peloton. Text in the story: “with my favorite pupperooooo” and “Just finished a holiday ride!”
Another story shows her father outside cooking on a grill. She admired her father as she filmed. Text in the video: “My dad has fully committed to a whole head of white hair. This is my destiny,” Dr. Kahng whispers behind the camera, “Looks good dad, looks good.”
The stories mentioned above are consistent across most Instagram accounts; random snippets of the account holder’s daily life. But this doctor also takes planned, strategic approaches to her stories that spread brand awareness and inform patients about her profession.
A feature on her profile, #dentaltalk, is a series of videos where Dr. Kahng discusses topics that patients care about, such as whether a dentist should drill or not drill a tooth where there is a suspected cavity.
“This is a really tricky situation because as dentists, we’re trying to stay conservative and we want to be responsible and definitely not drill everything that we see,” Dr. Kahng said in a post, as arrows fly and attach to her photo and dissolve leaving behind red kisses; it’s one of many face filters found on the app.
“It’s a hard conversation to have with patients because patients want to know 100 percent there’s a cavity inside there. At a certain point, we’re basically saying you have to put your trust in us,” she explained.
‘Change the way patients see the dentist’
She admits that social media is an essential marketing tool for dentists.
“My whole presence on social media is built around being able to change the way patients see the dentist. If there are that many people on social media, especially young people, we as dentists have to go where the people are!”
Dr. Joyce Kahng explains social media as a necessity.
Depending on the business type, some organizations will use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or all platforms to market themselves and their product or service. For Dr. Kahng, a rising social influencer, Instagram is the most useful platform for her purposes.
“I love Instagram because it is a perfect medium to build relationships. There are just so many fun ways to use it and I love how the stories keep me connected to patients as well! They can see some of the behind-the-scenes of what my life as a dentist really is like.”
Dr. Joyce Kahng.
How does Dr. Kahng attract 70% of her new patient base?
The doctor says that social media is essential for her practice’s growth, “It drives patients to my practice.” She estimates that 70 percent of her new patient base is because of her social media presence.
“This also includes the new word of mouth, where many of my patients will share my Instagram with a friend of theirs. It’s the modern Business card!”
Dr. Joyce Kahng
With such a large Instagram following, at 18.7K, many of her colleagues and friends ask how she built her social media presence. So many, that she decided to write it all down, a decision that would later lead her to becoming a published author.
Creating a step-by-step guide to Instagram marketing
“The more we can be on Instagram, the more we can change the face of dentistry together. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about it from dentists who have said I really helped give them guidance and motivation to put themselves out there. Putting yourself out there is one of the scariest things as a Doctor and there is a lot of fear around it.”
Dr. Joyce Kahng.
An impressive repertoire of education and experience
A graduate of the University of the Pacific, Dr. Kahng has a bachelor of science degree in biology. She earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco. She completed her general practice residency at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Jacobi Medical Center, in 2011.
Shortly after opening Orange + Magnolia Dental Studio in 2014, Dr. Kahng became a licensed real estate agent serving the Orange County area in California.
At the University of Southern California, she dedicates her efforts as an assistant clinical professor for the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry’s restorative sciences department, where she works with aspiring dental professionals to develop their hand skills on mannequins.
‘Control your own narrative’
Most recently, Dr. Kahng has focused her efforts in the digital realm on Instagram. She suggests that all dental professionals adopt a social media marketing plan and take advantage of this dynamic marketing tool.
“It is absolutely essential for dentists to build a brand and market themselves on social media. Social proof is one of the most impactful ways of marketing and doctors need to realize that they cannot let others control their narrative. Take back control of your own narrative.”
Want to nominate yourself or a colleague for #IE40Under40?
For the 10th year, Incisal Edge will honor America’s best young #dentists. Nominate yourself or a colleague in a General Dentist or Specialist category before the 02.03.19 deadline: https://goben.co/2Nn77ls
Incisal Edge announces winners of its 2020 competition for dental practice design
Inspirational design can be found around every corner – from the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles to the historical architecture of the world.
In 2020, ajuried panel of experts selected standouts in dental practice design across the U.S. from among nominees in the 2020 Incisal Edge Design Competition. Award-winning designs have been created in Charlotte, North Carolina, San Antonio, Texas, Delaware, Ohio, Brooklyn, New York and Drums, Pennsylvania.
Annually, Incisal Edge, the leading lifestyle magazine for dental professionals, offers an opportunity for national recognition in outstanding office design. The magazine’s team canvasses doctors, architects, designers, and students for nominations across four categories, then turns it all over to the blue-ribbon panel of judges. This year’s competition ran from July through November, 2019.
Design of the Future — Artistic Dental Studio, Cosmetic Dentistry, Mingda Liu of Brooklyn, New York
Design of the Future, Runner up— Seattle Dentistry, Nina Ciarla of Drums, Pennsylvania.
Honorees will be featured in the print and digital issue of Incisal Edge magazine in spring, 2020.
About the contest
Published by Benco Dental, Incisal Edge celebrates dentists’ achievements both inside the operatory and during their hard-earned downtime. For additional information regarding the magazine, visit: http://www.incisaledgemagazine.com/
The competition’s juried panel from the dental and architectural worlds included: Tristan Hamilton, DDS, M. ARCH.; Joyce Bassett, DDS, FAACD, FAGD, Phyllis Marshall-Rice, LEED AP, EDAC, and Dr. Sabiha Bunek. Dr. Hamilton and Dr. Bunek are previous recipients of Incisal Edge awards for dental practice design.
When it comes to dental practices, Kay Huff’s got vision.
It was over 30 years ago that this one-woman whirlwind began helping teams as a dental practice coach, and since then she’s been channeling that energy as a driving force to help hundreds of practices reach and exceed their professional goals.
Passionate about her work, this Director of Coaching with Benco Dental’s Practice Solution Team brings a strong background in dental business systems, team motivation, leadership, and practice profitability.
Those heading to Yankee Dental Congress January 30-February 1 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center can benefit from Huff’s insight. On February 2 from 10 a.m. to noon, she will help dentists take the leap to build better systems, but not before creating their parachutes — high-performing dental teams. Register here.
Interested in finding Practice Solutions for your dental office?
Schedule a session with Kay Huff at 1.800.GO.BENCO.
Watch for details about Huff’s upcoming courses at Chicago Midwinter Dental Meeting: “Piecing Together Your Insurance Puzzle, “ February 21, 2020 from 1-2:30 p.m. and “The Fearless Dental Team,” Friday, February 21, 2020, 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Elastic-edge sensors. Auto-retractable forceps. Universal resin cement. ClingShield® x-ray aprons. Award-winning handpiece attachments. American surgical-grade steel tip hygiene instruments.
Benco Dental is driving dentistry forward with the newest and coolest technology doctors need, in the form of its Six Neat Things promotion.
The nation’s largest independently-owned dental distributor strives to make it simple to stay up to date with the latest equipment and technology.
This smile is here to stay
Palmero Cling Shield X-Ray Apron: Finally an apron that stays put when you place it on a patient. Upgrade to a Palmero’s ClingShield® x-ray apron. They feature a medical grade vinyl backing that is textured to prevent sliding and provide stability. Protectall™ versions have a built-in thyroid collar. Available in 10 different colors with a Smiley Face option for children (or anyone who needs some cheer!). Features include easy-to-clean materials, and nylon loops that allow for easy storage. High density lead and lead free materials effectively shield radiation. Order today.
Forceps, meet springs. Hello, Frings®
Imagine a pair of forceps that offer a spring-driven “auto-retractable” design. ids presents Frings® so that dentists no longer have to use fingers to open forceps. In the mix, a Lifetime Guarantee. Available in a wide range of beak designs, for optimal grip, Frings are designed to reduce the risk of tooth fractures. Frings are crafted from 100% German Stainless steel and feature a trademarked two-tone blue finish with an ergonomic handle. Selected by The Dental Advisor as an Editor’s Choice, Frings bears a +++++ rating. Order today.
This bond is strong.
As an inert material, Zirconia is very difficult to bond with, but Premier ZR-Cem solves this issue. This self-adhesive universal resin cement is specially formulated for zirconia restorations, but enables a strong bond to all ceramic materials, dentin and enamel. Unlike other cements, ZR-Cem’s BPO/Amine free initiation system translates to long-lasting color stability.
For ease of use, dispense the cement and seat the restoration. Room temperature storage is optimum, so there is no need for refrigeration. ZR-Cem also features optimal viscosity, easy handling and a fast and easy clean-up
A better patient experience is possible thanks to virtually no post-operative sensitivity and lasting color stability.
The NSK Nano 95LS 1:5 increasing handpiece attachment offers the quality and durability of the Z-Series of attachments (titanium body, ceramic bearings, Quattro spray, DLC coating, cellular glass optics, clean head system, push-button chuck, microfilter).
It is 10 percent lighter and shorter than conventional models, making it a perfect fit for smaller hands, such as those of the female dentist. The size makes it feel as though it is a natural extension of the hand.
NSK Nano 95LS reduces fatigue during procedures and improves fingertip dexterity.
Vatech’s Wave Sensor features an elastic edge that makes positioning much easier than before. It conforms to the shape of the lingual surface of the teeth and reduces overlap. Along with great resolution, the sensor is comfortable to the touch and has ergonomically rounded corners.
The Wave Sensor is rated at the highest level of ingress protection- IP68; It is classified to have complete protection against contact from dust and is able to be immersed under water for a prolonged period of time.
This prestigious recognition in the publishing community benchmarks excellence in editorial, design.
Incisal Edge earns top spot in three categories and honorable mention in nine during the 2019 FOLIO: Eddie & Ozzie Awards that celebrate excellence in journalism and design across all sectors of publishing.
premier dental lifestyle magazine — Incisal Edge, published by Benco
Dental since 1997 — is recognized for its offerings across digital and print
media, as well as video. Winners from B2B, consumer, association and regional
publishing brands were announced during a celebratory gala on October 30 during
The FOLIO: Show at the Hilton Midtown in New York City.
In the B2B, Healthcare / Medical / Nursing category, Larry Cohen, Chairman and Chief Customer Advocate for Benco Dental received an Eddie for “Larry’s Collection,” a column on dental artifacts culled from hundreds in his personal reserve.
Kristie Ceruti, the magazine’s Digital Editor, garnered an Eddie for a series of articles that takes an architectural and interior design tour of the country’s most impressive dental practices.
IncisalEdgeMagazine.com received an Eddie for website with a revamp of the digital product by Christopher Cruz, Kevin Garubba, Kristie Ceruti, Rachel Pugh and Loriah Webby.
in which Incisal Edge received
honorable mention awards include:
awards for journalism
Video, B2B, Healthcare / Medical / Nursing: Incisal Edge, “I Am Lucy Hobbs” by Eric Larsen
awards for design
Design, B2B, Above 100,000 Circulation: Incisal
Edge, Fall 2018 by Loriah Webby
Design, B2B, Above 100,000 Circulation: Incisal
Edge, 40 Under 40: the 8th annual Kind of Blue, Fall 2018 by Loriah
Design (Single Magazine Issue), B2B: Incisal
Edge, True North: Winter 2019 by the Incisal
Edge Design team of Sharon Fiorini, Donna Shrader, Jimmy Musto and Loriah
B2B, Print: Incisal Edge, True North:
Winter 2019 by Eric Larsen
B2B: Incisal Edge,
IncisalEdgeMagazine.com by Christopher Cruz and Kevin Garubba
are a constant source of inspiration, and Incisal
Edge is the direct result. Their passion unites us around the shared
purpose of driving dentistry forward, and that in turn pushes us to constantly
elevate our standards of quality,” said Incisal Edge co-founder Chuck Cohen. “We’re very proud that
our team’s hard work is being recognized alongside so many worthy fellow
The Folio: team, along with their panel of
200+ judges, received more than 2,000 entries submitted this year in 33
categories. Other publishers among the 2019 finalists are: ESPN the Magazine,
Forbes Media, Hearst Magazines, Meredith Corporation and Variety. View
the full list here.
Incisal Edge is a previous recipient of an Ozzie Award for Under40Summit.com in the category of Site Design for in 2018. To learn more about Incisal Edge, visit: http://www.incisaledgemagazine.com/
About Incisal Edge
Knowledge. Success. Life. Those three
words, printed on the cover of every issue, guide editorial content for the
national’s premier dental lifestyle magazine — Incisal Edge. Published by Benco Dental since 1997, Incisal Edge celebrates dentists’
achievements both inside the operatory and during their hard-earned downtime.
Known for its “40 Under 40 — America’s Best Young Dentists,” which highlights
the country’s brightest rising stars, the magazine’s content ranges from “The 32
Most Influential People in Dentistry” and news about the latest techniques,
tools, and dental practice designs, to the best in travel, automobiles, and
timepieces. Incisal Edge magazine’s
print edition reaches 130,000 readers quarterly via a direct mail distribution
package with Dentaltown magazine. Digitally, incisaledgemagazine.com, leads
with dynamic visuals and follows with exclusive web content, an improved mobile
experience, and a centralized nomination hub for the magazine’s signature
awards: the aforementioned 40 Under 40, the Lucy Hobbs Project Awards for
Exemplary Women in Dentistry and the Incisal
Edge Design Competition for interior design, architecture and space
planning within the dental profession.
From Phoenix to Chicago and across the U.S., NSK Dental made an impression on women in dentistry this fall.
On September 28, the American Association of Women Dentists (AAWD) recognized the company’s Nano 95LS electric handpiece attachment in the 2019 Best New Product Contest. During the 98th Annual Conference of AAWD at the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa, in Phoenix, 2019 President Dr. Brittany Bergeron presented the award to NSK representative Katie Capalungan.
During the event, AAWD conference attendees voted on exhibitors’ products, and the NSK Nano 95LS received the most votes.
“Women are an important and growing demographic in dentistry. We wanted to show our support through a line of handpieces that meet their needs from an ergonomic perspective, which will ultimately impact their outcomes while in practice, and we believe that the Nano handpieces deliver on this.”
Colan Rogers, President/GM at NSK stated in a press release.
Lighten up? The Nano answers that call
The NSK Nano 95LS 1:5 increasing hand-piece attachment offers the quality and durability of the Z-Series of attachments (titanium body, ceramic bearings, Quattro spray, DLC coating, cellular glass optics, clean head system, push-button chuck, microfilter).
However, the award-winning product is 10 percent lighter and shorter than conventional models, making it a perfect fit for smaller hands, such as those of the female dentist.
The size makes it feel as though it is a natural extension of the hand. The NSK Nano 95LS has a maximum speed of 200,000 min-1, for FG burs, and a suggested retail price of $1,629.
“I was delighted to see a new partner of AAWD won our product of the year contest! It’s exciting to see that manufacturers are starting to make more products for women and their individual needs.”
Dr. Britany Bergeron, AAWD president and 2019 conference chair stated in a press release.
NSK America specializes in ultra-high-speed rotary equipment and is passionate about creating innovative products that deliver outstanding value. NSK delivers a growing range of dental equipment, including air-driven and electric handpieces, specialty handpieces (endo, surgical, hygiene), electric motors and maintenance systems. NSK manufactures almost all parts in-house to guarantee precision, reliability and unmatched performance of its products.
In 1921, during the annual meeting of the American Dental Organization, the Federation of Women Dentists was formed. Now known as the American Association of Women Dentists, the organization is committed to advancing, connecting and enriching the lives of women dentists.
The organization’s membership is comprised of a diverse group of women at different stages in their careers and working in all areas of dentistry. AAWD connects women of all generations to improve the overall health and personal lives of the people they serve. For 96 years, the American Association of Women Dentists has been a trusted resource and voice for women in the dental profession.
What would you do to protect your family in a country plagued by war, poverty, labor camps and the very real possibility of execution? Would you escape?
That’s what Dr. Tori Thuy-Conrad’s parents did to flee post-war Vietnam, although it wasn’t as easy as hopping on a plane. In fact, the government declared leaving the country illegal.
“We were so poor, and living in that state of poverty was no way to live. We didn’t have much food. My parents’ jobs didn’t provide for a hopeful future for our family.”
Dr. Tori Thuy-Conrad said, recalling the stories her parents told of Vietnam.
The only way many Vietnamese people could escape communist oppression was by boat, a risky attempt some refugees did not survive. Those who were brave enough to flee, an estimated 1.5 million of them from 1975 to 1995, were known as “Boat People.”
In 1980, when Dr. Conrad was just six weeks old, she and her family boarded her father’s fishing boat, a vessel not designed for the open ocean, and were joined by seven other siblings and cousins.
They sailed into the South China Sea from Hue City, not knowing where, when and if they would make landfall. They sailed for days, weeks, over a month, not knowing where the tides would take them.
“We spent over 38 days at sea without a definitive destination. We arrived at a refugee camp in Hong Kong, where we resided for months until we were brought to a brighter future by the sponsorship of a United States family.”
Dr. Tori Thuy-Conrad, recalling the stories her parents told of Vietnam.
Dr. Conrad ended up in Denver, Colorado, a stark difference from the tropical climate of central Vietnam, and began to live an American life.
Finding her dentistry destiny
Dr. Conrad attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry, but the atomic mass of atoms was not all she found. She also met her husband there, and a burning desire to help people.
“I’ve always known I wanted to be in the health care field, helping others heal through medicine, especially children.”
After graduation from Coe, she moved to Minneapolis to study dental hygiene at the University of Minnesota, but she wanted more, and continued her education to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree.
Today, the 2019 Incisal Edge 40 Under 40 honoree owns and practices at Tweet Pediatric Dentistry in Chanhassen, Minnesota, and is a mom of three. She juggles the responsibilities of a full-time dentist and a mother, an act that has its challenges.
“I think the most challenging aspects of dentistry is not the dentistry, it’s running a business. I had to learn as I went along and made a lot of mistakes. My mentors have guided me along the way.”
Although it’s difficult to run a business, Dr. Conrad loves her patients. She believes she makes a difference in their lives, and they return the favor to her.
“I am so grateful I get to do this and make such a difference in these children’s lives. The high-fives and hugs that I’m left with when my little patients leave their appointments leave me beaming with happiness.”
Dr. Tori Thuy-Conrad
When not in her operatory, Dr. Conrad is in the kitchen experimenting. She loves to cook for her family — and with them. Her favorite cuisine is Italian, without the pasta. She likes to stray from her cookbooks and allow her creativity to take over.
“I love using the fresh herbs and flavors, and pairing them with more proteins and vegetables in place of pasta. I try to create dishes without a recipe. I find it most rewarding when I have someone who eats my creation and provides raving remarks on a recipe that does not exist. It’s the best compliment.”
Dr. Conrad’s dreams never end. She wants to improve her culinary skills and one day compete on the Food Network show Chopped, a challenging competition where three chefs battle for supremacy. She also wishes to pilot a plane.
With many years of dentistry behind her, she has advice for those who dream to be who she is—a successful, practicing dentist.
“Utilize all resources and mentors out there. There are so many people willing to lend advice, reach out often and be willing to extend the same as you gain experience and knowledge. I give many thanks to my mentors for helping me reach my dreams, but also to alleviate and get me through the challenges I face.”
If anyone doubts their dreams, they need to speak with Dr. Conrad, whose tenacity and motivation is the stuff of inspiration.
Dentistry in one of the few fields of study where what we create, as practitioners, is physical in nature. As a result of that, it’s easy for us to compare the fruits of our labor to photographs found in textbooks or ones referenced on the lecture circuit. All too often we lose sight of the fact that we work in a very unforgiving environment of a human mouth. We try to recreate the ‘Taj Mahal‘ of crowns in patients who are fearful, who wiggle and dance in the chair, who cough and spit during procedures, and who are constricted by finances. Furthermore, our fairy tale mouth rehabs are limited to an hour of chair time and are constantly interrupted by hygiene check, patient messages and the occasional compressor mishaps.
This idea of seeking perfection isn’t an instinct, but is rather self-taught and further reinforced by our educational background and consequently our practice. Growing into a relationship with what is perceived as perfect we suffer both physically – as we hunch overtime in tedious practice and emotionally – in lacking self acceptance and resorting to self deprication). And as we fail to produce the textbook endo, each and every time, we are unable to forgive ourselves and often forget that we, too, are human. We struggle with wanting to be perfect when we should realize we are just good enough being perfectly imperfect. As far as the quality of work is concerned: striving for perfection and attaining perfection are two very different things. In understanding and separating them, we can find more peace in our mind and satisfaction in our work.
How does it all begin?
As early as high school we begin in our pursuit of numbers. In those numbers we develop an anchor. We start chasing that ‘the high score.’ .This doesn’t necessarily pertain to everyone, there are some very talented people out there to whom this won’t apply to; but I’d estimate that most of us, who have the seed in ourselves to seek higher education, any kind of graduate study, will end up making ourselves vulnerable to numbers.
In its infancy this relationship with numbers is fairly underdeveloped and as inexperienced and vulnerable students that’s when it’s initiated. At first it’s very unassuming. Higher grades in high school tend be received with much less study, than in college or professional school. As we keep those grades high, we gather the attention, and dare I say respect, of our parents, teachers and classmates. In time, chasing the A, becomes like a casino machine payout. Get an A: ding! ding! ding! And so, we keep chasing the payout. The other thing that begins during these formative years is a quest to be the number one, and looking at our peers as our fierce competition.
The ease of high scores settles a bit in college. It’s a larger pool of thinking minds, chasing that same A. But as our plans toward graduate school sharpen, so must our grades. And once again: we chase the A, the DAT score, the ranking. Ding, Ding, Ding, goes the payout. Like an addiction. The anchor is established even deeper. And as before we continue to compete. Upon college graduation, having been habitually graded, we become comfortable with our anchor number. And this in turn, ends up tying to our self worth. It becomes automatic on our minds: high score produces a good day, it increases our self worth and a low score can lead to self loathing.
Maggie W. Augustyn, D.D.S.
Each one of us comes up with a sort of scale of what that lucky anchor number. Is it a 3.5 GPA or 3.9 GPA? The higher the number with which we have this relationship, the more intense the pressure. And this goes on all the way thru dental school, who knows maybe even post grad. As does the peer rivalry. Our self esteem is at its peak as we gain that acceptance to dental school. That’s the we hear the biggest Ding! of all.
Once in dental school we may crash a bit. We are no longer that 5%, 10%, maybe not even top 25%. Now, we are all pretty much the same. Similar GPA, test scores, extracurriculars. Nothing to make us extraordinary. The Ding’s don’t come as often. Of course, as with everything, there are outliers, but most of us, are just average, smack down in the middle of the bell curve. And now what: does the occasional C, or mostly Bs cloud our self worth? No, we are forced to find a different type of anchor; we begin to tie our self worth to what we perceive to be the quality of our dentistry.
Remember that we have been chasing a number on a grading scale, we have tied our self worth to some anchor; we have tied our self worth to the act of being graded; And now comes the translation which starts with our preps being graded. Our endos being graded. But not just that, we can see the tangible prep, its inclination, the uniform margins, the fill to the apex, or past the apex; and we start to grade ourselves. Sometimes, we repeat in our minds what even our toughest critics wouldn’t dare to say. A dry socket can make us feel like a failure. A dry socket can make the patient look at us as a failure. None of this is true! We replace the number grading system to which we tied our self worth to, with an anchor of biased self evaluation of the quality of our work.
How do you overcome it? How do you balance the scales?
We can ask ourselves: Can we do better? Can we produce more ideal dentistry, to increase the highs and eliminate the lows? Can we work harder at being perfect? It’s a simple answer, and the answer is: no. I think all of us do the best that we can, with the skill set that we have, with the procedures and materials, with the flow of the practice and with the quirky environment of the oral cavity. We care about our patients and we care about our reputation. So to say, that if we just became better dentists, our lows would be eliminated is unrealistic and erroneous and quite frankly impossible. It’s impossible to attain perfection, each and every time, maybe even ever.
Overcoming the desire to attain perfection: A how-to
First and foremost we must accept that we are perfectly imperfect. We must stop using our short crown margins and endo underfills as the definition for our self esteem. But how? As trivial as it may seem, allow me to restate: we must forgive ourselves for the imperfect. Not walk away from it, but simply forgive, and build on it. We tried our best, we may not have attained that grade-A endo fill, and we forgive ourselves. Or maybe, look at it this way, we give ourselves permission to be imperfect. Please understand that imperfect doesn’t translate into sloppy dentistry, nor is it substandard care.
Imperfect is simply what it states: not perfect, or at least not perfect each and every time. “I have permission to do the best I can, and still come short of what is ideal.” And as we have that permission, we also piggyback the fact that we have room to improve in the current clinical situation and in the future. If the endo fill isn’t ideal, we can redo it, or we can refer out to a specialist. We can choose more continuing education, which may lead to ease of practice. But in truth, neither a referral to an endodontist, nor an 8- hour course in the use of microscope will produce perfection every time. Accepting the idea of imperfection will keep us grounded. And in time will add humility. Because aren’t we just a bit arrogant to expect that every treatment we render be textbook worthy?
We must define and recognize our weakness.
We can’t turn weakness into a strength if we keep denying our weakness. A weakness can be a learning experience. But more so, we also can’t forget that imperfection isn’t a weakness, it isn’t even a characteristic… it’s an unavoidable reality. We have to acknowledge when we are being self critical and recognize that every emotion, serves a purpose; negative feelings are simply a way of receiving information. Having recognized a negative experience we give ourselves permission to be upset and to be regretful. And that’s how we stop it from becoming an exercise in self loathing. This entire exercise will lead to forgiving ourselves our shortcomings. When we are unable to forgive ourselves that’s when we forget that we too are human.
Another practice to follow is to make a commitment to celebrate! celebrate! celebrate! our strengths. If necessary, take a minute each day and write down what is celebration worthy. When receiving a complement, take the time to marinade in it. Really, take a nominal 90 seconds and allow yourself to just be present. Let it seep in. Let it sink in. Stay mindful of it as much as you can all day.
Now, if none of those are working and if we are still really having a hard time with guilt or shame or other negative emotion: writing a note of apology to self can be very helpful.
And last, if your self critical nature is disallowing you from a mindful living, if your self loathing prevails, seek the help of a professional.
About the blogger
Maggie W. Augustyn, D.D.S. is a practicing dentist with over 15 years of experience. She graduated from Benedictine University as a University Scholar and pursued her education towards a dental degree at University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a co-owner of Happy Tooth, a private practice in Elmhurst Illinois. She resides in Lombard Illinois with her husband and daughter. Contact her at email@example.com
“Each day I try to be a better person than I was yesterday. The most rewarding part of life is cultivating and maintaining relationships, but more importantly helping one another navigate the turbulent times of our existence. My mantra is ‘Life Is Good’, even if you have to shift your focus and look for it, with the right skills and attitude life is nothing short of being an amazing gift.”