From mother to daughter: ‘That’s why I love dentistry’

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Dr. Nijjar and Dr. Sahota

“That’s why I love dentistry.” Her mother’s words still ring in her ears.

Growing up in California, Dr. Ruchi Sahota didn’t plan to be a dentist like her mother, Dr. Maninder K. Nijjar – and Dr. Nijjar never pushed the profession on Dr. Sahota. Dr. Nijjar encouraged her daughter, who was in high school, to start thinking about her future career. Dr. Sahota thought perhaps she would grow up to be a pediatrician or surgeon.

Dr. Nijjar said Dr. Sahota should shadow a pediatrician, but Dr. Sahota quickly learned it was not as exciting as she envisioned.

“It seems the doctor just writes prescriptions and orders tests,” Dr. Sahota complained to her mother. “It was the nurses doing all the fun stuff.”

That’s why I love dentistry,” Dr. Nijjar told her. “I get to do something with my hands.”

Next up was the office of Dr. Sahota’s aunt, a surgeon in New York. While Dr. Sahota respected that she was “in it,” an extrovert like Dr. Sahota noticed her aunt wasn’t really able to talk with her patients and often saw them just a small handful of times. Dr. Sahota was old enough to know she valued relationships.

That’s why I love dentistry,” Dr. Nijjar told her when she returned to California. “My patients have become my family, and we see each other and talk about our lives.”

Dr. Sahota zeroed in on dentistry and after completing dental school and a residency, she returned home to practice with her mother. To those who don’t practice dentistry with a family member, especially a parent, it may be tough to envision. But Dr. Sahota wouldn’t trade it for the world.

“It is such a blessing,” Dr. Sahota said. “She has given me a great deal of respect, and I really admire her passion. She wants to be here. She didn’t want to bring me into the practice so she could go shopping and relax. She wanted to share her passion with me, and it was such a gift to be mentored by her.”

Dr. Nijjar said she is proud that patients who saw Dr. Sahota hanging around the practice in her youth are now being treated by her. More than that, she’s pleased her legacy will carry on. Dr. Nijjar, an Indian immigrant, built the practice from scratch and it’s meaningful to know that Dr. Sahota will look after it.

Now that Dr. Sahota is a mother herself, she said it’s beneficial to have a partner who truly understands her need for work-life balance. “When you have a baby of your own, you just love your mom even more,” she said.

While they respect each other professionally in the office, Dr. Sahota said she and Dr. Nijjar have a normal mother-daughter relationship outside of it. “The only things we really argue about are which restaurants to go to, or how to spend a Friday night.”

Dr. Sahota says they would never let anything get in the way of their relationship, or their shared passion – practicing dentistry.

“We both love what we do so much that this is our safe haven. We wouldn’t let stupid stuff get in the way. This is our sanctuary.”

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