Editor’s note: Megan Lenahan, D.D.S., of Rock Hill, Missouri, is one of the recipients of this year’s 10 Under 10 Awards, which recognizes new dentists who demonstrate excellence early in their careers. Dr. Lenahan is a pediatric dentist at Lenahan Smiles Pediatric Dentistry. Recognized in 2020 by the Missouri Dental Association as its 2020 Outstanding New Dental Leader, Dr. Lenahan currently serves on the Greater St. Louis Dental Society’s executive board and is a member of the Missouri Emergency Response Identification team. For more information, visit ADA.org/10under10 .
What more is there to life thandentistry for Megan Lenahan, D.D.S., an ADA 2021 “10 Under 10 Awards” winner?
Well … chickens. You should know that they really crack her up. She and her husband are raising a clutch of them in their suburban St. Louis yard.
“I’m gonna be honest, it’s such a weird hobby,” Dr. Lenahan said, laughing. “Like this is not something that I grew up with. It was just one ofthose random things my husband and I did. We find them very entertaining. I’ll sit outside just watching them, like, ‘You guys are so weird!’”
She’s also a pretty talented watercolor artist, although she may be a bit self-effacing about it if you ask her how good she is. A newlywed who married in 2018, she thinks it’s high time she centers her personal life a bit more, and not just those wacky chickens (or her two dogs). She and her husband are working on starting a family.
“I wanted to get the career under control and kind of put the professional life ahead of the personal life,” she said. “So, now it’s time to make that balance for me.”
Getting the career under control was quite a journey. For about a decade now, she’s been the kind of new dentist that has devoted most of her time and energy to the profession, including leadership roles in organized dentistry. It’s definitely not gone unnoticed or unrewarded. Aside from the ADA’s recognition, she was the Missouri Dental Association’s Outstanding New Dental Leader in 2020.
But those accolades come at a bittersweet spot in her career – the final year of being “new” to the profession. “I’m crossing over,” she said. “I am becoming a veteran.”
Having a father whowas a pediatric dentist meant that Dr. Lenahan cut her teeth a little differently when compared with most kids. For one, she had a family member who knew every stage of her development with granularity. But she also grew up learning all about the profession.
Not only did she learn all about it — she learned to love it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she followed in her father’s footsteps and placed her chips on pediatric dentistry, too. She attended undergrad at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo. After earning a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry in 2011 and her Master of Dental Science and Certificate in Pediatric Dentistryfrom the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in 2013, she joined her father’s practice and took over after he retired.
“I was kind of working behind the scenes for a while unofficially, but officially it was June 2019. He kind of retired in February 2020, which is right before the whole world fell apart. I was like, ‘You picked a great time for this!’”
Dr. Lenahan has a strong record of service and leadership in organized dentistry at the local and state levels. She is a past chair of the Greater St. Louis Dental Society and the Missouri Dental Association’s New Dentist Committees and a past representative on the Missouri Dental Association's Board of Directors.
Today, she is first vice president of the Greater St. Louis Dental Society Board of Directors.
Aside from pediatric dentistry, Dr. Lenahan also bet on other aspects of the profession. A fascination with true-crime investigations led her to pursue forensic odontology. In April, she completed a 16-month Forensic Dentistry Fellowship Program at the University of Tennessee Knoxville Graduate Medical School.
A member of theAmerican Society of Forensic Odontology and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, she joined the Missouri Emergency Response Identification Team in 2015 to assist with dental forensics. Likewise, she assists the St. Louis City MedicalExaminer’s Office and the Knox County Regional Forensic Center.
“I find it important and fascinating,” she said. “So that has been a passion of mine. … I was a kid when 911 happened and that was one of those major disasters that they needed dental there. I think it’s unique.”
Dr. Lenahan moonlights once a month at Compass Health Center, a nonprofit health care organization. She looks forward to helping with the varied case challenges that arise there.
“I like mixing it up,” she said. “I like it being a little bit of a different place. I also kind of like not being the boss there. I work for them. They treat me really well, and I do like not having to run everything.”
Although Dr. Lenahan won’t be a new dentist much longer, she will remain active in organized dentistry. Being first vice president of the Greater St. Louis Dental Society Board means she will assume the role of president in 2023.
“I started doing all of this new dentist [activity] because I wanted to talk to people who have just gone through it because I needed help and I needed advice from somebody who was in my generation and kind of dealing with the same things that I was dealing with,” she said.
If she could create a new official organized realm for those who are suddenly no longer new dentists, she would.
“I really wish there was some kind of intermediary,” she said. “I think a part of it is that St. Louis and Missouri have a really strong new dentist presence. … So, then you step out of it and you’re like ‘Whoa, I miss that! That was really cool.”