IOWA CITY – Paige Jones got an early start in dentistry. Not only did she pull all of her own baby teeth, but all of her cousins’ baby teeth as well.
“I have a bunch of cousins, and it just became a thing if one of them had a loose tooth, they would ask me to pull it,’” said Jones, a native of Greenfield and a second-year student at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry. “Looking back, it’s kind of funny, but I guess all that tooth-pulling sort of led me to where I am now.”
Today is National Dentist’s Day, an annual celebration of dentists and the important services they provide. And although Jones still has a few more years to go before she graduates, she said she’s excited about her future in dentistry, a field she first learned about from her own dentist, Richard Kohler, who has since retired.
“I was never afraid of going to my dentist,” Jones says. “It probably helped that he was also my brother’s assistant basketball coach. We were both at a local baseball game when I pulled a tooth out and I ran up to him and showed it to him. So, it’s kind of funny how that all worked out to lead me to my path to become a dentist.”
Although Jones started out as an undeclared major at Northwest Missouri State University, she quickly gravitated toward pre-dentistry, in large part because her first-year roommate was a pre-dentistry major. Jones joined a pre-dentistry club on campus, and it was there that she got hooked.
“We had a local dentist come to speak to our group and he was just super-engaged in his work and he absolutely loved it, so I thought, ‘Wow, that really sounds like something I would enjoy,’” she said.
Once she’d decided to pursue dentistry, Jones said she shadowed several dentists, including Michael Buck, a 2011 UI College of Dentistry graduate and a dentist in Creston. When it came time to choose a graduate school, Jones said the choice was easy.
“I ultimately chose the University of Iowa because the dentists I met who had attended the school just stood apart,” she said. “They all had this aura of excellence about them, and this confidence in everything they did that made a big impression on me. No one ever says they came out of the University of Iowa unprepared.”
UI College of Dentistry Dean David Johnsen said the college’s top-notch professors and cutting-edge research sets the college apart from its competitors. For students, the opportunity to work with researchers and learn about the science behind dental techniques is also a way to stand out on the job market.
“Our students regularly out-perform students from other dental colleges on national board exams, and all of them are highly-sought after upon graduation, either for jobs in dental practices or for advanced programs such as residencies,” Johnsen said.
Well into her second year of dental school, Jones said she’s excited about the education she’s getting, including the cutting-edge technology she’s using in her dental simulation clinic. Jones said she also gets to practice creating partial crowns using computer-aided design software, technology she intends to use one day in her own dental practice.
“I’m glad I’m getting hands-on experience with new technology because it means that I’ll be able to be the best dentist possible when I graduate,” said Jones. “Once I saw the renovated clinics at the UI College of Dentistry and got to know the faculty, I was really convinced that I was getting the best education possible.”
As for her plans post-graduation, Jones said she’s considering a return to her hometown or another rural area in Iowa. Part of the mission of the UI College of Dentistry is to educate dentists who will serve state residents. About 80 percent of dentists practicing in the state received their education at the UI.
“From a public health standpoint, it would be great to help people in rural areas care for their teeth,” Jones said. “And I’m pretty comfortable in rural Iowa, so I think that’s a good place for me.”