3 – training days // 27 – clinical hours // 21 – dental implants // 1 – changed dentist.
That’s my recent trip to the Dominican Republic in numbers. But that’s just the start!
$1 Million in Free Dental Care
This month, I traveled back to the Dominican Republic to continue my implant training in the country’s capital of Santo Domingo. This “Masters Series” program is run by Dr. Arun Garg, one of the world’s top oral surgeons.
For nearly 20 years, Dr. Garg served as a full-time professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and the Director of Residency Training at the University of Miami’s School of Medicine, and is considered one of the world’s preeminent authorities on bone biology, bone harvesting, and bone grafting for dental implant surgery. He’s one of the most respected leaders in the dental and oral surgery communities, and I was so excited to learn from him and his experience.
More importantly, heading to the Dominican to complete this course provided us a chance to both learn and give back to those in need — a big part of why we decided to open The Dental Studio in the first place.
This trip was the marriage of two wonderful things: world-class education and life-changing care for those that need it most — at no cost to them. As a whole, our group of doctors did almost $1 million in free dentistry. The clinic has now changed the lives of thousands of people in the country and is an important part of the community there.
What are Dental Implants, Anyway?
Let’s back up though. I’ve mentioned before how implants can change people’s lives, yet less than 20% of dentists today have the training to be able to offer them. So you may be wondering… what even is a dental implant? I’m so glad you asked!
A dental implant is by far the best option when you’re missing a tooth or (especially) multiple teeth — it looks and behaves like a real tooth more than any other option. Where your natural teeth have roots that secure them to your jaw, an implant has a hidden screw that is implanted into the bone. Once that screw is placed, it needs time to heal (usually 3-6 months) before the new “tooth” is installed, though there are temporary cosmetic options to help patients maintain the look of their smile in the meantime. Once healed, a “crown” or a composite tooth structure is connected to the screw and the new, permanent tooth is ready to roll!
The whole contraption becomes one piece that can stay in place for the rest of a patient’s life. You don’t have to worry about it falling out while talking or having dinner. You can chew, brush and floss just like normal. You’ll soon forget you even lost a tooth!
For those who have never dealt with a missing tooth, it may be difficult to see why this is so exciting for patients (“3-6 months?! Who’s got that kind of time?”). But for those who have struggled with a loose denture that moves when eating, a partial denture that you have to take out to clean all of the time, or a bridge that continually has to be replaced, you no doubt get it! Implants are life changing.
Relationships Change Lives
Ok, back to the Dominican. These patients were world-class, too! They arrived to the clinic very early in the day and waited hours before being seen. Then, they sat patiently, mouth open, for hours more while we completed their surgeries. These folks were each were so kind and grateful for their new “tooth,” making the trip that much more rewarding.
One of my favorite encounters: after one of my more challenging cases, my patient gave me a big hug and with a huge (and numb!) smile said “excelentes manos!” Although my three-plus years of Spanish doesn’t exactly make me fluent, I knew he was saying he felt he was in excellent hands. It was a really powerful moment because while this trip was amazing, it was also really challenging and exhausting. This interaction was a great reminder of why I decided to pursue this career in the first place – to change lives through building relationships and providing the best possible dental care.
Learning From The Best
I’ve been fortunate to be able to attend outstanding dental educational courses before, but having dedicated, hands-on instruction for three straight days was something new. My personal instructor was Dr. Pilar from Venezuela. And let me tell you, she is a total rockstar — when you hear about women running the world, this is who they’re talking about!
She is the chairman of a Master’s program in Implantology in Caracas, Venezuela, been president of several advanced societies and the director of multiple training programs. And perhaps most importantly, she doesn’t just teach. She practices dentistry just like everyone else, working through the nuances of each unique case. I appreciated not just her knowledge and experience, but her warmth, encouragement, and patience.
Family Matters Most
I’m proud to be a dentist that offers patients high-quality treatments of all kinds, and far more than just fillings. My goal is to practice a caliber of dentistry that truly changes lives, even if that means pausing regularly to go out of my comfort zone and learn something new.
And this type of learning always takes a village! I would not be able to do any of this without a family that supports me unconditionally. My husband, his mom and my mom all banded together to take care of my sweet little ones while I was away. I happened to fly back to the states on Mother’s Day, and the picture above is what I received during my layover in Miami. While it was a life-changing trip, there was nothing better than hugging my family tight when I got home.
A Culture of Service
I love dentistry, but my passion is people, building relationships, and learning the stories of everyone who comes through our doors. That’s why we started on this journey, and knowing and serving our patients well will be the focus of every single member of The Dental Studio team. We can’t wait to open our doors in just a few weeks to welcome all who need care across the Wheaton community and beyond!
See you soon,
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”