Never a dull moment: New dentists discuss managing work with life and family

By | May 31, 2017
Dr. Fallon and his family.

Dr. Fallon and her family.

A partner dentist in a group practice in Massachusetts, a spouse and a mom to two children ages 5 and 3, Dr. Andrea Fallon knows well the day-to-day challenges of balancing job and family responsibilities.

“Dentists have worked so very hard to gain that degree, and owner dentists have an obligation to their practice and staff to continue to produce and keep the practice going,”
said Dr. Fallon. “I find it difficult to make the time for both work and family. This balance is a daily struggle.”

To be sure, the obligations many new dentists are facing — managing student loan debt, working full time, contributing to a family and keeping their own needs and well-being in check — can feel overwhelming.

Dr. Fallon said one way she ensures work doesn’t bleed too much into time with family is to unplug. She keeps her cellphone off when possible at home and only checks email at the office. She said she limits herself to two work-related events such as dental meetings, speaking obligations or CE per month and she and her husband, who also works full time, schedule up to two week-long vacations a year to spend time as a family.

She also takes one day out of the office every few months for solo time.

“I may go for a run or a yoga class. I may get my hair cut. I may do nothing and read a novel, but it’s my day to do whatever my body/mind/spirit needs,” she said.

Dr. Mattingly and her family.

Dr. Mattingly and her family.

Time off is also a way to mitigate stress for Dr. Emily Mattingly and her husband, David, who is also a dentist. The couple has two children and both dentists are partners at a group practice in Missouri.

The Mattinglys plan family vacations each year and, two or three times per year, take a weekend away as a couple to go to a dental conference.

It’s easy to fall into a routine and forget that “you cannot work all the time; you have to take a break,” said Dr. Emily Mattingly.

Alternating workdays with her husband when possible, hiring a nanny and living close to their parents help manage work schedules with her children’s schedules, said Dr. Mattingly, who said she maintains a detailed calendar with to-do lists.

Still, no matter how much time and thought goes into planning, sometimes parenting and working full-time means improvising, Dr. Mattingly said, recalling a recent particularly demanding morning that resulted in her daughter, who is 2, having a cupcake for breakfast.

“We don’t usually have cupcakes for breakfast. Sometimes it’s just survival mode,” Dr. Mattingly joked, but added sincerely that there’s no one right away for managing a busy life.

“There is too much social media/internet posting telling people how they should structure their lives from parenting to working to what you eat,” she said. “I’m really a proponent of doing what works best for your family and ignoring unwanted or unnecessary pressures from others.”

One tool the ADA offers to help new dentists navigate the pressure is a collection of articles, videos and other resources related to stress management and work-life balance on the ADA Center for Professional Success website,

Furthermore, a number of courses related to improving work-life balance will be available at ADA 2017 – America’s Dental Meeting, including one focusing on emotional well-being and another offering an introduction to meditation.

For more information about the meeting and courses offered or to register, visit New dentists can network, relax and learn with their peers at the ADA New Dentist Conference held in conjunction with ADA 2017. For more information and to register, visit Also, the Women in Dentistry Leadership Series geared toward women dentists and team members will feature speakers discussing approaches to life and navigating a male-dominated field. For more information, visit The Women in Dentistry Leadership Series is sponsored by Crest + Oral-B.

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