Spotlight on Alumni

Posted on: Monday, 12/16/2019

Why did you choose dentistry & what do you most enjoy about being a dentist?

I first got interested in becoming a dentist during high school. My childhood dentist allowed me to shadow him over summer and he let me pick his brain on the good and bad about the profession. Luckily, he was a very positive and enthusiastic mentor so he made dentistry seem really exciting. He had also planted the idea in me when I was 10 years old after I broke a lower incisor and he came in on the weekend to fix it for me. He said "I bet you'll be a dentist one day and you can do this for someone too!" He was right.

Thing I like most about the dental profession is that there is no "one thing"--we wear "many hats," as they say. I enjoy learning about new materials and techniques, the future application of digital technologies and robotics. I enjoy working with my hands and building something physical: a crown and a filling are tangible items. There is something satisfying about interacting with a real world rather than just the digital realm. I also love learning about human psychology and pushing myself to improve my communication skills. There really is no such thing as total "mastery" of dentistry.

Where do you currently work and how are you building your patient pool?

I recently opened a start-up dental practice in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Mar Vista. I'm in a partnership with four other colleagues from UCLA, three of which were classmates in dental school. I'm building my patient pool through some online marketing and doing my best to give each patient a "wow" experience so they feel comfortable referring their friends.

What are your favorite kinds of cases to work on?

I love working with composite because it's so unforgiving. I've spent the last 10 years trying to perfect handling the material, and whether it's a class II on a lower molar or a highly visible incisal edge on a central incisor, it always presents a challenge and room for growth. You really find out what you're made of when working with composite. I also love occlusion and find Invisalign rewarding. Smile designs with veneers are the most stressful, but can also the most life-changing for the patient. I'm not just a "cosmetics" type of practitioner but I do find the challenges that come with cosmetic dentistry (both technical and social) to be thrilling.

Do you feel like your fame has impacted your practice? If so, in a good way or bad way?

Becoming highly visible after being on TV has its positives and negatives. I've gotten to do some amazing things like appear on television shows, meet notable people, and travel as a result of gaining visibility. I think it does help build your practice in the sense that patients don't want to go to someone totally obscure. At the same time, the fact that I've been on TV can at times raise people's guard, understandably. We can all think of examples of famous people without any talent to show for their fame. Patients want to know that their doctor isn't all "smoke and mirrors." To that extent, I make an effort to prove myself to each patient that I'm a serious professional who is not more concerned with his own image than their health and well-being.

What would you tell graduating dental students who are wanting to jumpstart their career?

If at all possible leave California and take as many well-respected continuing education courses above and beyond the minimum requirements as you can afford. The opportunities for a new grad are far more fruitful outside of California due to the lower access to care (less saturation) and the lower dental education many populations receive. Rather than performing a couple cleanings a day on healthy patients, you could have a full schedule of people in desperate need of your help. Which scenario is likely to offer you more opportunities for personal growth and experience?

What do you do when you aren’t practicing dentistry?

My life outside of dentistry is pretty simple. I exercise, listen to audiobooks and podcasts, and spend time with friends and loved ones. One of my least favorite questions is "What are your hobbies" because I can't offer anything interesting. My best answer is "Being a dentist."