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• VERY inspirational PEOPLE
SILVER ANNIV. MEMBER
STEPHANIE VONDRAK says she became a dentist to help people get healthier in general. She has always been holistic–about more than teeth and gums. “It’s a focus that transcends traditional dentistry,” she said. “Oral health is important to overall health…that will translate into a healthy body and healthy life. In my practice, I give every patient the opportunity to be as healthy as they wish to be.” Her practice, Vondrak Dental in Elkhorn, goes beyond what most people expect from their dentist, like cleanings and simple fillings. Dentistry can also mean addressing problems like sleep apnea or head, neck and jaw pain; saliva testing to address specific bacteria causing gum disease; and retainers for youth that guide jaw growth and eliminate the need for extensive orthodontics as teenagers. “A lot more [is possible through dentistry than most people realize]... my goal is to help people understand what true ‘health’ really means,” Vondrak said. “The absence of pain [and other distress] does not equal health.” Getting to the root of it The difference between industry standard and Vondrak’s dental practice is evident from the first visit. “We have a very specific new-patient process both for our health-centered general dental patients and our TMJ (temporomandibular joint pain) pain patients. By spending over an hour with each individual, I begin understanding their goals and/or their pain situation,” Vondrak explained. ”I think the main difference is taking the time and helping people understand what is possible.”
super driven. If I’m going to work and be away from my family, I want what I do to be impactful. I want to make a difference in people’s lives. I believe I can do that through the practice of dentistry.’” Her husband Nick, also a small-business owner since starting GV Custom Kitchens five years ago, “is very supportive; he understands the demands of having your own business,” she said. “People are always asking me, ‘Why would you want to be a dentist?’” she said. ”It’s rewarding to me. I was a biology major and I loved science, but I’m also a creative person. It’s a good balance between both of those things. It’s a science and an art, for instance, restoring teeth to look exactly like natural teeth and make it look like nothing ever happened.” Vondrak also found the inherent challenge of dentistry appealing. “I’m one of these people who likes to know as much as I can. I love to learn and I always want to identify the source of a problem.”
“I always knew I wanted to do more; I knew when I graduated that I didn’t want to do basic work.” STEPHANIE VONDRAK, DDS F
Brushing up Soon after graduating from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 2002, Vondrak began deepening her professional knowledge. “I started my continuing education right away. Since dental school, I have completed around 700 hours,” she said. ”I always knew I wanted to do more; I knew when I graduated that I didn’t want to do basic work. But there was no clear-cut residency program or school. My pursuit to learn more has lead me all over the country and I have been fortunate to learn from the best.”
She also emphasizes that diagnosis needs to precede treatment, unusual in a sector where “fix it quick” is a common strategy. “When the A mini-residency in craniofacial pain was especially influential. emphasis is on volume, meaning how many patients can we see and how quick, diagnosis is lost and patients suffer,” she said. “It was really instrumental in how my practice is now, and it helped me take treating jaw and joint pain to a whole other level,” she said. “Now that’s at least 50 percent A comprehensive written plan follows a thorough examination but it all stems from that first in-depth conversation. Patients are then treated as partners in their care of what I do every day, treating and preventing TMJ pain.” and determine the pace at which treatment proceeds.
Another area of emphasis is treating sleep apnea. “I make sleep appliances for adults that position the lower jaw forward, allowing them to breathe when sleeping. This is a great service that eliminates the need for a CPAP machine. However, even more exciting is the ability to prevent these problems in kids. I make “As dentists, we have a unique opportunity to really impact people as long as we custom retainers that guide growth patterns of the jaws and face in children. By take the time and are educated enough to do so... It’s really inspiring to see patients helping kids grow in the right direction, they breathe normally, preventing so many progress. Whether it is improved oral hygiene or conquering TMJ pain, it is so much problems like sleep apnea. This type of work is not traditional but is amazing,” she fun to watch kids and adults come back so excited about what they’ve accomplished.” said. ”The results are worth it.”
“Even patients who’ve had complicated dental histories or a dental phobia learn that our only focus is helping them improve their quality of life,” Vondrak said.
Once you’re healthy and you know how to maintain health, you really don’t have to do a lot,” she said. “People don’t have to come in every six months to find out they have a problem. People do not have to wake up every morning in pain. Who would want to go to the dentist if it always cost them time and money, or it was always a painful experience?” Something to smile about Vondrak said her passion for dentistry helps her find balance between her career and raising a family: Harry, 10; Elizabeth, 9; and David, 3. “I’m kind of stubborn and 26
Through her journey, she has joined a nationwide network of like-minded professionals and has lectured throughout the country to share her expertise with students and other medical personnel. “I consistently lecture on the importance of excellent communication skills and understanding who the patient is before you treat.” she said. ”Professionally, I love to challenge the idea of what is expected and what is possible. When you challenge others to think beyond what they thought they could do, that’s inspiring.” mQUARTERLY • AUG/SEP/OCT 2017
Published on Jul 30, 2017
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