Editor’s note: Colleague Connection is a new feature of the Journal of the New Jersey Dental Association. Our first member-to-member profile is of Dr. Christina Ciano (NJDS – 2010) interviewed by David Lepelletier, D.M.D., (NJDS – 2012) a member of the NJDA Committee on New Dentists. Dr. Ciano’s pediatric dental practice is in Princeton, N.J.
Describe your path so far (pre-dental to present)
After growing up in Old Bridge, NJ, I attended Rutgers University as a pre-pharmacy student. I spent a summer working at Pathmark Pharmacy and quickly realized that pharmacy wasn’t for me. Luckily for me, my roommate’s dad was a dentist and introduced me to the world of dentistry, and from then on I was excited to be in pursuit of this great career. I did my dental school at UMDNJ and went on to complete my pediatric dentistry training at Columbia University.
What has been the hardest part of being a new dentist?
The hardest part about being a new dentist is trying to build rapport with your patients (and their parents) in a short period of time. With youth comes the assumption of inexperience and that is an obstacle that is difficult to overcome. I can’t make myself any older! But like anything else, the longer you do, the more confident you are and after a while I think that my patients would realize that although I’m young, they can trust that I know what I’m doing.
Why did you decide to open a practice relatively soon out of school? What would you suggest to others in your situation?
Dentistry is a great profession and one of the things that makes it so special as far as healthcare professions go is that it affords you the opportunity to be your own boss and own a small business. There are just too many advantages to having your own practice and I always felt like I wanted to follow through with that. For me, I carried that mindset with me throughout my training and it made the transition easier because the decision had been made well before I actually did it.
My recommendation to others would be to do whatever you feel would make you happy. The reason dentistry is still a great profession is because of its flexibility. If owning your own office doesn’t seem like something that would make you happy, then don’t do it! I know many people that have found amazing associateships and feel very happy to not have the added stress of ownership.
What’s your take on group practices?
I think group practices are the trend in dentistry now. Patients are looking for convenience in a lot of different ways and having everyone under one roof is a nice service to provide for the patient. I think they make interdisciplinary cases easier to manage and make overall communication more precise.
How do you balance life/dentistry?
It’s a constant effort to keep my life in balance. I’m married with a young son and I’m expecting another baby at the end of the summer. I am very fortunate to receive a lot of help from family and friends and I think that makes things easier. Whenever I’m not working, I make an effort to spend quality time with my family, whether it’s something as simple as going out for breakfast on a Sunday or going to the beach for a day.
What do you do when you’re not working?
When I’m not working, I spend as much time as I can with my husband and son. We enjoy spending our time outside, going for family bike rides, and walks around the neighborhood.
Describe a typical day for you.
I wake up and get lunches ready for everyone and get my son ready for the day. I drop him off at daycare and head over to my office. I have a “Master To Do List” at work where I prioritize what needs to get done. So whenever I have down time in between patients, I can focus on what’s important. My list includes marketing tasks, bill payment, insurance issues, ordering supplies, and all other things that need to get done to make the practice work. As a new office, a large proportion of my patients are new patients, which is great because I can take the time to get to know them and their families. After the work day is over, I head over to pick up my son and we go home and play, read, make dinner, etc.
What’s the most influential CE you’ve taken since graduating?
I took a course on starting your own practice a few years ago called Breakaway by Dr. Scott Leune. The course was like a playbook of what needs to get done in order to start your own office and it gave me a blueprint for my office. As a life-long student, I was yearning for a manual of sorts; something for me follow in order to figure out what to do, and Breakaway did that for me.
Why was now the right time to start your practice?
Now or never! I would imagine there are very few people who regretted starting their practice shortly after school, and probably a lot more people that wish they hadn’t waited so long. I had been out of dental school nearly 5 years when I started and I think that’s enough time to have a good hold on the dentistry side of things. And as far as the business side of things, you can’t really prepare for that. You just learn as you go. A professor in dental school once told me that you are never going to be more financially ready to struggle then when you have just graduated from school. You don’t have large expenses yet, you don’t have a huge mortgage or fancy car payments and it’s not as big of a sacrifice as it might be later on. And I always remembered that.
Why start your own practice instead of buying?
I actually looked into buying a practice before starting my own. I think that buying into an existing practice makes a lot of business sense. Unfortunately, at the time, there really wasn’t anything out there for purchase so I decided to bite the bullet and start from scratch.
What’s the vision you want for your dental career?
I hope to never lose my desire to learn and improve as both a dentist and a practice owner. I thoroughly enjoy going to CE courses because they rejuvenate my interest in being the best dentist I can be. I want to take care of the kids in my community and hope to see them grow into great adult dental patients. One day, I would love to teach dental school students or residents. I feel that is a great way to both give back and get a lot in return.
What do you think is different for a young dentist vs. what it was like to start a career twenty years to thirty ago?
Three words: Competition, and patient expectations. The dental field is far more competitive than it once was. There are just so many of us now! Opening is not as easy as just hanging up your shingle and waiting for the patients to walk through the door. In addition, patients have higher expectations for their healthcare. They want more of a say in their treatment and have expectations that every visit will be smooth and pain-free. As new dentists, we have the advantage of being up-to-date on the latest dental technology and being able to offer our patient state-of-the-art treatment.
If you would like to be profiled in a future issue or would like to interview a colleague, please contact Lorraine Sedor, managing editor, at 732-821-9400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog post, reprinted with minimal edits and permission, will be appearing in the upcoming issue of the Journal of the New Jersey Dental Association.