10 Under 10: Strong role models, desire to make difference shape VA dentist’s career trajectory

Celebration: Sable Muntean, D.M.D., attends the 10 Under 10 Awards celebration with her parents during SmileCon 2023 in Orlando, Florida. Photos courtesy of Dr. Muntean.

Growing up near Los Angeles with her dentist dad and office manager mom, Sable Muntean, D.M.D., said she never felt forced to follow in her parents’ career footsteps.

“My parents are my two best friends, and I owe everything to them,” Dr. Muntean said. “They always encouraged me to do something that would give me independence and make me happy. There was never any pressure to be a dentist, but I sure am thankful for the career path I chose.”

Dr. Muntean said her mom, Georgeta Muntean, “literally put 30,000 miles on her car in one year to take me to my numerous after-school activities. And my dad [Sorin N. Muntean, D.D.S.] set an example for me in the way that he viewed the profession. He practiced for almost 40 years and never in my 34 years of life did I hear him begrudgingly say, ‘I have to go to work tomorrow.’ Watching him enhance patients’ self-confidence by fixing their smiles helped me absolutely fall in love with dentistry just as much as him. He’s retired now, but he still goes to dental meetings and watches webinars, which we often do together.”

Although she has been in practice less than 10 years, Dr. Muntean’s growing list of accomplishments — clinician, implant dentist, mentor, lecturer, editor and volunteer — helped earn her the honor of being one of the 2023 ADA 10 Under 10 Award winners.


Photo of Drs. Muntean and Rice
Mentorship: Sable Muntean, D.M.D., considers David Rice, D.D.S., one of her greatest mentors.

With an undergraduate degree in health promotion and disease prevention from the University of Southern California, Dr. Muntean headed to dental school at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Dental Medicine in Bradenton, Florida, where she graduated with a dual D.M.D. and a Master of Health Services Administration degree in 2018. An acceptance from the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine for a residency in advanced education in general dentistry, followed by a fellowship in implant dentistry, drew her to the Midwest.

“I hadn’t planned to stay in the Midwest, but something in my gut told me to do so,” Dr. Muntean said. “I really enjoyed having four seasons, something I didn’t have in California or Florida. I love seeing the leaves change color in the fall, flowers bloom in the spring, deer roam around with their fawns. I also love that I’m in a central location where I can drive or fly a few hours and be in a new, exciting city to explore.”

During her residency and fellowship, she was involved in research and had papers on dental implants and the temporomandibular joint published in Compendium and CRANIO: The Journal of Craniomandibular & Sleep Practice, respectively.

Currently, Dr. Muntean is a dentist for the VA St. Louis Healthcare System and the first full-time female dentist to work in its dental service — a career path she said she wasn’t even aware was an option until a colleague told her about an opening and she applied.

“Working with veterans has given me a new perspective,” she said. “It is so rewarding that every single day I can make an impact on human beings who have been selfless for us. When they say thank you to me, I turn it around — they’ve given so much. I’m amazed at what they’ve gone through and how they are so appreciative of the care. I love not only hearing their stories but helping them in their times of need. I’ve had patients who have had a crisis right in front of my eyes, and I was able to help them get through it. Being able to have them tell me, ‘I couldn’t have gotten help if not for you,’ means so much to me.”


Photo of Dr. Muntean at SmileCon
Speaker: Sable Muntean, D.M.D., lectures at SmileCon 2021 in Las Vegas as a new and emerging speaker.

As a first-year dental student at the LECOM School of Dental Medicine, Dr. Muntean was already passionate about learning and trying new things.

She said she decided to spend a Saturday morning driving three hours from Bradenton, Florida, to the University of Florida College of Dentistry in Gainesville for a dental business symposium. She was in the audience when David Rice, D.D.S., founder and CEO of igniteDDS, spoke.

“I was mesmerized,” Dr. Muntean said. “Afterwards, I introduced myself by saying, ‘Hi, I want to be just like you!’ He was so genuine, such a great speaker. He gave me his business card, and a couple of months later, when he came to LECOM to speak, he took me out to breakfast, and I remember telling him that I wanted to develop a resource program for predental students. I knew the journey to dental school can be difficult and overwhelming, and I wanted to help. Dr. Rice told me if I wanted to start something, he’d be happy to support me.”

Dr. Muntean launched a sister program to igniteDDS called ignitePreDent, with the help of Dr. Rice, whom she considers one of her greatest mentors. Through the program, she was able to speak at dental schools around the nation, lecturing to thousands of predental students on the nuts and bolts of how to apply, interview and be successful on their journeys. She said that was when she realized she had a gift for writing, grammar and proofreading, and she was able to work with students one-on-one to fine-tune their personal statements and provide interview coaching.


Photo of Dr. Muntean at Pankey Institute event
Scholarship: Sable Muntean, D.M.D., attends the Pankey Institute’s 50th Annual Symposium in 2019 in Key Biscayne, Florida.

In 2019, Dr. Muntean won the Donald C. “Ozzie” Asbjornson Scholarship to the Pankey Institute’s 50th Annual Symposium in Key Biscayne, Florida. There, she met and spent time with many leaders in dentistry, including Linda Miles, the renowned dental consultant, speaker and co-founder of Oral Cancer Cause, an oral cancer nonprofit foundation.

“She was so enthusiastic,” Dr. Muntean said. “And she told me, ‘If you were to write a book about your life, you should call it ‘Just Show Up.’ I think a lot of what I’ve been able to accomplish were things where I showed up to a certain event and was able to create an opportunity to better myself by getting to know amazing people.”

Dr. Muntean shared two things she always told predental students: Always surround yourself with inspirational, successful people as they can help you achieve your goals, and everything happens for a reason, even if it doesn’t make sense at the time — one day it will. She said finding out about a job opening at the VA St. Louis Healthcare System dental clinic at a new dentist meeting, meeting Dr. Rice, working with predental students, and meeting a representative by chance from the Pierre Fauchard Academy, which led to her being inducted into the organization in 2020, all began when she just showed up and earned the opportunity to demonstrate her worth.

Dr. Muntean also dedicates a good deal of time and energy to serving in organized dentistry. This month, she begins the third year of a three-year continuum for the Greater St. Louis Dental Society, where she served as vice chair, then chair, of the New Dentist Committee and will soon transition to immediate past chair/representative to the GSLDS Board of Directors. She will also step in as president of the Central District and serve as the 2026 chair of the Council on Scientific Sessions for the annual GSLDS Midcontinent Dental Conference, scouting for speakers and planning the program. She also serves as a delegate for the Missouri Dental Association.

Using the speaking skills she began to hone during dental school, Dr. Muntean has lectured at several major dental meetings, including being chosen as a new and emerging speaker for SmileCon 2021 in Las Vegas. She will present two lectures at the Chicago Dental Society Midwinter Meeting in February.


Photo of Dr. Muntean
Leader: Sable Muntean, D.M.D., will serve as the 2026 chair of the Council on Scientific Sessions for the annual Greater St. Louis Dental Society Midcontinent Dental Conference.

“I’m exhausted but in a good way,” she said. “I just make the time. If you’re passionate about something and you want to make a difference, there’s a lot of different ways to do so. In dentistry, we have a voice, and your voice can be heard in different ways — from giving a donation every year, to being active in one of so many different avenues to choose from. And dental society staff is so helpful to volunteers. They know you are busy, and they try to find ways for volunteers to innovate and make a difference. You don’t have to be involved on the political side if it’s not your thing. You can be part of organizing a dental meeting or encouraging new dentists to come together to have a network and friends in dentistry. 

“When I moved here, I literally knew nobody. When I started practicing in St. Louis after my fellowship, I was very welcomed and found someone who turned out to be a great friend and colleague when I met him at a local dental event. I ended up finding a strong core group of friends from it. I’m very happy and thankful to be here. You can be involved in your own way and with whatever time you have.”

In October 2023, Dr. Rice named Dr. Muntean chief editor of Get Lit, the igniteDDS weekly newsletter that reaches some 25,000 new dentists. She said her goal is to make the newsletter relevant and fun for new dentists by offering a wide range of content in sections that cover various clinical topics, career and personal development, business tips, dentistry in the news, and fun tidbits.

By the end of her first 10 years of practice, Dr. Muntean hopes to develop an in-house implant program at her VA clinic so the dental service can provide continuity of care for its patients and maintain their dental treatment under one roof. She will also continue to serve in organized dentistry, and she hopes to have a full and happy family and personal life that includes traveling — one of her favorite things to do. As the daughter of parents who emigrated from Romania, she speaks, reads and writes Romanian as well as French.

After that?

“I don’t know yet what my second 10 years will bring,” Dr. Muntean said. “It will be a surprise. But I hope to be healthy, have a happy family, work-life balance and continue to enjoy dentistry.”

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