So you want to be… A Dentist?

HER Profile / Stories / January 15, 2014

Dr. Mollie Linquist Photo by Julie Smith, News Tribune

Dr. Mollie Linquist
Photo by Julie Smith, News Tribune

Mollie Lindquist, DDS, returned to her hometown of Jefferson City a few years ago to join Diamond Ridge Dentistry. After graduating from Jefferson City High School in 2001 she attended the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, where she graduated with a B.A. in Biology. She then received her dental degree from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Dentistry. She and her husband, Jon, a teacher and coach at Moniteau County R1 High School in California, Mo., have two sons — Jonathan, 2, and four-month-old Franklin.

 When did you know you wanted to become a dentist?

 Mollie Lindquist:  In high school but when I went to college I tried journalism, art and criminal justice classes, but kept going back to the sciences. I did a biology major and chemistry minor. Dentistry always remained in the back of my mind. In dentistry school, I also thought about going into pediatric dentistry, but that required a couple more years of school so I chose general dentistry.

 What do you like about being a dentist?

ML:  That it’s a mixture of science and art. I’m maybe not that good at art, but I’ve always liked it. In high school I didn’t like science but that all changed in college. A lot of prerequisites for dental school include science classes but they recommended that we take a sculpture class, so I did. There’s also an art to the color and shading of a tooth when making a crown. You can’t just fix the tooth and have it functional; you need to make it look good. More than just white, teeth are made up of different hues, values and shades.

 For some, working in people’s mouths is a bit off putting?

ML:  It takes somebody to do everything. And what others might find problematic, we may find exciting. I feel more comfortable though since we started infection control in the mid 80s, wearing gloves and goggles. We take a lot of steps to protect our patients and ourselves.

 Why Diamond Ridge Dentistry?

ML:  The big draw was getting to come home as my husband is from here and we have family here. The people who work here have been here a long time, and are good people and it’s a good environment. Jon is my high school sweetheart and my mother-in-law, Sandi, has been here more than 20 years and is an office manager.

When I was in dentistry school I temped at other dentist’s offices and also observed here in 2005.  I have always looked up to Dr. Natalie (Tungesvik). She has been a big influence on me and I feel very fortunate to be able to work here.

 What is a typical day like?

ML: One good thing is you’re not doing the same thing every day, you do everything every day but on different people. Usually, check ups, exams after our dental hygienist does the cleanings. We look for any signs of oral cancer. I check the X-rays, too. When I’m not focused on more preventative work I’m doing fillings and crowns. We also get emergencies thrown in, a little kid falls down and hits something and needs to come into the office. I work four afternoons a week and on Friday I am here from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., so my schedule allows me to spend a lot of time with my boys

 What does it take to be a good dentist?

ML:  You have to be good at time management, especially when people are waiting for you. It’s important to care about the people and what you’re doing. It’s not just the teeth you’re working on; there is a whole person there. You need compassion and being able to make decisions, knowing that what’s best for one may not be for another person. You’re concentrating on something small; millimeters make a big difference in dentistry. It’s a balance of science and humanity.  

 How do you work with patients?

ML:  Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, ‘hey I get to go to the dentist.’ Some people are happy to see you and chat, including elderly people who sometimes don’t get a lot of interaction. They want to talk to you and they have stories to tell, but there are people who don’t want to be here. We see a lot of people in a hurry. I always try to smile and be nice to people, you never know if you could cheer them up. What’s going on in their mouth is only one part of their life. So I ask people what is going on and I’m always happy to listen. With children it can be more rewarding, as often they don’t mind being here as much. They like the gadgets and they’re happier and cheer us up. I enjoy all my patients and I hope that they leave feeling better than when they come in.

 What are some of the challenges you face?

ML:  The whole time management issues is challenging. We do the best we can to run on time, but sometimes we can’t depending on what we find when we see a patient. Sometimes we have to be a detective – a patient has a toothache and there’s nothing obvious going on, but you believe they’re in pain. So you try this and then see if that helps. We do see patients that are sick or others who have cavities, so we have to deliver bad news.  

 What’s new in the industry?

ML:  There’s something new in dentistry probably every day, and we try and determine what’s a good thing and what’s a fad. Companies are always pushing their newest and latest things and Dr. Natalie does a good job of choosing. We do a lot of continuing education, going to classes and learning new things, freshening up on the old things. There’s more choice now in what type of material to use to fill a cavity. There’s the traditional metal amalgam, a silver filling, which are still more durable,  but we also use natural, tooth-colored composite fillings. One newer area we’re involved is in helping some of our patients with mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea. We ask them if they have issues with snoring. We can help them with oral appliance therapy, OAT, in the form of something similar to a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer while they sleep. If it’s severe sleep apnea they still need to have a sleep study and may need a CPAP machine.

 What keeps you motivated?

ML:  My family. My youngest son was born in August and he’s had some problems and had to have surgery when he was only two days old. I am so fortunate to work only half days most of the week and be home to spend time with my boys.  I enjoy helping my patients.  God has blessed me. When you change a smile that makes a big difference in dentistry.

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Alvin Leifeste

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