Dennis Hartlieb

Pediatric Dentistry and Mom Dentists with Dr. Grace Yum

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How do you find your way into pediatric dentistry, and what are the specific challenges in that field?

Listen in to or watch Part 1 of Dr. Dennis Hartlieb's interview with Dr. Grace Yum, a pediatric dentist and the founder of Mommy Dentists in Business. In this episode, Dr. Grace Yum shares about what led her into dental school and her passion for pediatric dentistry, how she leveraged mentors and stood out in dental school, and what led her to where she is today. 

Don't miss this amazing Sharecast full of important tips and experiences that can help all of us with our dental practices! 

More about Dr. Grace Yum

From her website, Mommy Dentists in Business

"Dr. Grace Yum grew up in Glenview, Illinois and now lives in sunny California. She is a mother and a certified pediatric dentist, a certification achieved by only 5% of all dentists in the U.S. Dr. Yum is the former founder and practice owner of Yummy Dental & Orthodontics for Kids and she is also the founder and CEO of Mommy Dentists in Business.

"Mommy Dentists in Business was started June of 2017 by Dr. Grace Yum, while on a business trip with her husband. She noticed how lawyers connected and networked with one another and felt that dentistry was missing that component of camaraderie. The Facebook group was a way to connect dentists from all over the world, especially dentists like herself, moms that are business owners.

"In addition to managing the MDIB community, Dr. Yum hosts her own podcast, Mommy Dentists in Business Podcast. With 17 complete seasons, Dr. Yum’s podcast has been in the iTunes top 100, was ranked #3 of 15 of the top dental podcasts by Patterson Dental’s “Off the Cusp” publication and has been downloaded nearly 80,000 times.

"She has quietly become nationally recognized in her field. Dr. Yum has appeared and was featured on TODAY Show on NBC nationally, NBC Chicago as a repeat guest, Parents Magazine, Parenting Magazine, Chicago Parent Magazine. She has also appeared on many podcasts, with topics covering dentistry, work/life balance and business tips for the working mom.

"During her spare time, Dr. Yum enjoys spending time with her two kids and husband in Newport Coast, California." 
Don't have time to listen?

Read the Full Interview Below

A Nontraditional Pathway into the Dental Profession

Dennis 0:02  
Hello, Dental Online Trainers! Dr. Dennis Hartlieb with you again with another Sharecast that I think you're just going to love. Today I get to speak with Dr. Grace Yum, who coincidentally practiced as a pediatric dentist not far from my practice in Glenview, Illinois. Dr. Yum started a little side hustle she calls Mommy Dentists in Business several years ago when she recognized the need for a safe place for women dentists that were also moms to meet and talk about the challenges and difficulties of juggling being a mom, a spouse, a dentist, and very often a business owner.

Now, obviously, as a male, there are many issues that women dentists, let alone mothers who are dentists have to manage, that quite simply I've not had to deal with in my lifetime. I think most of us would admit for better or for worse, it's often the female or the mother of the family that has to manage their schedules of the other spouse is also working. If a child gets sick or, you know, say, God forbid, as we learned during COVID, that the school closes and the parents become the homeschool teacher's aide... Again, these are challenges for all parents, not just moms, all parents, but in many relationships, the brunt of the care falls on the moms.

So listen in on part one, when we learn about Dr. Yum's journey to discover her passion for pediatric dentistry. Dr. Yum shares about her early career interests when she was in journalism and communications. And she talks about the winding pathway. She was influenced by her friend, as we've heard so often in our conversations on this Sharecast, and that eventually led her into dentistry and then eventually into pediatric dentistry. Grace also talks about the power of mentorship, which was part of her influence in going into dentistry and how to establish yourself as a young dentist. She shares about how she manages parents and family members when supporting pediatric dentists. So kick back, relax, and enjoy my conversation with Dr. Grace Yum. 

Hello, Dental Online Trainers! Dr. Dennis Hartlieb, back with you again with another splendid interview today that I know you're just going to love! And I am super excited to spend some time getting to know better a person I met several years ago, pre-COVID. This is Dr. Grace Yum, who was practicing dentistry in my community in Glenview, Illinois. So let me tell you a little bit about Dr. Grace! And Grace, you can sort of correct me where I err. She grew up in the sort of the North Shore suburbs, in Glenview, right? You grew up in Glenview? Which which high school did you go to?

Grace 2:26  
GBS. That stands for Glenbrook South Titans All the Way!

Dennis 2:31  
That's how they are there. They're either GBN or GBS. And I just wanted to get your reaction. That's usually how they respond. So, that's awesome. She went to Northwestern for undergrad, right? 

Grace 2:41  

Dennis 2:42  
Yep. And she got a degree in speech. Is that right in like communications / speech? 

Grace 2:46  
Yes. Communications. 

Dennis 2:48  
Yeah. And you know, Northwestern, like killer for that. I mean, that's journalism and speech...

Grace 2:52  
I mean, that was my direction. That was my hope, to be a journalist.

Dennis 2:59  
Ah, and here you! Maybe circling back around! So... after Northwestern then you went down to University of Maryland; you were a terrapin dentist. The home of the Maryland Bridge!

Grace 3:10  
The Maryland bridge and the first dental museum in the world, and also the first dental school in the world!

Dennis 3:17  
Oh, there we go! All right. I went to Michigan, and we had a pretty cool museum, but I don't know that it was... You know, there's only so much stuff you can fancy over old dentistry. So, then after your dental school experience, you went back up to Chicago, and you did your pediatric training at Children's Memorial. Well, what did they call it back then? Was it Children's Memorial?

Grace 3:40  
It was Children's Memorial Hospital, which 

Dennis 3:43  
Part of Northwestern.

Grace 3:44  
Part of Northwestern, under the Northwestern umbrella. And it is now called Lurie's. Anne Robert Lurie Children's Hospital. They since have taken it over. And the campus is now fully downtown. Before it was located in Lincoln Park, Chicago.

Dennis 4:01  
Right? Yeah, now they've got their fancy new building and stuff. 

Grace 4:08
Yes, it's beautiful. 

Dennis 4:10
Yeah, so I have a consultant I used to work with, Mark Cooper. He used to say that dogs were angels with fur. And I have always said that pediatric dentists are angels with a dental drill. Because...

Grace 4:15
Love it!

Dennis 4:16
I say this for our viewers and listeners... I used to practice with a pediatric dentist, someone that Grace knows, someone who trained her, Dr. Nancy Ajawi. And I tell you, there's a few memories I have of pain in my life. These are like things that you... that just come back to you, right? I think about it, and I can feel the pain immediately. 

Grace 4:22
Oh boy!

Dennis 4:23
One was I was skiing out in Beaver Creek, and I hit an edge, and I did a Superman, and I broke my humerus. And I remember that immediately. I was playing tennis with a buddy I'm these old tennis courts, and the tennis ball hit a a crack and deviated in a direction that dropped me to my knees, and that I remember. And the third is I remember being bitten by a kid when I was doing my residency at Mount Sinai Hospital. And I tell you, I still feel this today. I haven't gotten over that feeling. And so God bless you and all pediatric dentists out there. You are angels!

Grace 5:21  
I think that's a rite of passage, to have been bitten once.

Dennis 5:26  
I took that passage out! I didn't need that anymore. That's enough. Once was enough for me. All right. So, I want to talk about how you got into all that stuff. But just sort of to finish up on your background, after you finished up with your pediatric rotation, you started a couple practices in the Chicago area. One in Glenview and then one in... What was in Linkin Park? Where was your other practice? Logan Square?

Grace 5:52  
It was Lakeview area near Rigglyville.

Dennis 5:56  
Okay, gotcha. And you have since sold off those practices. But, about four or five years ago, you started what's called Mommies Dentist in Business, which is really, really cool, really fascinating! And I want to talk about how you got into that. But I want to talk a little bit more about your background, and how you got into dentistry.

A lot of things that I like to learn about is sort of how people got into dentistry. And the stories are always so fascinating, Grace! I tell you, I mean, it is really interesting! I was talking to Jeff Rouse a bit back on our Sharecast, and how he ended up in dentistry was just complete happenstance. And everyone I talked to... They have a very unique paths, I think.

So, anything that I didn't talk about your sort of dental pathway that you wanted to add? It's sort of like a eulogy! Only the thing is, you get to stand up and correct people, right? At a eulogy, you're not going to stand up and correct people! Here you can say, "Well, hey, you're close, but you missed on that!" Anything that I missed?

Grace 6:54  
Well, my journey is interesting and unique in that it was more family related. And my family dentist, who -- he has since retired, Dr. Sam Yoon, he was best friends with my dad. And he encouraged me to go into dentistry while I was at Northwestern. His kids are also in dentistry; one's an orthodontist, and the other is a periodontist. You may know one of his children, Dr. Cecile! 

Dennis 7:29  
I do, for sure! 

Grace 7:31  
Cecile was my very, very first mentor. And my dad said, "You know, Cecile is now practicing as an associate in other practices. She needs an assistant! You are now her assistant!" 

Dennis 7:44  
Oh, interesting!

Grace 7:44  
So, I went everywhere Cecile went, basically. So she worked in different offices. And even though I was in undergrad, I had to go help her because she's like my older sister. So that's how I was introduced really hands on. I mean, my only exposure then was just to see her dad for cleanings and fillings. And when I went with her, I knew nothing. She had to train me from scratch. And she was a young new dentist as well. 

Dennis 7:58  
So, she didn't know anything! 

Grace 8:19  
Right. So everywhere I went, you know, the assistants there trained me then. Yeah. And it developed into something more. While I was an undergrad at Northwestern she ended up working for... And the world is so small -- Dr. Fincher and Dr. Simone.

Dennis 8:36  
Of course! Dr. Simone was just in my chair two days ago!

Grace 8:40  
Oh, really? So, I also worked for Dr. Simone! So Cecile brought me into that practice as her orthodontic assistant. But then, because I was on campus... It's in Evanston, so I was right there! You know, Church Street is right there. I could walk! And they were short staffed. And, of course, they had their main assistants, but they wanted me to help in the pedo wing because they had it like pedo and ortho in separate wings. And I gladly, you know, worked over there. But if... For those of you listeners who are not in the dentistry world, you know that ortho is completely different. You know, set of instruments.

Dennis 9:18  
Yeah, absolutely. You know, Grace, they're not even dentists!

Grace 9:23  
We joke about it, right? I'm like, do you even know how to give anesthetic?

Dennis 9:27  
They're like, "No, and we're glad we don't have to do that!" 

Grace 9:29  
Right, right, right! I'm like, you don't even extract teeth. 

Dennis 9:32  
Just joking to all you orthodontists out there! 

Grace 9:34  
Right! We love you.

Dennis 9:35  
We love you all. Just kidding.

Grace 9:37  
So anyhow, I was introduced to pediatric dentistry through that journey. And they were saying, "You are good with your hands! You should consider dental school." And I said, "I am not good at science!" I am here like my major is Communications. I want to be on the news. I want to be a news anchor!

Dennis 9:56  
So take me back. So you're an undergrad. You have no one interest and going to dentistry you're looking at going into communications. So what year were you when you started assisting Dr. Cecile? 

Grace 10:09  
I think I was a sophomore. 
I was introduced to pediatric dentistry through that journey. And they were saying, "You are good with your hands! You should consider dental school." And I said, "I am not good at science!" My major is Communications. I want to be on the news. I want to be a news anchor!
Dr. Grace Yum

Developing a Passion for Pediatric Dentistry

Dennis 10:10  
Alright, so you're taking a whole different curriculum than that that would set you on pace for dentistry, right?

Grace 10:15  
Completely, completely different! But Cecile, and some of the other doctors who I worked with... And at the time, I also... Who was an associate there was Dr. Ray Gerado, who is the clinical director of the program at Lurie's, and I worked for him as a chairside assistant on Saturdays. And that's how I got to know him, and he trained me, but he wasn't the director at the time. You know, he was not at Lurie's.

And so Cecile kept saying, just take the basic prereqs for dental school, because you never know. You just don't know. And she's like, And I would hate... She's like, "You're in school, just take some of the courses! I would hate for you to change your mind and want to go to dental school, but then you've already graduated And now you have to do all that again!" So, you know... being her younger sister, I listened to what she told me! 

Dennis 11:10  
Good for you! I've never listened to my older brothers. Very good of you.

Grace 11:14  
I mean, I took what she said... I looked up to her, you know? And so I was like, Okay, well, it doesn't hurt. But I really quickly realized that science for me, I enjoyed it. But it wasn't my forte. It wasn't something that I just automatically got A's in. You know, I really had to study to even get like a B. So, I took the DIT. And my parents encouraged and supported me. And they were just like, you know, just do the best you can. And if it doesn't work... You know, if you... It's a backup. If journalism doesn't work...

Dennis 11:50  
Dentistry is your backup plan! 

Grace 11:51  
Dentistry is your backup plan. And I was like, "Oh, that's a weird way to think about it. But okay!" So that was my backup plan to go to dental school. And so I wasn't that student that was cutthroat or trying to get an A in everything are trying to get the high score on the DIT. So I just did the best that I could, really! And I took a gap year.

So after I graduated, I worked in consulting for a consultant in Evanston. And then, I was missing dentistry! Because I stopped assisting; I stopped doing all of that. And I said, you know, I really miss it! I miss being chairside. And I miss all the different things that I did! Because they had me... I worked for Dr. Barry Walvoord at one time. 

Dennis 12:38  
I know Barry for sure! 

Grace 12:39  
Yeah, I worked for Dr. Yamas Dulsky!

Dennis 12:43  
I know Yamas! 

Grace 12:45  
So I mean, I learned so much. And I thought, Gosh, I really miss it. And they all thought I was very good with children, especially the children with special needs. Like when a child with special needs came in, they were looking for me.

Dennis 12:58  
Well, let me back up for a second, Grace. Before we get into that, because I think that's really interesting... And for all those who aren't in the Chicago community, sorry for all these dentist names that we're throwing out. But they're all people that I work with as well! So, I'm curious about... When you first sat down as a dental assistant the first day that you're with Dr. Yoon, and so your sophomore year of Northwestern... And now you're... I mean, it's not a normal situation for somebody to be sitting knee to knee with another person and then delivering, you know, medical care or dental care to somebody. So what was...

Do you remember what your first thoughts were when you when you sat down in a clinical situation? Were you like, "Oh, this is like crazy!" or "This is awesome!" Or what were...

Grace 12:58  
No, I was like, "This is so cool!" And only because growing up, I was the kid that helped my dad around the house, you know, build furniture, fix things, and even now, I like to tinker with stuff. Like I like toys. I like tinkering with things. And so ortho was perfect because it was very mechanical. And I was really good at like putting things together. And so, quickly -- they were training me quickly. And I remember Dr. Ordulski trained me how to place turbos. He's like, "Wow, you're good at that!" I learned really quickly; just picked up the hand stuff. And, as I learned ortho, the orthodontists mostly, are the... you know, they're doing the diagnosing, and doing the treatment plans, but the assistants really do a lot of the technical things. Right? 

Dennis 14:28  
Correct! Yes. 

Grace 14:29  
And so they taught me how to do all kinds of things. And I became very adept at it and they were quickly pointing out, "You have very cut hand skills!" To me, I didn't know what that meant in dentistry, 

Dennis 14:40  
Sure, of course! When you're not in it...

Grace 14:41  
Right! So, they just kept encouraging me, saying you've got very good hand skills. You can do this. You should think about dentistry. I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah. And when I took that gap year and I wasn't doing dentistry, I really missed it. But what I really loved most was the relationship with the patient and the parent and feeling good about the work I was doing and making a difference in someone's life.

And with orthodontics, you see that right away because of the teeth moving and the shifting and the confidence and the smiles, and how special it is to get your braces off! And so I felt very... I thought, when I worked with the consultant, I was very... What's the word I'm looking for? I was struggling with: Do I continue this path? In being a journalist? Am I helping people? Versus in the dental office, I was really helping someone and making a difference! 

Dennis 15:08
Well, it's tangible, right? I mean, it's tangible! You can see it! You know, when we do cosmetic dentistry, we can see the way they react. So if you're writing something, you know... And it's nice because as you've done your podcast and you've written your stuff, you know that you're getting feedback from people right to say, "You know, Grace. I really enjoyed your interview or enjoyed this!" Right? But it's a different experience, right? It's more tangible; it's more, I think, when it's person to person! There's some emotion that's different... As nice as it is getting, you know, emails are getting, you know, notes from people... There is that... You get those hugs, right? You literally get physical hugs and these emotional hugs!

Grace 16:10
Right! And you see... You get to see them often. So, with ortho, you get to see them often. But then when they're done, they're done. And then you don't see them as often. But what I loved about Simone's and Dr. Phibinger's practice was with children, you see them yearly, you know, every year... You get to watch them grow up; you get to be a part of their lives! And that to me was so fulfilling. I really loved that part of dentistry.

Dennis 16:44  
Let me ask your question. So for those who are looking at getting into dentistry and for those who are in dental school now, what advice...? Well, let me rephrase this. Would you advise that they go and spend time dental assisting in getting into an office?

Grace 17:02  
Absolutely. That is the best time spent. And I often tell people who are interested, you won't know, truly, what dentistry is, unless you are in the office. And I, fortunately, had the opportunity to work in every single position.

Dennis 17:21  
Yeah, and you're working several practices, which I think is really important also.

Grace 17:24  
They put me at the front; they put me in the back! They put me... I was taking out the trash, cleaning the toilets, sweeping the lab, you know, pouring up models. I did everything. And back then there weren't really computers, I had to take insurance forms, put it in the typewriter, type it up, mail it out, pull paper charts, and I literally did everything! Sterilization. You name it, I did it!

Dennis 17:52  
Let me explain to our young viewers. A typewriter is I think that's like a computer. This is weird, but you can actually put a piece of paper inside of it, and it has ink, and you hit the same sort of keyboard, and you get a piece of paper out that would be like, you know, something like this that had typing on it. So that's what a typewriter is for you. 

Grace 18:10  
Google it! Ask Alexa!

Dennis 18:14  
Go on YouTube, they'll show you how I typwriter, the Smith Corona, worked. But yeah, I mean, this is... I was fortunate I got to teach at Marquette dental school for about 25 years. And so I had a lot of connection with young dentists. And one of the things that I would really advise is get into dental offices! Get into different dental offices! See how they're running. Get the different aspects. You know, pull back the curtain a little bit, so get up in the front, get in the back, and do all the little things and understand how a dental practice runs! Because it is a business, which is what we're going to get to in a little bit with your DMIB. I said that wrong. It's MDIB. I went DMIB, so sorry about that!

Grace 18:54  
It's okay. 
That is the best time spent. And I often tell people who are interested that you won't know, truly, what dentistry is, unless you are in the office. And I, fortunately, had the opportunity to work in every single position.
Dr. Grace Yum

Getting Noticed as a Dental Student and Finding Mentors

Dennis 18:56  
In your consulting life, then, you're looking back and you're sort of missing this interaction with people, so was it a... Were you really... were you challenged to go to dental school? Were you like, "Yes, I'm going to do it!" Or let me let me throw out some feelers and see if it works! Where were you with that?

Grace 19:16  
No, then I was gung ho - I'm doing that! Committed! I was 100% committed. And I really fought hard to get to where I wanted to be. Again, I'm not a good test taker. I'm not in Mensa. This isn't coming natural to me. 

Dennis 19:34  
Well, if you were in Mensa, you wouldn't be on this podcast!

Grace 19:36  
Right! But I mean, I, in my brain, thought dentists and doctors were brilliant academically, and I wasn't that student. And so I fought really hard, and general chem, bio... It didn't really come naturally to me! The only thing that I loved and enjoyed of those academic classes, and I'm saying this to all the students that are listening, I only got A's in anatomy and organic chemistry!

Dennis 20:06  
Why do you think that was?

Grace 20:08  
I don't even know! Well, for anatomy, it was the dissection, figuring out how things work... Again, I like to figure out how things work. And in a puzzle... And I think Organic Chemistry is a puzzle. 

Dennis 20:21  
Oh, for sure. What I remember of it.

Grace 20:22  
Right, so for me, that was the way my brain thought. So I was good at those things. But then you put... give me something else, then I wasn't so great at it. But I didn't let that deter me to get through dental school. So, once I started interviewing for dental schools, I narrowed it down to Maryland and Case Western, and you have to go visit the schools, and you have to visit the students, do your research and figure out what it is you want. And back then, when I was doing it, the research I found was Maryland was a very big school on clinicians... Like putting you into the clinical area quickly, like pushing you clinically. And there were some schools that pushed you with research.

Dennis 20:58
I went to Michigan, and Michigan was a big research school. So, we... That was a lot of our education.

Grace 21:02
So I really wanted to be the clinician. I was like, I know I can do that. I know I have the skill sets to be an amazing clinician, if I'm trained correctly. And when I went to the school, I walked in, and I just knew I had to be there. It was that feeling of this is where I'm supposed to come. And I did my interviews, and the squeaky wheel kind of gets the oil. That's just the way my parents raised me. So I would call the admissions office. I was like, "Did you see my chart yet?"

Dennis 21:54  
You know, I think this is a good point. And I did the same thing. When I was at Michigan, I wanted to go to Michigan dental school. And so I would go and visit the academic advisor, the the admissions director, all the time! Don was his name. And I'd be like, knock, knock, knock. "Hey, Don! Dennis Hartlieb here. I know I won't be the first one in, but are you going to be able to find room for me?"

And I think... So for those of you who are listening, it does make a difference. It does make a difference. So you don't want to be annoying. You don't want to pester! But you want to make sure that they know that you are... you're in it! That you're going to do what it takes to be successful. And they need to know that because it's really hard for these admission directors; they get so many applicants, and on paper, everyone looks the same. So yeah, you have to... You have to put yourself out there. And it's scary. 

Grace 22:45  
It is scary! But you have to! And the thing is, if you think about it, admissions to any type of thing, whether it's college, or dental, or medical or whatever... There's 1000s of applicants, and how do you stand out? Because everyone's going to be basically a good student... Everyone's going to have the same... I did tennis, I played piano.

So for me, it was being one year out of college, I went back and said, "I'm serious about this! I already took a gap year. I am going to be a professional mature student, I would like to attend your school. I'm very interested. I know I'm out of state. However, this is the first dental school in the world. And that to me is a privilege to be able to attend this school." And I wanted to make it very clear. So I did call a few times. And so, the day I got the letter of acceptance, that was so great. And it was my first time living away from home, too. And I remember Cecile being like, be mindful, like Cecile wanted me to go to UIC. 

Dennis 23:49  
Sure. Because it's local to Chicago.

Grace 23:51  
Right! And she's like, because that's where you're networking. That's where your network is. People know you. That's where you established roots, and part of dentistry is networking, establishing relationships with your colleagues. 

Dennis 24:04  
Isn't that the truth!

Grace 24:04  
Isn't that the truth? She's like, if you go to Maryland and try to come back, it might be harder for you. And so, I said, I know Cecile! I get it. But I'm like... But you're here!

Dennis 24:17  
Yeah, one person, one person!

Grace 24:20  
Right. So I was like, I know you, so anyway, I took the chance! And I went. Best experience ever! Still in contact with my professors there. Still email them, still see them if they're in the area, and loved my education! And so fast forward, coming back to Chicago, I missed home. I wanted to go to Children's but when I applied, Dr. Gerado was then the chairman. So immediately I was like, "You know me!" You already...

Dennis 24:47  
A connection! 

Grace 24:48  
Yeah, I'm like you already know how I work. How I was like... I was responsible. I showed up on time. I did everything you told me to, and you've trained me before. I I want it. I'm all in, you know?

Dennis 25:02  
Let's take a step back. I'm curious about when you're in dental school because... For those who are looking to get in or those who are in, everyone has a different experience in dental school. I went to Michigan in the 80s. And I tell you it was it was rugged! It was the old style, old school style of teaching that, fortunately, I don't think is very prevalent any longer. And I will tell you that none of my classmates will look back fondly at the experience of dental school. I look back fondly at what I learned, and the dentist that I was able to become, and the connections I made with my classmates. I loved that.

But dental school was pretty painful from a lot of our perspectives. But I think in the newer, newer generation, things are getting... are much better. And I think it's more collegial. I think things like the white coat ceremony have been really helpful to give dignity to young dentists. And that wasn't really afforded back in the old days, you know? So when you were in dental school, and I'm curious, because we're going to get into the Mommy Dentists in Business. But I'm curious... When you walked in, what was your class ratio of females to males? When you when you walked in? Was it fairly even or was it more highly male? Do you recall?

Grace 26:16  
From my recollection, I don't recall. But I do want to say it was at least between 30 and 40% women. So we had quite a few. And for me, my experience was hard, like you said, where I was trained by a lot of Navy dentists... There are a lot of them in that area. And so we had a very strict rigid program as well. And it was hard. And, again, all the students listening out there. My first year after winter break, when I came back, one of my professors said, "I'm surprised you're back." She said, I didn't think you were going to come back. Because I struggled. I struggled with the academics. The only thing I was good at was lab.

Dennis 27:12  
That's what saved me as well! Yeah, the didactics were not my specialty, you know, not my forte.

Grace 27:17  
The didactics weren't my forte. And the thing is, Dr. Sam Yoon, saved a whole jar of teeth for me that he extracted. I showed up to school with this huge jar of teeth, from centrals to canines to pre molars to molars. And it was the coolest experience. But I struggled. And where I shined was clinic. That's where I shined. And I even finished all my requirements a semester early. 

Dennis 27:49  
Oh, that's great. 

Grace 27:50  
So that was really neat. But I...

Dennis 27:53  
Do you remember what your first dental procedure was that you did on a living patient?

Grace 27:59  
Dentures. Okay. That was my first patient, he needed dentures. And he was an author of a book. And he needed teeth to smile for his book.

Dennis 28:08  
Fantastic. How rewarding is that? 

Grace 28:12  
It was so rewarding! And he says to me, and he was the sweetest meal. He says to me, "Have you done this before?" And I said... I looked him dead in the eye. And I said, "Yes! Upstairs."

Dennis 28:27  
What I used to tell my students was when people ask you that, you say, "I've done a number of these." Now the number could be zero! And it... You know, you don't have to tell the whole truth. You just have to give a partial truth. "I've done a number of these." And if you've done two, then you laugh. You say, "Well, I've done more than one of these." And you've only done two, but that's okay! So you do have to embellish a little bit to get through the early days.

Grace 28:51  
So me being just so honest, I said, "Yep. Upstairs." But anyway, he didn't care. He was totally fine. But that was just... That was really super fun.

Dennis 29:01  
I think dental patients themselves are angels, talking about angels earlier... So, I think... The things they let us do to them! Grace, when you were in your undergrad dental school, did you know you wanted to go into pediatrics? Was that sort of where you were shooting for right from the beginning? Or were you thinking also ortho?

Grace 29:17
I was thinking ortho! I was thinking ortho, but then again, Cecile being ortho and then her brother Tom being perio, and their dad being general, they're like you should do pedo.

Dennis 29:27
Because they saw how you interacted with the children? 

Grace 29:32  
Right... they said you were really good with children, but also because they were like, there's a ton of us in different specialties; you should do pedo! And I felt like I was already maxed out with ortho, like I felt like I already... And during dental school, I worked in the private faculty practice for the Chairman of ortho at Maryland, Dr. David. So he wanted me... I volunteered my hours, and I even got an award at graduation. And I did ortho for the faculty practice. I worked with the residents. I mean, I knew how to put brackets on better than the residents. I was teaching the residents. And so...

Dennis 30:15  
Was your thought then that hey, I can do pedo. And if I want to do ortho, I already have the skills to do ortho.

Grace 30:20  
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So, that's what I thought. And I figured I would at some point work with Cecile. But by the time I got back to Chicago, she was already selling her practice and moving to the east coast. So it never really panned out that way, but I honestly didn't. I honestly didn't feel the need to learn more ortho. 

Dennis 30:43  
Sure. Makes sense. 

How to Stand Out in Dental School

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Dr. Grace Yum shares how she made sure she stood out as she applied for dental school.

Working in the OR and Honing Dental Skills

Grace 30:45  
What I was exposed to then was the OR.

Dennis 30:50  
For pediatric dentists?

Grace 30:51  
Pediatric Dentistry, and that just blew my mind. I mean, general anesthesia and surgery, I was so excited. 

Dennis 31:00  
Oh, interesting. 

Grace 31:01  
I was like, This is so cool. And that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to be in the OR.

Dennis 31:08  
Oh, interesting. Because we did a bit of that when I did my residency at Mount Sinai on the west side of Chicago. We saw a lot of kids that needed, you know, tons of dentistry and they needed to have general anesthesia. So we did a lot in the OR back in the day. And I had sort of a different feeling about it. I was sort of like... I felt sad about it. And while, you know, it's a great service. I mean, it's unbelievable, because these kids are in pain.

They have abscesses; they have multiple teeth that need to be removed, they need stainless steel crowns, they need the whole shebang. Right. But I was I had sort of the opposite feeling. I'm like... I liked the fact I got to do a lot of dentistry. But I really felt... I felt bad. I just didn't... I didn't love the fact that we that these kids were in such need, and I had a hard time with that. So it's interesting to hear your perspective. And I get it! I get it because you get to do a lot of dentistry and really help at a really high level.

Grace 32:04  
I love also hone your skills. I mean, the kids are sleeping and not moving. 

Dennis 32:08  
Yeah, that's nice.

Grace 32:08  
You're picking up speed. You have three cases a day. Sometimes you have 12 or 13 hour days in the OR, but you're really learning dentistry, like your dentistry. 

Dennis 32:20  
You do a lot! 

Grace 32:21  
Perfecting it. Yeah. And so when you're doing it live and on live patient, you can do it confidently. I mean, obviously, they're moving around, but you don't have to second guess your clinical skills

Dennis 32:32  
Right! You know what to do.

Grace 32:33  
You know what to do. So that was really great. And I mean, and going back to dental school, had I not done pedo, I really loved oral surgery, but I was not committed to the length of training. And I looked forward to oral surgery so much. I loved going to oral surgery rotation. And I had the best teachers there. 

Dennis 32:55  
That's great. 

Grace 32:57  
Yes, they were intimidating. And yes, they yelled at you. And yes, they, you know, embarrassed you.

Dennis 33:02  
Sure! High stress environment!

Grace 33:05  
Very high stress environment. But my dad was a Marine, so I was like, kind of used to that disciplinary like approach. And so, I wasn't afraid of it. So when I showed up, they didn't have to handle me with kid gloves on. Like, I was like, Yes, sir. You know, whatever they threw at me, I didn't take it personally. And I really was taught oral surgery really well at Maryland. So when I got to pedo residency at Children's, and we were putting kids to sleep, we were also... Again, we are the specialists seeing children. But we also needed to see the special needs children, and in a hospital setting, you're seeing all the special needs children. Up until 18 or 19 as well.

Dennis 33:46  
And maybe even beyond, right? It's hard to find restorative dentists or general dentists who will treat that population because there's so many different demands.

Grace 33:57  
Exactly. And we had to extract adult teeth. And I was very comfortable doing it. And we had an oral surgeon. Gosh, I think his name is Dr. Mark Olson. He's out in Carol Stream. I can't remember his last name. It's been so long, but... 

Dennis 34:08
Alexis Olson? 

Grace 34:09
No. Alexis Olson is Northwestern downtown. But we had another... I had another attending at Lurie's, and he only came so often. So we had to schedule these patients who needed extractions on the days he was there. And so it was a busy day for him.

He was running from procedure suite to procedure suite, doing these extractions because with the multiple residents going on... And, one day he came in... I was with my attending. And I said, "I'm going to take these teeth out!" He was like, "Are you sure?" I said, "Yes, I can do it!" He said, "Go ahead, go do it!" You know, and so I was taking these teeth out. Dr. Mark walks in and he's like, "I'm here!" And I'm like, "I'm done!" And he said, "What do you mean, you're done?" And I said, "I just did it."

He was like... he was so excited. He was like, "I am so happy you did this." And I'm like, I didn't go to dental school not to learn how to pull teeth. You know, I was just like, and I'm not here to not learn either. And if I pulled... if I was in the middle of pulling a tooth in, and something went wrong, I knew you were here. I knew you would be here to help me. But I'm not going to say no and shy away and back off, because I'm afraid. And I tell residents all the time. This is when you are supposed to make your mistakes. And this is when you're supposed to learn.

Dennis 35:30  
Well, I think that's the thing. I think sometimes people can be so afraid of making mistakes that they'll not step forward. 

Grace 35:36  

Dennis 35:36  
And one thing you've talked about, though you haven't used the word, is you've had a ton of mentorship. And it's... I think that's a critical aspect for when you're going through... From dental school, pre dental school, all the way through as a dentist is finding people to mentor you, and learn as you're going through the process.

Grace 35:55  
Absolutely. And I encourage you to find that mentor, that teacher, that you click with. You don't click with everyone, that's okay. There's millions of personalities out there. But find the couple of doctors in your school or in your residency that you click with. And you ask them a bajillion questions. And you... That's why they are there. And teachers are saints as well. Because they don't really get paid much for this, you know? 

Dennis 36:21  
They don't! No! 

Grace 36:21  
And they could very well be in private practice making a lot of money. And they don't have to be there if they didn't want to be. So that is how you learn. Mentorship is important. But mentorship is important all throughout life! Any stage of life! Even now, even now. And I remember one thing Nancy told me. Nancy told me when I was a resident... She said, "Grace, if you're going to have kids, and you're going to get married some day, you want to practice and live... Where you practice, you want to live close by and be in proximity, because most often mothers are the primary caregivers of the children. So if anything happens, you want to be close by."

Dennis 36:28  
That's true. Nancy did not follow that rule. So for those who don't know Nancy, Nancy practiced with me out in Winneka, and she lived quite a ways away. But that was that was a challenge for sure! I think that's really great advice for... You know, we'll talk about moms and moms in dentistry in just a bit, but I think that's really great advice for lots of... You know, the world is changing, right? I think, and we'll talk about this... Males are becoming more sensitive and more caring, or are becoming greater caregivers. But it still ultimately, sort of falls on the mom's responsibility far too often. And I think that's great advice from Nancy.

Grace 37:37  
Yes. And I took that to heed. And I really looked up to people, and I took everyone's advice. And I said... There are people in your lives that tell you something, and you can take it and receive it and do what you want. But the good advice you really should consider, because they're not telling it to you to ruin your life. They're telling it to you from their experience.

Dennis 38:04  
And that experience... You can either just go and gain all that experience on your own. Or you can... And you know, for me, for a lot of times I would hear it, and I'd still have to... I'd have to prove them right. You know, I'd have to go through and say, "Well, yeah, they were right!" But then I only had to do it once. You know, I didn't have to do it five times. It's like, yes, that's exactly what they said would happen. And I won't do that anymore. And so it did save me some some learning, but I wouldn't...

For me, and as we talked about off air, and for those who listened before, I joined Dr. Buddy Mopper's practice. Buddy was a pediatric dentist in the Chicago area of the North suburbs. And when I joined his practice, Nancy Higawi, who you're just referring to... I used to call her Noprah, by the way... The Nancy Oprah. Because Nancy just had great wisdom. She was very, very Oprah-like in her thoughts. And so I joined a practice that had a pediatric dentist full time, and we were doing cosmetic dentistry and sharing a space, and it was a very interesting dynamics. 

On Being Bold to Learn New Clinical Skills

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Grace shares about how she learned to hone her skills while still having the support and mentorship of more experienced dentists.

Managing Parents as a Pediatric Dentist

Dennis 39:07
But I have to ask you this because I want to start talking about Mommy Dentists in Business... But I want to ask about managing... It seemed to me -- and we do a lot of esthetics on kids -- and I will say that so anyone who loves doing cosmetic dentistry, one of the things I've been really successful with in my practice is reaching out to my pediatric dentists and helping them with some of these challenging cases, peg laterals, congenitally missing laterals, malformed teeth, fractured incisors.

That traditional typical pediatric practice is seeing... You know, it's more about volume, right? There's a lot of kids. There's a lot of action! They've got three hygenists that are running. They've got a lot going on.

It's, I think, difficult to spend an hour and a half doing a specific procedure on a youngster, where that's the nature of our practice in cosmetics. You know, for me to have a seven hour patient is typical. To do two hours to do bonding, do layered bonding, that's sort of what we do... And so my biggest referral is actually pediatric dentists.

And so, for anyone listening out there, you want to do cosmetic dentistry, get the skills and then reach out to your orthodontists or reach out to your pediatric dentists. And they will... they will help you build your practice. And once you start working on the kids, well guess who else has peg laterals? Well, mom or dad did! And who else has a bad smile because of that? Because it was done, you know, maybe not ideally.

And that's what really... what blew up my practice was just working with Nancy first and then just Dr. Amalou, and other other pediatric dentists in the community who've trusted me to work on their patients. So I wanted to ask, though... And I apologize, I sort of got off on that little tangent! It seems to me working with Nancy and others, that the challenge wasn't as much the kids as it was the parents. Is that... is that my appreciation? Or no? What can you say about that? For those who are going into pediatrics, or even into dentistry, and they're going to be working on kids. Tell me about the interaction between the provider and the parent of the kid you're working on.

Grace 41:15  
That's a very loaded question.

Dennis 41:16  
It is. Yeah, purposely. But you're not practicing now. So you can be more forthright, right?

Grace 41:23  
Absolutely. And as I formulate my thoughts on how to answer this in a politically, in a PC way... see what I have to say,

Dennis 41:32  
And you're a mom! You're a parent! I'm a parent!

Grace 41:36  
There's been a big shift. So having practiced now for a very long time in treating patients, from a dental assistant standpoint and a doctor standpoint, it really depends on the generation and the parenting styles. There are many parenting styles. 

Dennis 41:56  
For sure. 

Grace 41:56  
And now my oldest patient is like 30. And she wouldn't leave me. And I said... But she had no problems, right? She was really healthy. So I said, "As soon as you have a problem you're going!" And I've noticed the parenting styles shifting. So my older patients that are in their late 20s, when I knew them way back when they were children, long, long ago, the parents would drop them off and leave.

Dennis 42:23  
Right. Well, I heard in an interview you did... You were talking about being a latchkey kid, and you know, and I was as well! And you made a point. You'd be arrested today if we treated our kids like we were treated. Right? 

Grace 42:35  
Right. Right! And so...

Dennis 42:37  
Social service would be at your door so fast! 

Grace 42:39  
Right! DCFS would be like, "You're gone. I'm coming to get your kid." And so the children were just dropped off. And they'd say, "Okay, Dr. Yum. Just call me! You have my number." And I need to go shopping for groceries, or I need to go pick up the other kid at soccer, and I'll be back. So it was so different. But then as the mothers got younger and younger, I noticed a different shift. And I'm not saying Gen Z, Millennial, or whatever. But as the mothers got younger, the parenting styles were shifting, right? So then it was the parent that was a nervous Nellie, like everything made them nervous. And everything was the question.

And then it was also then the whole shift in nutrition. In America, carbs are bad. Everything's organic, what's going on in the mouth? And then also you as dentists and doctors, we have noticed an increase in peanut allergies. You know, latex allergies... Autism. In my scope, in my vision of what I've seen in the past 20 something years. Every 10, five years maybe, there's a shift, there's a change. And so there are parents who are justifiably nervous because their kid might have an anaphylactic reaction. 

Dennis 43:52  
For sure. Yep. 

Grace 43:59  
So that's warranted, I get that. But the management of the parent often times is just as challenging as managing a patient's behavior in the dental chair and doing the dental procedure. So, as pediatric dentists, we're having to manage a lot more, right. 

Dennis 44:18  
And you've got to do it at the same time! That's the issue isn't it? You've got the parent sitting here, holding the kid's hands. Right, right. 

Grace 44:24  
Right. Right. 

Dennis 44:26  
On Google asking you, what materials are you using there?

Grace 44:29  
Right, right, right! And they think that they know everything. But then I... what I have learned, and I tell my associates is you have to train the parent how to treat you!

Dennis 44:40  
I think that's great! That's great advice!

Grace 44:41  
So, you have to lay down the law in a gentle and firm way. Like this is how I do things. And if you aren't comfortable, then I have to refer you to a different pediatric dentist. So if you can't do it the way I want it done and the way I do it safely for your child, then you need to go somewhere else. And that's okay. For example, nitrous oxide, or restorative patients, right? Oftentimes a child's behavior will be skewed when a parent is in the room. And I tell a parent, you leave your child starting kindergarten, age five, at school. They separate from you for many hours. It's kind of like that! They are only with me for 30 minutes. You can have that separation, but you need to trust me. I'm not going to force your child or do anything that they don't want to do. And if we need you, we will come get you. You know, it's normal!

Dennis 45:33  
How did you find the parents generally responded to that? 

Grace 45:37  
So generally, they say, okay. And I have to reassure them, you know? It's the communication! It's reassuring the parent. Reassurance, reassurance, reassurance. Saying, I have a window... I'm going to shut the door, but there's a window, and you can look through the window if you feel that you need to be right there. You cannot be literally physically in the room breathing on top of me. And I tell them, when parents are in the room with me, I get distracted, because guess what? You asked me 10,000 questions. And then guess what? Your child is on nitrous oxide longer than they have to be because I have to stop and answer your question. And then I can't get my work done. And I was like, if you want me to do the best clinical work for your child, you have to leave me alone.

Dennis 46:18  
It's so interesting to me that people would... that the parents want to be in the treatment room, when they would never be in a treatment room if their kid was getting scoped for a knee injury. You know, and like you said, they don't join them at school. But for some reason, there's a sense that they need to be there holding their kid's hand, and the anxiety of the parent heightens the anxiety the kid, and it just becomes even more of a challenge. 

Grace 46:42  

Dennis 46:42  
Yeah, and this is... And truly, I love children and am blessed to have one, and the group that I've really become really fascinated by and love treating them, the young adults, the high school age... A group that I never would have liked until I started getting to understand the emotions. But it is really... It's, I think, getting the parent to separate to allow you to be able to have the one on one relationship that you need to be able to do the dentistry at your highest level is so critical. But boy, it's such a challenge. I applaud you all on your daily events, trying to manage that.

Grace 47:21  
It is. But after a while, you know, once you build rapport, and they trust you... 

Managing Parents as a Pediatric Dentist

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Don't miss this clip where Dr. Yum shares what she's learned about how to best work with parents as a pediatric dentist!
Dennis 47:26  
It is all about trust. 

Grace 47:27  
It's all about trust, you know? And it could be even in the same office with different providers. So, I think that one way or another... It got to the point where it was weird for me where I owned the practice, but it got to the point where there were new patients that I didn't even know, but they were seeing the associates. And if an associate was sick and I filled it, they'd be like, who are you?

Dennis 47:48  
Yeah. Oh, I've seen the same thing in my practice! For sure. Yeah, yeah. Well, I'm the guy with gray hair.

Grace 47:53  
I'm like, I'm no one. And don't worry about it!

Dennis 47:57  
Oh, same thing. Yeah, I get that.
Dennis 48:23  
All right. Well, listen, thanks, dental online trainers. This has been super... for me, super interesting talking to Grace because I love talking dentistry, and truly, pediatric dentists. You have a special place in heaven. So, we're going to pick up our next session, our second part of the interview, and we're going to talk about Mommy Dentists in Business, MDIB. MDIB? 

Grace 49:00  
MDIB! M-Dibs!

Dennis 49:02  
M-Dibs. Alright, so check us out on part two of our interview! And we look forward to seeing you at the next session. So, Grace, thanks. And we'll pick this up on our next podcast! 

Grace 49:14  

Dennis 49:16  
Hey, Dental Online Trainers, thanks for listening! Look, if you enjoyed our conversation with Grace... And I hope you don't mind that little segue we took down memory lane with some of our common colleagues and influences in dentistry. It was really fun listening to some of the names that Grace brought up, and they were very influential in me and the dentistry that I got to do and the practice that I'm in. 

Well, listen, look forward to part two of our conversation where we talk more about MDIB or Mommy Dentists in Business and Grace's inspiration to begin that new business. So look, if you love our Sharecast, please tell your friends! You know what? Send them a link. And don't forget to give us that coveted five star rating wherever you listen to your podcast.

Finally, if you're not a member of dental online training, check us out. For information about our live virtual courses, and by the way, we have our CPR for the worn dentition course coming up at the end of March, I think it's March 24th and 25th, 2022... We have our recorded hands on courses so you can do these courses in the comfort of your own practice on your time, on your schedule, at your pace. We have our blogs, our many tips, our recorded webinars and so much more.

Well, listen until next time, I'm Dr. Dennis Hartlieb. Yours for better dentistry.

Dennis Hartlieb, DDS, AAACD

DOT Founder
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