In which there were some resident pictures

We had to take a couple of pictures for the Washington State Academy of Pediatric Dentistry newsletter last week, so here are some gratuitous shots. I’m in love with each and everyone of my co-ressies – they’re such wonderful people! Here we are in our natural (non-HIPAA violating) habitat:

Lower level conference room - where we take our lectures and have meetings.

Lower level conference room – where we take our lectures and have meetings. From the left: Drs. Tiara Brown, Melanie Perry, T. Matt Griffith, Elise Sarvas, Brianne Butler, Gloria Guan, Ian Marion and Karen Mak


More of us: From left – Drs. Christina Wang, Janice Duong, Karen Mak, T. Matt Griffth, Tiara Brown, Gloria Guan, Karin Herzog, Melanie Perry, Kat Lane, Elise Sarvas, Ian Marion and Jim Heidenreich

In one of our clinics

In one of our clinics
Back row from left: Drs. Tiara Brown, Melanie Perry, T. Matt Griffth and Ian Marion
Front row from left: Drs. Gloria Guan, Brianne Butler, Elise Sarvasand Karen Mak

In which I’m not a lady dentist, just a regular dentist

I typically don’t think of myself as a feminist. To clarify, I mean I’m not usually one to be aggressively all “women’s rights!” and “burn all the bras!”. Thanks to the sacrifices and advocacy of our mothers and grandmothers we’re fortunately moving into an enlightened era where I am considered on equal footing with my male colleagues. Usually.

Since I put up a picture of my desk at work, this is my desk at home.

Since I put up a picture of my desk at work, this is my desk at home.

However I tend to slide into feminism when I get placed and labeled as a different category because of my chromosomes and not my abilities.

In dental school I first lived in a small house in the suburban ghetto. It was great and the price was right, but after two break in attempts and one major break in where a lot of my stuff was stolen and trashed I gave up and moved to a cute apartment within walking distance of campus. A couple of my guy classmates helped me lug all the heavy furniture in the morning and in exchange I helped them with their own move between apartments later in the afternoon. Teamwork! Also I think we were procrastinating studying for a radiology final.

When we were moving the last of their boxes in the landlady showed up to do some supervising. As I was struggling under some poorly packed items she asked which one of the guys I was dating. “Oh no ma’am, none of these guys! We’re classmates.” I tried to keep my Oh no to a not horribly disgusted tone. Dating any of these guys would be like dating my brother. Ew. She nodded like that made sense. Later on I overheard her asking some of the boys in the kitchen, “So is the lady going to be a dentist too?”, she seemed incredulous. “Really? Like the dentist doctor? Not the teeth cleaner?”. Nope ma’am, like the lady dentist doctor. You know, I forgave her ignorance – an old lady from the South, it’s almost to be expected. Prejudice dies hard around there. I mean, my deeply southern grandparents still refer to black people as “coloreds”, so I can’t even be surprised.

Since then Jeff has endearingly referred to me as his “lady dentist”.

Old typodont dental models from school

Old typodont dental models from school

A couple of weeks ago I was supervising in the pre-doctoral clinic where we have dental students from the University of Washington come in to do cleanings and exams to learn more about pediatric dentistry. The typical flow involves the pre-doc student treating the patient and then the attending or resident comes and checks everything again to make sure they didn’t miss anything. Kids get impatient, so I try to be ready as soon as the pre-doc is done so I can scoot right in and finish the appointment. As I was getting ready to sit down for one wiggly patient the mom explained to her 5 year old girl why she couldn’t get out of the chair yet, “No wait hunny, the woman doctor needs to look at your teeth.”. Woman doctor. Not just regular doctor. Woman doctor. Like lady dentist. I’m pretty sure no one calls her woman mommy.


Tooth study models from my first year of dental school. We learn to recreate these in wax so we can learn the anatomy of each one.

Last week I bought a bicycle off of craigslist and the time the seller and I had arranged to meet meant that I needed to go straight from work. When I pulled into her driveway to check out the bike a woman about my age greeted me and then took one look at my scrubs and immediately said, “Oh you must be a nurse”. Way to help the cause sister. If I’m wearing scrubs, couldn’t I easily be a doctor too? We do ourselves a disservice when we make gender imposing assumptions. She could’ve said “Oh you’re in healthcare” or “Oh do you work in the hospital?” just as easily.

Three women, three different generations and in different locations all made similar assumptions. Ladies, we’ve got to be just a little bit better, especially to ourselves. If we’re going to break through any glass ceilings to find completely equal footing with our XY counterparts it’s got to start with us. Most days this is a non-issue and I’m very thankful for that, but it’s that last little smidge we’ve yet to erase that occasionally raises its ugly head and irks me.

I’m not perfect, I catch myself making gender assumptions all the time. I awkwardly trip over police officer instead of policeman. Mail carrier instead of mailman. Firefighter instead of fireman. But I’m trying.聽I try to talk to little girls about their favorite books or sports, not their favorite dress or shoes. Gender equality is just a muscle that needs to be exercised often enough until it’s second nature. If we do it enough, maybe our daughters won’t have to.

Let’s love and think highly enough of ourselves to do that, okay girls?

In which the dentist goes to the dentist

When I was really young (pre-K, back when a visit to the pediatrician was a regular thing) I was mildly obsessed with where doctors went when they had to go see the doctor. Can one see oneself? Is that allowed? I know, I know, I was a weird kid.

But fast forward twenty years or so and now as a board-certified, licensed, honest-to-God dentist, where does one go? Does one go? Can’t I just take some x-rays on myself and call it good? Also does it matter that I haven’t been to see a dentist since I was on my parents’ insurance at least seven years ago? Eek. Embarrassing! To back up my rationalizing, in dental school plenty of classmates looked in my mouth, I do a good job with my Sonicare, and I floss a majority of nights out of the week, but still.. yikes. Hypocrite central. Plus, we’ve got some great insurance right now so we might as well take advantage of it!

Elise Sarvas 1-16-2013

So with the new year I made Jeff and I appointments at a dentist who came recommended by some people from work (I mean, what better recommendation for a dentist that one that comes from other dentists?). Then though I was even more anxious: Do you tell a dentist that you are also a dentist? Or do you just let it go? Which is more awkward?? My first thought was to just show up, not mention I was in dentistry as well and just see how it went, but Jeff blew that for me by telling him at his appointment that his wife was a dentist.

Note to self: Pretty awesome dental book to add to the collection!

Note to self: Pretty awesome dental book to add to the collection!

It ended up not mattering at all; Nikole O’Bryan and her staff were just so delightful and awesome. She did a very thorough exam and the assistant even emailed me my FMX (full mouth series) so I could keep it. Very professional, extremely nice people. I was impressed 馃檪 So here hopefully ends my streak of not getting regular check-ups and living up to what I’ve been harping on to my patients. Yay! But seriously folks, make a dental appointment if it’s been awhile.. we can check more than your teeth and screen you for even scarier systemic diseases (hypertension, diabetes, oral and other certain types of cancers).

And yay for no cavities (for me or Jeff)!