APRIL 2019 Tooth Be Told
I had a really awful dentist when I was growing up. He was the kind of dentist who promised something wouldn’t hurt, even though it actually hurt a lot. All these years later, I still get nervous when I go to the dentist. My hands get sweaty, and my heart starts to race. When nervous patients come into my office, I really sympathize with them. After my terrible experiences as a child, I never could have guessed I would love being on the other side of the chair! I started college in pre-med, but it was a liberal arts school, which meant I was required to take an art class for the first time in my life. My parents thought art was a waste of time, so I never took art in high school. After my first class, I fell in love. I took as many art classes as I could and wanted a career where I could be My Unexpected Journey HOW AN ART CLASS TURNED ME INTO A DENTIST
dentists take, but serving on active duty helped pay for my student loan debt. I had not been around the military at all until that point in my life. It was a major culture shock, but I loved it. Being an Army dentist was a great experience because you don’t have
to worry about what insurance will cover or what the patient can afford. When a patient and I agreed on the ideal treatment for them, we could make it happen right away! At the same time, I was able to work alongside specialists in all areas of oral health. I ended up learning a lot from them. For example, in dental school, I hated doing root canals. While in the Army, I was stationed with an endodontist who created a side program for me. He gave me articles to read and let me do root canals with him. Now I love doing root canals, and I’m happy I can offer this important treatment to my patients today. The very best part about joining the Army was meeting my husband, Chris. He was a helicopter pilot and we met when he needed two crowns. After I got out of the Army, we moved around a lot because my husband was still on active duty. That’s how we ended up in Huntsville, a place I’m happy to call home. It’s a wonderful area, and I love being able to run my own practice. We’re a small office, which means we’re able to give patients a more personal experience. I became a dentist for the artistry, but what I love most today is getting to know my patients. I love learning everyone’s names, hearing stories about their kids, and being able to help them every time they come in. I know firsthand how difficult going to the dentist can be. If I can give my patients a good experience and help them feel less nervous about going to the dentist, then I’ve done my job well.
creative. My friend’s father was a dentist and he suggested I look into dentistry for myself. Despite my bad experiences with dentistry, I gave it a chance. Turns out he was right! Dentistry is this wonderful blend of art and science. I’ve always enjoyed using my hands to build models and work on craft projects. Being a dentist felt like doing a hobby I already loved, and I could help people get out of pain at the same time. I applied to dental school, and I was so excited when I got in.
“Being a dentist felt like doing a hobby I already loved …”
After dental school, I joined the Army. That’s not the path most
—Dr. Elizabeth Duling
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