Episode 32: Women Dentists: A Conversation on Women in Dentistry with Drs. Lauren Aguilar & Brittany Bergeron

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As March is National Women's History Month, we spoke to American Association of Women Dentists President Dr Lauren Aguilar and AAWD's Director of Corporate Relations, Dr Brittany Bergeron on practice ownership and leadership opportunities for women in the industry, AAWD's mission, and what else needs to change for women dentists.

Kristin Hohman 0:22
Hello, welcome to the ProdPod, a podcast from Dental Products Report. I'm Kristin Hohman, associate editor of DPR and host of the ProdPod. Each episode we feature leading voices in the dental industry and highlight topics of interest to dental professionals, including new products, clinical techniques, industry news and trends, as well as tips and tricks for procedures and practice management.

Welcome back to the ProdPod brought to you by Dental Products Report. As March is National Women's History Month I'm very excited to focus on women in dentistry with our guests Dr. Lauren Aguilar and Dr. Brittany Bergeron. Dr. Aguilar is the current president of the American Association of Women Dentists and Dr. Bergeron serves as AAWD's, director of corporate relations. We discuss practice ownership and leadership opportunities for women in the industry, AAWD's mission, and what else needs to change for women dentists.

Can we start a little bit with just telling me a little bit about yourselves, your experience, where you practice, how long you've been practicing, and kind of how you got involved with AAWD.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 1:52
So I'm Dr. Brittany Bergeron. I'm a general dentist. I practice just north of Baltimore City in Maryland. I'm in a town called Towson. I am one of 3 dentists in my family. My dad and brother are both oral surgeons and my brother is on his way to oral surgery residency. So we all went to Maryland—I'm the only 1 that stuck local. I was an associate in a couple of different offices for probably about 7 years before I bought my own practice. So I've been a solo practitioner and a practice owner—in April will be 3 years now. So I bought my office in 2019. And I was in a smaller office to start out with it was myself and 1 other doctor, just like a 3 or 4 chair practice. And then for the 5 years before I bought my office, I was working at a pretty large practice that was 8 or 9 operatories, 3 hygienists, 2 doctors very busy, very high producing. So in my office, we do most facets of general dentistry—a lot of cosmetic work. I have a very small staff. I have 1 hygenist and 1 office manager. So it's a little bit different than probably the, you know, conventional office. But it it works for us. We celebrated a year of being open closed for COVID, which was interesting, you know, challenges in the last few years as a business owner and as a new business owner, certainly. I was first involved with the American Association of Women Dentists as a student. I started on my first year in dental school and then joined our student board of directors, and then eventually served as the national student representative for AAWD and then from there, I stayed on the board. So I've been the director of local chapters. I was the vice president president elect, the 2019 president. And then my role the last couple years has been the immediate past president and director of corporate relations. So I've done a lot of work, a lot of different hats within the organization. And it's been great. So it's actually how Lauren and I met was in dental school as part of our student AAWD chapter.

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 3:59
My story is pretty similar. I am in Virginia, I'm in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is about an hour from Richmond and 2 hours from DC. I finished endodontic residency in 2018 and moved down here. So I've been in the same office as an endodontic associate for 3 and a half years. I'm actually transitioning out of the private sector and into the federal sector. I'm joining the VA in the spring. So I'm excited about that as an endodontist. My experience in practice, I was a general dentist like moonlighting for a year or 2 before I was full on endodontist. So I've got a little experience in that but basically I just do root canals all day long and I love it. We've had a lot of changeover in staff so I can comment on being like a young woman associate with older women staff, younger staff, a high turnover of staff plus COVID. So you know I've got some experience in that as well. Overall I'm pretty happy I'm you know. It's a good first job. Rarely is someone's first job their forever job. So I'm thankful for the good experience, but ready to move on. And yeah, Brittany and I went to Maryland for dental school. She was a couple years ahead of me. And I was interested in joining the student board. I was a member my first year and wanted to get on the student board my second year. That's how Brittney and I met and realize that we were too similar not to be best friends. So that's how it happened. And so then from there, she kind of tagged me along and I was on the national board as a senior dental student, took a little sabbatical during my residency came back on the board as director of member benefits. And then for last couple years, I've been president elect and now I'm the president. And it's just a really great group of people who all understand what you're going through professionally, personally. Really anything you want to talk about, you can find a peer and another woman I think, and that's kind of the bond that AAWD has.

Kristin Hohman 5:59
Yeah, so you actually just touched a little bit on my next question. Um, could you talk to me a little bit about AAWD and what its mission is.

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 6:09
Our mission is to connect advance enrich the lives of women dentists, and so it's specific to women dentists, not women in dentistry and any ally of women dentists. So we have affiliate members, we have international members. In the past, we've had male members. But it's really a place for women to connect. And anything from networking, mentoring, we offer some CE. I think the my favorite part about AAWD is the history. So it's a 101 year-old organization and was founded by 12 women 101 years ago. And so there's a historical element to it, where we have some really great archives, our publication, the Chronicle, went from an actual newsletter to now as an online publication, but we've got some really great archives of the old newsletters, and it's really cool to see. For instance, Gloria Steinem was keynote speaker at one of the annual meetings for AAWD. So there's a really rich history to our organization that not a lot of people know about. And also, you know, the camaraderie—we usually try and host an annual meeting and connect people as best we can from the time that they're students in dental school, through their careers into retirement. Even in memory we host or we have awards in memory of some past AAWD members. So it's, it's quite a dynamic organization. I'm excited that we get to talk about it.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 7:41
Everything Lauren said, I feel the same way. And I think the only other comment that I would add is, it can be very difficult for I think women in any industry to break into leadership, but especially one that has been predominantly male. And it always amazes me that my name is the only one on my office door, and the only dentist that works here, people always say, 'Oh, you're the dentist?' It's like, come on, why are we still doing this? But yes, you know, that's the question we get. So I think it can be very difficult for women to find leadership opportunities and leadership opportunities that they feel comfortable in that they can actually voice their opinion, and that they can feel like they're making a change. And for me, I was a born leader, like I want to be in charge, I want to make decisions like and so AAWD has really been that platform for me that it's helped me to be more involved in the ADA and more involved in companies that are looking for key opinion leaders and, and to try out products. And it's an opportunity that I don't think...I've been facing a lot of opportunities I don't think I would have had if I wasn't involved in AAWD. And I feel like there's a lot of women who we give them their first speaking opportunity or their first look into leadership that otherwise they just don't know how to go about it or feel very overwhelmed by some of the other organizations that have those experiences, but are maybe advertising them as well or are not as welcoming,

Kristin Hohman 9:12
Right. And that's actually a topic I wanted to talk about was opportunity for women in leadership, which we'll get to here in a couple minutes. But first, I wanted to talk about why representation is so important. Not even just in dentistry, specifically, but kind of across all occupations and leadership positions. Why does it even matter?

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 9:36
I think there's a—regardless of the field, we can even extrapolate this outside of dentistry—here's a human need for connection and a connection with peers. You know, when you feel like you're in a comfortable environment and you share a similarity with another person, it just makes the connection more organic and natural. And so like Brittany had mentioned, in a historically male-dominated field like dentistry, that was the inception of our of the organization was a need and a want and an interest for a unique peer experience. And since then, obviously dental schools are graduating, you know, half to over half females. And so people we get this question a lot is like, is this still relevant? Do we still need to connect? And I think the answer is yes, evidenced by the number of the growing number of women's groups, but also, if you get a bunch of women in a room, yeah, we're gonna all talk about dentistry for the first 5 minutes, and then we're gonna branch off and talk about our personal issues or a question about, you know, a mentor question for a female practice owner from an associate or something like that. I think you really get that feeling of the want for human connection exists, especially in like a face-to-face meeting that we have, you just see these women who don't know each other at all and leave really great. And so there's a need for a distinguished group, but there's a need for inclusivity as well. So we act kind of strength in numbers, so to speak. As an organization, we have a little bit more push and pull and power as far as advocacy and advocating for, you know, legal things on the Hill and, and making changes. Like Brittany said, it puts us closer in touch with some of the things that the ADA is doing, which is kind of the big umbrella over all dentists. So for me, it makes sense when you get that peer group to get strength in numbers. And that kind of just gives us the push forward to make the changes that we need to see. Additionally, from like a product standpoint, women and men are biologically different, right? Our hands are smaller, the way that we sit is different, our hips are different. So that's been something that Brittany has been kind of a champion of, is letting people who make products understand that women and men are different, we need lighter handpieces, or smaller syringes. I'll let Brittany talk a little more about that, because that's really something I think she's really good at.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 12:11
Yeah, it's something that I didn't realize I'm, I'm 5' 10". I'm much larger than the average female. So I think that, personally, I have a ton of issues. But I do notice the issue in like, my upper body strength isn't the same as a male colleague would be. So yeah, some of the handpieces are really heavy, some of the, you know, looking at women try to hold some of these syringes or do things that can be really challenging. So we've spent a lot of time or I spend a lot of time working with different companies, like PulpDent, Katzenbach—companies like that about, okay, if we're gonna design something like, here's how it fits in my hand, but here's how it fits in 10 other women's hands, it's really different. Or just like the footprint of your chair—I know, women who can't even sit on the chair all the way, their feet hang and they have issues of they look so small in it. So I think that's one area that's really important and really relevant, you know, to your point of, of diversity and representation. I think that's true, not only for women, but all minority groups, I think that patients feel more comfortable being treated by people that they can relate to, right? I prefer to see if female gynecologist, that's I feel more comfortable talking about my issues with that, right? And I think that when we're talking about minority representation, it's really important because, you know, there's a lot of women in dentistry, there's not a lot of practitioners of color, whether they be black, Asian, Indian, American Indian descent. And so we see those populations don't get as much care or don't have as much access to care. So there's a big push for representation in that way that I feel like, as we're increasing our representation in leadership, the hope is that it's going to have a trickle down effect, that we're going to bring more people up as part of the profession and an overall increase the access to care.

Kristin Hohman 13:58
Right. And that was kind of what I wanted to touch on too was from the patient perspective, it's easier to relate to someone who looks like you, understands you, even understands like your language and has a similar background. But also, from a professional standpoint, it has to be comforting to know that maybe you face a certain challenge that other women have faced before you and they can kind of help you navigate that obstacle as well.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 14:28
It's also really comforting to know that challenges that people used to face we don't face right? It makes me feel like we're actually making progress. Like I remember when I first joined the board, and the leadership on the board of directors is like you know, when I walk into the showroom at the fill in the blank of the meeting name you know, everybody thinks I'm a hygenist or an assistant and I'm like, well, actually don't feel that way. Most people address me as doctor and I'm like, maybe that's because they're smart and all the name badges are color coded. You know, from looking at someone's name badge exactly what their position is, but I don't feel like that's a challenge that I face as much as they did. And that is definitely a nice thing. I mean, maybe that's a small gain that people are realizing we're providers. Certainly, there's still a change for patients. But, you know, I've had a number of patients say, 'I prefer to see a female doctor, whether there'll be a dentist or otherwise, because I like your attention to detail or, you know, I like to do cosmetic stuff.' And I have patients who will come just to do cosmetics, they're like, 'Well, I feel like a woman would do a better job.' It's like, oh, okay, maybe that's a stereotype that works in my favor. You know, I'm sure there's a lot of really good male cosmetic dentists out there, but simply that having diversity in our healthcare system is going to increase patient comfort and really get them the treatment that they need.

Kristin Hohman 15:44
Yeah, absolutely. And that was another point I wanted to bring up was, certainly both of you are still relatively early in your careers, from the sounds of it. So maybe things have already been improving since you entered practice. So for, generally speaking, there are a lot of gains, but mayb—I think, especially with like the name tag thing that you bring up, Brittany—a lot of people might look at that and say, 'We don't need to have these conversations because everything is solved.' But that's not the case.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 16:26
You want to tell her about Midwinter when we were sitting at the AAWD booth?

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 16:30
Yeah, I mean, so we we all have the story of or multiple experiences of being mislabeled. And I would say just kind of I can, we can tell the Midwinter story, but I shook my head for a minute because we were invited to a meeting in Florida recently for one of our sponsors. And, you know, they wined and dined us, we were there to like, speak, Brittany was the keynote speaker, I was the speaker for the student sector. And they're talking about inclusivity and diversity and changing—all of the members of their board are old white men, every single one. And the new president is an older white gentleman. And so I was just like, you can't expect to bring your organization into a place that people feel included in and diverse if your entire leadership reflects one race and one gender. And the new president was like, 'Oh, wow, yeah, you are right.' So I again, I don't mean to like keep putting Brittany on a pedestal, but I always will. She was really successful this year at diversifying our leadership board. If you look at the board of directors of the American Association of Women Dentists, I did all the math yesterday, we're all from at least 6 different cultures, we speak multiple languages. It's an extremely diverse group of leaders, and most of them are, I mean, we've got age ranges, but they're on the younger side. And I think that's really the first example of putting into action, what we keep telling people is that you have to have a leadership that's reflective of the population that you're trying to serve. And so I will say, probably for the first time, in a long time, we succeeded at that. And it's super exciting. If you look at other groups, you know, there's women starting to come up and leadership, but if you go to the very, very top, it's very white...

Kristin Hohman 18:26
...white and male.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 18:27
And male yeah.

Kristin Hohman 18:30
So, let's talk about that. There's certainly no lack of women into in the dental field at large, mainly focused around hygiene or dental assistants, front office managers, support staff, but as you go up the ladder, fewer and fewer women cross that threshold into owning their own practice, or being even just being a dentist. Um, so as of 2020, that that actually, there's 32% of all dentists in the United States are women.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 19:06
And about 50% of dental school enrollees in most schools are women, which I think is really exciting. So I think that in the next, you know, 5 to 10 years, we're going to see a big shift in the paradigm—that as more dentists are retiring, which we've already seen a huge flux of dentists retiring since the pandemic—but as more dentists are retiring, and more are graduating, we're going to start to see those numbers change that, that there are going to be more and more women practitioners in comparison to the general body, which I think is a good thing.

Kristin Hohman 19:33
Right. So and this, obviously excludes women who want to be hygenists or want to be dental assistants and are very happy in that. But is there like maybe an education problem where women aren't given the same opportunities to go to dental school to become dentists, to buy a practice? Or are there other challenges maybe to preventing women from that kind of upward mobility?

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 20:00
I was thinking about this a lot. And I'm tomorrow I'm on the ADA Diversity and Inclusion Task Force that's identifying barriers to underrepresented populations to getting into dental school period. I'm not quite sure that it's as easy as a gender thing, it's probably more related to what other minority status this person identifies as.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 20:26
It's probably more of like a minority socio economic.

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 20:29
Yeah, like where, where you go to school what what your family education is. So that's, that's maybe my personal touches. I'm the first person in my, the first woman in my family on both sides to graduate from college and postgraduate education, and then I did residency. So, you know, my experience in education was I had to kind of figure it out myself, because no one else was there as an example for me. So there's a lot of legacy in dentistry, but there's also people like me who don't have the legacy. And I feel like that might be a challenge. If you get bogged down or can't figure out what to do and don't have a role model, that could be a challenge. I think the other thing too, for women. And again, this is not my personal experience, but things that I've heard is that the role of a woman is so dynamic from professional to personal, you know. We're the ones who have to deal with fertility and infertility issues, not to say that men aren't involved, but from like a hormone change standpoint in your body, right? We have to become pregnant or trying to become pregnant, stay pregnant, while we're juggling the stress of working, have a baby, take care of a baby, go back to work, right? So there's actual physical, biological barriers that women face. And again, men are involved in that on an emotional level, but not at the same physical level. So that might be a barrier to like continued care or elevating yourself in a career. And so far as like practice ownership or multiple practice ownership, for instance, is like, 'Well, how do I do all of this and have kids and be a wife and be a friend and all of these things?' It's a little overwhelming.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 22:01
Yeah, I think somewhere along the line, the message gets mixed, right? Like, I am divorced, I don't have kids. Running a business is a lot of work. Granted, I kind of treat AAWD, like, it's my other business. Right? Lauren and I both do a lot for the organization, because that's where our heart is. But there's a lot of what I call, like false messages out there that like you can't run a business and have a family. So somewhere along the lines, you have to choose and it's like, well, why? And part of that is, you know, women are on bed rest, and they're doing other things. But we know a lot of women who managed to do it. So I think that part of that is maybe not even an education issue. I don't know if they should be talking about that in dental school. But somewhere there's a mixed message, right? I think there's also a lot of mixed messages potentially coming from corporate dentistry that like you can't own a private practice on your own, but you can, if you work under the corporate umbrella. I feel like women tend to get pulled in a lot of different directions, are fed a lot of different information depending on who it's convenient for and where it's coming from. And so I feel like that's where kind of, in my mind, AAWD comes in as a potential for like, true mentoring and actual factual information. We can set you up with 10 women who are practice owners, or who have had children, or who have been through fertility treatments and X, Y, and Z to know what you're going through. So I think that challenges getting into dental school and challenges of becoming a practice owner are very different. I know numerous women who are like, I don't want to deal with that stress. I want to be able to work and go home and know that it's not my problem at the end of the day. Whereas I'm like, I want to be able to pick the wall color and the composite and the you know those things. So I think a lot of that is a personality difference as well.

Kristin Hohman 23:49
Yeah. But it certainly isn't. It's a it's a false choice that you have to be a mother or a business owner or

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 23:57
100%.

Kristin Hohman 23:57
Yeah, it's...they're not mutually exclusive ideas, though.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 24:00
Nope, not at all.

Kristin Hohman 24:02
So I have a journalism background. I've been with DPR for almost 2 1/2 years now as associate editor. So, feel free to correct me if I'm off base, but my understanding of the dental industry at large is that sometimes it is slow, or even resistant to change and adaptation. And could those be kind of the attitudes that you're up against and why there's a gender gap? A gender pay gap, as well as maybe an opportunity gap?

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 24:37
Lauren calls it the old guard.

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 24:39
Yeah, yeah. Oh, there's an old guard for sure in dental. And you're, I mean, you're seeing that in medicine in general, if you are in touch with, I mean, I look to the medical community, and generally the medical community is like 10 to 15 years more advanced as far as like business ownership technologies, things like that than dental. I mean, we've kind of reached an upper echelon of technology. But what you're seeing now is a shift in the way that medical professionals look, especially young professionals, right, this idea of professionalism and that you have to like women wear a skirt suit, not a pant suit, you know, like, these weird gender biases. Now you see men and women wearing like, jogger style scrubs, that, you know, someone who's an old guard dentist would be like, 'That's not professional. It looks like you're wearing sweats.' And so there's multiple layers of this kind of what is professional and what is not. And I think that's really where the older generations and the newer generations have a discord. You see it in activity on social media. You engage more now with patients on social media, and through electronic communication, electronic charting, you know, the efficiency is so much better. Old Guard dentists are handwriting everything, you know, and, and you still have people who have film and handwritten notes. So there's, I would say in dentistry you can find an active practicing dentist that runs the gamut of like the oldest old school methods to the newest new school methods. And it's really interesting to see, I would love to get those 2 people on the other end of the spectrum together in a room. I mean, you look at graduating dental students now and they know how to do so much digital dentistry. I even feel out of touch I graduated dental school like 7 years ago.

Kristin Hohman 26:26
So you mentioned and this was a statistic that I'd read as well that 50% of dental graduating classes—it's about 50/50 split men and women. What optimism is there and what maybe about that maybe gives you a pause to like, that's a good number, but it could be better kind of thing?

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 26:46
Yeah, I mean, I'm very optimistic. I think that once we have, I will be happier when we have at least 50/50 practicing, right? Like, it's great that we're graduating. But I know a fair number of women who have graduated dental school, and don't work as dentists at all. Like, they either decided it wasn't for them. Or maybe they decided to take a job like yours or a job working for a corporation. I'm thinking of Stephanie, that works for Crest and Oral B. She had like a medical reason that she couldn't practice. And so now she's a consultant to, you know, a dental manufacturer. So I think once we're actually practicing, and we see even see a shift in in ownership, right? Like that, to me is a better statistic than enrolling in dental school, or being actively in dental school is like what's happening in our workforce, and what's happening in our leadership, whether it be leadership in the sense of practice ownership. I would love to see, you know, look at the ADA, which is our governing body and be like, 'Oh, that looks like me, you know, or that looks like my friends or it looks like my colleagues,' as far as the people that are leading, looking at the people that are speaking at dental meetings or writing articles for publications. Not a ton of women are doing things like that.

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 28:04
I would say so even to Britney's point. Yeah. It's exciting that we're at the 50/50 level, of admittance into dental school being women and men. Go...

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 28:16
And it's hard to get into dental school now. I mean, I'm 10 years out and I don't think I could do it. I look at the kids graduate. I'm like, 'Gosh, you're smart.'

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 28:25
...Go up the ladder. And you wonder and you want to know, I mean, I remember my experience in Maryland as an undergrad and even as a resident. The interaction with women professors was maybe 25%. Right? So yeah, we've got half the women are the students, but who's teaching them? And how do we encourage and build women up to want to teach other people and want to be practice owners and understand that a career in dentistry is multifaceted. It can go from private practice, you know, associateship to ownership to academia. I think that's really where I would like to see—okay, there's 50% of women entering dental school, there's 50% of women teaching in dental school, there's 50% of women who own practices. When it's that way across the board, then we can talk about like, 'Okay, have we reached our goals yet?' Same thing with like, the leadership on the ADA. So we're not there yet.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 29:19
Yeah. Yeah. Because to me, leadership is like Lauren said, like, academia, that's leadership. It doesn't have to be leadership on the, you know, presidential level, there are a lot of different facets of leadership.

Kristin Hohman 29:33
And there probably are some who would look at that statistic and say, well, that's peak equality like, again, 'problem solved.'

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 29:42
You should be happy you got what you want.

Kristin Hohman 29:43
Exactly. You should be what you should be happy with 50%. And so that definitely ties into the, what you said, Lauren, about the old guard. How do you overcome those kinds of attitudes?

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 29:59
Brittany, I have the same attitude. If we're invited to the table, we're going to be there. You can't...

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 30:05
And we're going to show up.

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 30:06
...You can't exclude yourself. And you can't say, 'We're better than you because we're women. We don't want to sit at a table filled with men.' No, it's the opposite. You don't make change by ignoring, you make change by putting your name out there. You reach out you accept every podcast interview, and every email is considered and you go to the meetings and, hopefully, I mean, yeah, you have to put a little bit of a thick skin on because someone's gonna find some way to say, 'Okay, you're fine, like, you're good, you calm down.' But then there's going to be someone who listens, right? We really caught the ear of this, the new president, when we were in Florida, 1, because of the diversity and leadership wasn't there and we pointed that out to him. But 2, Brittany and I were really free and open about talking about mental health. And he was floored. 'He's like, I've never heard someone talk so freely about mental health before in a professional setting.' And I was like, 'Well, you can't take care of other people if you're not taking care of yourself.' So come to the table, have things to offer, listen, offer, you know, constructive thoughts. That's how you, yeah, that's where you continue to make change, in my opinion.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 31:12
Yeah, agreed. And I think, um, you have to be open-minded and authentic. I mean, I'm sure that when I walk in, in like a dress and heels with pink hair, and a double nose ring, people are like, 'What? What's happening here?' But you know, that's me, and makes my patients feel really comfortable that I'm a normal person. Right? And, and I think that there needs to be a little bit more of that. And so like Lauren said, like, we probably, her and I, over the last few years have overexerted ourselves, trying to pave the way and make it better that we end up saying yes, to probably more things than we have time for, in theory. But we know that in doing that, if we can stand up and show up, it's going to make a difference for the future.

Kristin Hohman 32:01
So what really gets you excited about being women in dentistry?

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 32:06
Everything.

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 32:07
Yeah, I love like Brittany just touched on, I love to be unassuming, and I love to be, I don't want to... it's not undermined as the word. But I love people to be like, 'It's you, you're gonna be my dentist?' and I love to overdeliver the care right? And to show people that, you know, the empathic side of women, but also the capable side of women. I see people who are big grown men who are in tears crying over a tooth. And I have to like stand up and make them feel better. So yeah, I'll like, pat you on your head, like your mom would. But I'm also going to tell you to sit down, be quiet, open your mouth, and I'm gonna make you feel better. So I really love that.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 32:48
There's something very rewarding about competing and treatment people like, 'Wow, that was great.' I'm like, 'Okay.' But I'm like, it's literally, my job. It's what I do all day. That's, like, that's how I hope to like patient by patient, right? Make a better dental patient And it's just like, 'Yeah, cool. Glad I could help. Have a great day.'

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 33:12
Like, when you have that experience, and they're like, 'Wow, you're my first female dentist.' I'm like, 'Great. Do you need some more? Here's some names.'

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 33:19
Yeah, yeah.

Kristin Hohman 33:21
That's a great way too, to like throw the ladder down and help other women kind of climb up.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 33:26
Always. I try to refer to only female providers if I can. I don't I don't have a great female endodontics, in my area. Hint, hint, Lauren Aguilar. Um, but yeah, I try to use female providers and I ask patients 'Do you have a preference between seeing a female and male provider?' And we have it notated you know, in people's charts that they prefer to see, you know, X or Y so that we can make sure that we we do that and keep them comfortable. So I think that that's just as important of a question to ask is, where do you live? We want to make it convenient. Who do you feel comfortable saying we want to make sure you're matched with the right person?

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 33:57
The other thing too, I think coming up and being a woman as well, is the freedom too. You're looking at Brittany's hot pink wall, right like...

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 34:06
With my tooth. Isn't that great?

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 34:09
...women don't fit in this like, khaki slacks, buttoned-down loafer look that old school dentists have

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 34:17
I wear leggings and sneakers every day.

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 34:19
Yeah, we have like colorful chairs. I listened to music and sing while I work to patients. You know, like, we're making our own rules. And it's really fun.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 34:30
It's also making us really successful. Like, people want you to be relatable. Like, what can they relate to? Maybe a little goofy and fun. I mean, I'm a crazy plant lady with a hot pink office. And people come in, they're like, 'How are your plants, doc?' I'm like, 'Check them out!' It's fun. So we try to stress and to teach women to really embrace being yourself and not to be afraid of that. And if you're in an environment that people aren't letting you do that you need to change that environment.

Kristin Hohman 35:04
The first woman actually earned a degree in 1814—a dental degree, so just over 200 years ago. And we've made some pretty obvious strides since then, and some small strides too. But what does the future of dental women in dentistry look like for either of you?

Dr. Lauren Aguilar 35:22
Um, for me, it's, like we talked about the demographics of women throughout, you know, the beginning of their career all the way through the leadership being reflective of the entering dental school classes. I think too, like the number of specialists. I'd love to have some, like, research and literature specific to women in dentistry. Like, fertility issues for women in dentistry, or upper body or lower body, right? Our hips are very different than men. So like targeted research that is dedicated to how to upkeep your body and knowing that your body is different than a woman, right? And I think men would benefit from that too, right, like focused research, more specific information. The other thing is the future of dentistry. I would say it's more connected, right? We're more connected than ever with our phones. And so I would say like a digital directory where you can pick up the phone and know you're going to get another woman dentist. like Brittany said, in 1 minute. So being able to have a directory that's updated, or if you need a speaker for a conference, you just go right to this list. And it's people who want to stay connected and involved and that's kind of the goal moving forward for the next couple of years of AAWD is engaging and trying to create some of those things. So that, you know, it's like lady dentist taskforce, you push a button and you get a lady dentists like, that'd be great.

Dr. Brittany Bergeron 36:50
I also think that the future of dentistry certainly as far as women are concerned, I hope is a more all-encompassing approach to practice, right. I think that more people as they feel comfortable talking to women, for whatever reason, you know, in my office, we deal with a lot of patients' primary care physicians. It's like, okay, this is going on, this doesn't add up. Have you talked to your doctor about having your hormones checked, or you've had this issue since you were pregnant? Or since you had a miscarriage? Like I can have those conversations with patients related to their gum health, their, you know, overall dental health. So I think that there's going to be a lot more of a connection um, seen and accepted. I mean, everything is obviously literally connected...between dental treatment and overall health. And I think that that's that's really exciting. But you know, I think that the limits are endless for women in dentistry moving forward, especially as we keep pushing and as our numbers are growing. I hope that women don't have to deal with some of the things that that we dealt with—sexual harassment issues and you know, patients not wanting to see us because we're not men—you know, I hope that that continues to get better moving forward.

Kristin Hohman 38:10
Thank you so much to Drs Aguilar and Bergeron for joining us. If you're interested in becoming a member of AAWD visit aawd.org. Stay connected with Dental Products Report at dentalproductsreport.com. Subscribe to our E-newsletter. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. And make sure to tune in to our new weekly podcast series called product bytes, which covers the latest product releases from the industry. Thanks for listening and we'll be back soon. This podcast is produced by the team at MJH. Our music is by Hook Sounds Music.

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