Group Dentistry Now & Join DSO talk to Dr. Marisol King after her recent service trip to Guatemala. She is the owner of Cottonwood Smiles Dentistry & Orthodontics and a Pacific Dental Services®-supported dentist.
GDN: Tell us about your dental volunteer work with PDS® in Guatemala through the Pacific Dental Services Foundation Clinic and what inspired you to volunteer there.
MK: I am of Guatemalan-Irish decent, and my mother is from Guatemala, so this trip was particularly meaningful for me. I remember her telling me stories of a dentist who traveled to her small town once per year just to pull teeth. Preventative services were nonexistent. The need for dental care in Guatemala is tremendous. My husband and I both speak fluent Spanish and we actually got married in Guatemala. I have wanted to provide dental services in Guatemala since becoming a dentist. When my husband and I learned that there would be the opportunity to volunteer in Guatemala, we could not wait to go. In fact, we tried going on one of the first trips, but it was full! There were a total of three dentists (my husband and myself included), one hygienist, two dental assistants, and three support staff. It was a wonderful, small team and we were able to provide over $80,000 in donated dentistry to 125 patients in three days.
GDN: What was the most impactful part of the trip?
MK: I found myself constantly reminded of the blessing it is to work in a first-world country, with all of its privileges. Patients traveled by bus for hours to see us, from small villages all over the country. I spoke with and treated people of all different backgrounds, all different ages, and with many different needs. It was so hard to not be able to provide every treatment that every patient needed, but knowing that we were providing pain relief, improving self-esteem with anterior restorations, and educating these patients, was really wonderful.
One woman I saw was in her seventies and asked to be fully edentulated. She had severe periodontal disease, severe decay, and was in a lot of pain. I extracted more than 20 teeth and I have never seen a patient so thankful or happy after extractions! I will always remember the hug and thanks I received after removing her teeth. Not many people would be as thankful for that service.
GDN: When/why did you choose a career in dentistry?
MK: I wanted to be a dentist since the age of 13. I did not come from a family of dentists, but I had a wonderful experience with two general dentists growing up who encouraged me to find out more about the profession. What I discovered was that this profession had everything that appealed to me: meeting new people daily, the possibility of owning a business, problem solving, evolving technology, providing immediate pain relief, direct patient care, and financial security.
GDN: What does it mean for you to be part of an organization that provides opportunities to serve your community?
MK: I have been blessed with so much and I feel that being able to share dentistry and dental services with others is the most fulfilling work I will ever do in my career. When I joined PDS and learned of their love of service similar to my own, this was further confirmation of the good decision I felt I had made in joining them.
GDN: Why did you chose PDS and how long have you been a PDS-supported owner dentist?
MK: My husband, Dr. Bryan Graziano, and I moved to a wonderful small town in Northern Arizona. I had the opportunity to join a PDS-supported office there: Cottonwood Modern Dentistry. Shortly thereafter we moved to New Mexico where I joined Cottonwood Smiles Dentistry & Orthodontics, of which I am now the owner. This is my first year with PDS.
GDN: Did you ever consider being a solo practitioner? If so, why did you decide against it?
MK: Following dental school, my original plan was to join a private practice with a mentor in the hopes of buying into the office and having a partner. I never decided against this; the opportunity to join a PDS-supported office came when we moved to Northern Arizona and I never looked back.
GDN: Have you worked or been part of other dental groups or at other dental practices?
MK: Immediately out of dental school I was fortunate to be hired by a wonderful private practice in Phoenix. I practiced there prior to moving to Northern Arizona and joining Cottonwood Modern Dentistry. It was a great first experience and I learned a lot.
GDN: What was your biggest obstacle in dental school? Post dental school?
MK: Dental school had an overwhelming amount of exams: entrance exams, course exams, board exams, and licensing exams. I found myself struggling to find enough hours in the day to sufficiently study for all of them. In post dental school, the obstacle was navigating the learning curve that existed in real practice. There was so much new technology, materials, methods of practice, the business aspect of dentistry, as well as managing people and a busy schedule.
GDN: What advice would you give to a current dental student? To a newly graduated dentist?
MK: To a dental student I would say, “This too shall pass,” but really, remember all of the things you love in addition to dentistry. It is easy to forget to have a healthy work-life balance, both in school and after graduation. To a new grad, I would say, “Get ready to learn even more than what you were taught in school! Do not lose the excitement of learning new things. Dentistry is ever evolving.”
GDN: Tell us about your hobbies and life outside of dentistry.
MK: My husband and I absolutely love to travel. We recently came back from visiting family and friends in the UK and Europe. We travel as much as we can, whenever we can. I also love to sing and play the piano. I have been playing piano since age three. We love the movies! I have two long-haired miniature dachshunds and it is wonderful to be around them. While not treating patients you can find me doing any of these things: traveling, cooking, running, dancing, playing the piano, singing, hiking, volunteering, and watching movies.
GDN: Are there any other ways that you volunteer?
MK: Every year my husband and I look forward to many different service opportunities, including the New Mexico Mission of Mercy; our annual “Stand-Down” event, during which we treat homeless veterans; our own office’s participation in Smile Generation® Serve Day, a day we provide donated oral health care services to members of the community; and the Special Olympics New Mexico volunteer events. Providing free dental care, as well as advocating for Special Olympics New Mexico, is particularly important to me. Now, hopefully, we will be traveling to Guatemala annually. It is a personal goal to bring my entire team with me on a future trip to Guatemala so that they can share in the fulfillment and blessings I experienced on this last trip.
Marisol King, DDS
Cottonwood Smiles Dentistry & Orthodontics 3400 NM 528 NW, Ste. A-107
Albuquerque, NM 87114 firstname.lastname@example.org (505) 244-1111
Read other Pacific Dental Services stories on Group Dentistry Now – HERE