How did you choose your specialty?

Specialists: From left are Drs. Mariana Velazquez, Ray Rebong and Raquel Rozdolski.

A dental specialty  is an area of dentistry that has been formally recognized by the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards as meeting the Requirements for Recognition of Dental Specialties and National Certifying Boards for Dental Specialists. Currently there are 12 dental specialties recognized by the National Commission. The ADA News talked to three dental specialists about why they chose their particular specialty. Their answers are below, edited lightly for space and clarity.

Ray Rebong, D.D.S., orthodontist, Oakland, California.
ADA News:
Why did you become a dentist?

Dr. Rebong: Growing up, many of my relatives from the Philippines were terrified of going to the dentist and suffered persistent dental pain as a result. I saw the impact poor oral health can have on day-to-day activities, comfort and overall well-being. I was fortunate to have an excellent dentist who made visits enjoyable and focused on prevention, good habits and consistent care. I became interested in becoming a dentist to inspire the same values in my community and help patients improve their quality of life through great oral health.

ADA News: When did you start to think about becoming an orthodontist? Did anything inspire you?

Dr. Rebong: I initially was introduced to several specialties through different classes and rotations in dental school. Around my second year I found my true connection with orthodontics. From there I shadowed different orthodontists and participated in the orthodontic club to further explore the specialty. Conversations with professors, participating in orthodontic study club events and shadowing practicing orthodontists to see their work first-hand convinced me that becoming an orthodontist was my perfect profession. I enjoyed the challenge and creativity in crafting a course of treatment to help the patient's dreams actualize into a beautiful, healthy smile. Coming up with the best personalized plan for each individual has made every day in orthodontics unique and exciting.

ADA News: What do you want other dentists to know about your job? What do you love?

Dr. Rebong: Prior to dental school, I had only known orthodontics as a way to straighten teeth. As I went through my educational journey, I learned about the importance of orthodontics in complex restorative cases, post-trauma rehabilitation and in the treatment of patients with craniofacial abnormalities. Now, some of my most rewarding days are working with multiple medical and dental specialists and other specialized therapists in my hospital's craniofacial team. Due to the extensive care many of these patients need, I get to help plan their care for years before they ever get a bracket placed. The anticipation and gratitude these families have for the result of orthodontia and dental care is truly heartwarming. Growing up, I valued dentistry for its ability to prevent negative oral health sequelae such as pain. As a provider, my mindset has shifted more to the incredible layers of positive benefits excellent oral health care can provide.

Raquel Rozdolski, D.M.D., dentist anesthesiologist, Hawthorne, N.Y.
ADA News:
Why did you become a dentist?

Dr. Rozdolski: My story isn't entirely unique, I just had both a wonderful dentist and orthodontist as a child, who spoke to me directly as the patient instead of speaking about my care directly to my parents. They always spoke to me in more technical terms and taught me each step of the way by explaining what they were doing. By 7th grade, I had interviewed both my dentist and orthodontist asking them what it would take to get into dental school, and together, we mapped out my professional career path. I followed it nearly to a "T" and even went to the dream school I placed on my vision board in the 7th grade, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.

ADA News:  Why did you become a dentist anesthesiologist?

Dr. Rozdolski: I have a deep-rooted passion to increase access to oral health care for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and so I choose to advance my training in the field of anesthesiology. I learned early on that many individuals are unable to obtain oral health care in a traditional setting due to their special health care needs and operating room wait times for patients can sometimes exceed a two-year waiting period. My goal in becoming a dentist anesthesiologist is to bridge the gap between providing a medically necessary service in an ambulatory setting and reserve the operating rooms for individuals who are medically complex, thereby reducing significant wait times, while also improving patient's overall health. This specialty was the perfect marriage of my interests in pharmacology, physiology, medicine and most importantly, access to care.

ADA News: What do you want other dentists to know about your job? What do you love about it?

Dr. Rozdolski: I believe organized dentistry still has a long way to go in terms of advocacy efforts to enhance operating room access as well as proper reimbursement for this very specialized service of anesthesiology within dentistry in an ambulatory setting by properly trained specialists in the field. However, if we continue to use our voices and work togetherin advocacy for this very deserving population, I am confident significant shifts within the profession will soon be accomplished. My hope is that dentists will become more aware of our level of training and the safety dentist anesthesiologists provide when patients are appropriately selected and screened for office-based ambulatory anesthesia care. I love what I do because of the service it provides to individuals that would ordinarily go either without treatment, or wait years to be seen in an operating room. However, I also enjoy the comradery of being able to work alongside fellow dentists and dental specialists. Our profession as dentists is ordinarily a very solo-style practice once you're in the room with a patient. It's unifying to be able to work together for the care of a mutual patient.

Mariana Velazquez, D.D.S., oral surgeon, Miami, Florida.
ADA News: Why did you become a dentist?

Dr. Velazquez: I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. After graduating with honors from high school, I decided to pursue the same career path as my mother, oldest brother and 21 other family members- who are all dentists. I went to dental school at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, where I graduated at the top of my class before moving to Boston and completing my oral and maxillofacial surgery internships and residency at Boston University.

ADA News: When did you start to think about becoming an oral and maxillofacial surgeon? Did anything inspire you?

Dr. Velazquez: I decided to be an oral surgeon during my first year of dental school when I saw my boyfriend's (who is now my husband) wisdom teeth removal surgery. I instantly became fascinated by that specialty. I was discouraged multiple times from going into oral surgery, because "it was too hard, especially for a woman," but lots of perseverance and hard work paid off and took me where I am now.

ADA News: What do you want other dentists to know about your job? What do you love about it?

Dr. Velazquez: I love my job and having the ability to help others in whatever way I can. As stressful as this specialty may be, it is also a very rewarding one. I wish I could inspire other female dentists to not be afraid to go into this specialty. Women only make up 10.6% of oral surgeons in the U.S. We definitely need more women oral surgeons out there.

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