Dr. Danielle Riordan grew up saying she would never be a dentist. She always wanted to choose her own career path, and didn’t want for anyone to say she had followed her father into the family business.
But she always felt a calling to health care, and her father’s practice gave her a chance to observe all aspects of the business — interactions with patients first and eventually dealing with insurance and organization. And to make sure she wasn’t just drawn to her father’s practice, she worked in other practices and as a caretaker at a nursing home.
“What I thought would be the last thing I would do ended up being the perfect fit for me,” she said.
She racked up hours and hours of (job shadow) time before dental school and earned several certifications as a dental assistant before she became a dentist. She works with her father now, and laughs about that, but her early calling to serve and her dedication to understanding all aspects of dentistry made her uniquely suited for leadership with Give Kids a Smile and as a volunteer with Donated Dental Services and Missions of Mercy.
“I started off as a volunteer, and now I run the restorative area of the clinic and bring in students. I teach them to work in a clinic setting, [which is] a little faster pace, getting kids in and out with the care they need, that they may not have another opportunity to receive,” Dr. Riordan said of Give Kids A Smile. “The program ended up nationwide and now it’s the number one access program for kids’ dental care. It’s near and dear to my heart. “
Early opportunities to volunteer with Give Kids A Smile and Mission of Mercy were chances for Dr. Riordan to learn about her craft and help with dental school. The Mission of Mercy events around the state each year give dentists an opportunity to donate millions of dollars of services and for dentists to connect with each other in a large clinical setting.
Her commitment to community and access to oral health care has been the most rewarding part of dentistry. And — as if serving as a board member for Giving Kids A Smile and volunteering with two other organizations wasn’t enough — she’s a room mother at her children’s school, helps in math classes and gives presentations on dentistry to children learning science.
“I didn’t realize coming out of school I would get as much out of (volunteer work),” she said. “It’s been 100 times more rewarding doing it within my community and in my state and at the national level. I have friendships. No way I would have met some people if not for dentistry and my love and passion for giving back, for helping to improve dentistry as we know it.”
Dr. Riordan spends her free time with her husband and their children. They’re always outside if she’s not doing something related to dentistry.
“It makes my patients laugh but they assume this female is going to come in and if they want to talk sports, they talk to my dad, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” she said. “We’re big sports people, big outdoors people. We get it all the time, how do you have time? I don’t know. You find time if it’s something you love, you’re going to find time. For me, it’s dentistry. I love it. But I also love my family and I love being outside and enjoying nature.”
Dr. Riordan is a recipient of the 2018 10 Under 10 award. Read more about the award at ADA.org/10under10.