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Dentistry Talk with Dr. Leanne Ball
Dr. Leanne Ball – DDS, graduated from the University of Alberta in 2016. There she earned her DDS degree, a doctorate of dental surgery. A forever student, she is continuously educating herself and her team in new techniques to provide improved dental services. Her goal is to provide excellent service and create exceptional value through her dental clinic, helping as many people as possible to become healthier, happier, and to smile more.
Dentists diagnose, treat, prevent and control disorders of the teeth and mouth. They work in private practice or may be employed in hospitals, clinics, public health facilities or universities.
This occupational group is expected to face labour shortage conditions over the period of 2019-2028 at the national level.
One to four years of pre-dentistry university studies or, in Quebec, completion of a college program in sciences and a university degree from a recognized dental program are required.
Licensing by a provincial or territorial regulatory body is required.
Dentists in general practice can move into a specialized practice through advanced training licensing for specializations is required.
Range: $64,697 – $158,115
$105,547 – Median wage in Canada
(Visit the jobbank.gc.ca Canadian Website For Most Recent Numbers)
Full Length Episode:
Complete Episode Transcript
Today’s guest is Dr. Leanne Ball.
Here’s our Job Talk with a Dentist.
Welcome to the Job Talk Podcast.
Where we talk to people who love their jobs.
Our guests open up about their challenges surprises and secrets to success in their industries.
Through conversation we explore their careers past work experiences and the education that got them to where they are now.
I like to start each podcast off by asking you what kind of high school student were you and when you graduated from high school.
Did you know what you wanted to do?
OK, so I would say as a high school student, like all throughout my school years, I was pretty motivated and dedicated to my studies.
I would say in high school, probably I was maybe less so because I went to a boarding school, a Seventh Day Adventist boarding school called Parkview Adventist Academy and everyone there was so smart.
And so I wasn’t like the smart one in the class anymore.
And so I think sometimes like when your identity is taken away a little bit, you’re you might not be as driven in that direction anymore.
But I would say generally, I was a pretty.
I was pretty dedicated to my studies and I always want to do really well.
I definitely did not want to be a dentist when I was, uh, there was like a career day and I think I was maybe in grades seven or eight and and I went to see what my mom did because she is a dental hygienist and it was the most boring thing that I could have imagined.
And I was like, Nope, definitely not for me.
And so but of course, you’re young and you know, and it was dental hygiene.
It wasn’t really dentistry, although we did get to see what the dentist did a little bit, but it was very, very boring.
And so in Grade 12, I was kind of I was torn because I thought, you know, like a painter painting is, you know, enjoying his job.
But watching it is literally like watching paint dry.
So I thought the same thing about dentistry, like maybe doing it is enjoyable.
It’s just watching.
It is boring, which I think is true in general.
And my auntie was a dentist, and so I went to shadow her and I was also thinking about being a vet.
And so I went and shadowed a vet and there were actually some twins up in our area.
one was a vet, one was a dentist.
So it was kind of like a little twin study.
I got to shadow both of them.
And I think just throughout the process, I decided that I wanted to be a dentist.
I didn’t want to be out in the cold, being like a large animal vet doing like BSE samples, which at the time, that’s that’s what it was.
There was like Mad Cow disease and everything.
So yeah, I chose, I guess, what I think would be the easier of the two.
So you graduate from high school, I imagine you had fairly decent grades.
And then did you jump into taking first year Bachelor of Science?
How does that work?
So it depends where you go, different schools want different things, and at the time, I knew way more about it.
I couldn’t tell you a whole lot about it now.
But the one thing that I knew was that the University of Alberta only required you to have your your prerequisites.
You didn’t have to have a degree to get into dental school.
And of course I was.
I was dating a nice boy at the time who is my husband now, and I wanted to stay in Alberta.
And so I only applied to UofA and I applied after getting my prerequisites, which was after two years, but I was on a bio degree track.
So basically, if I had kept going, I would have been working towards being a bio degree.
But another cool thing is that at the University of Alberta, if you get in after just having your prerequisites and you don’t have a degree at the end of two years of your program, you get a degree in biomedical sciences, so you still get your bio degree.
You just do two less years of schooling.
How many years from when you started it to where you are now?
Did it take, do you think for education wise?
OK, so after high school, I went straight into university two years of undergrad in the bio bio track and then four years of dental school.
And I’ve been practicing now for five years.
And how how intense is is the program when you’re going through it?
I mean, you’re a pretty dedicated student.
I think we’re polar opposites on as far as being a student is concerned.
But how intense is it?
Are you completely stressed out through your education, just trying to complete it?
Or is there a decent life work balance?
I would say very intense, very little work-life balance.
But you’re also it also depends who you talk to because I think it depends what kind of what kind of student you are again.
And I like, I’m very all or nothing, and so I want to do everything 100%.
And and so I think that’s I know a lot of classmates that definitely had much, a much better work-life balance than I did.
And I think it’s almost a bit of a flaw where it’s like, you can’t really enjoy yourself and you can’t live your life because you’re so involved in your program.
And even now, I have to work at that and make sure that I’m not working all the time.
And I was spending some time with my family, so I think it depends who you ask.
There were a lot of people who I mean, I know one guy who the night before a test would standardly go and watch a movie.
So, you know, I think I think there’s room for all different types of people in in the dentistry program, and it doesn’t have to be all crazy.
And but it was it was pretty intense, I would say.
So I’m guessing when you’re student, you don’t have like a part time job where you were.
You able to just concentrate on your studies.
I was I was lucky.
There was a classmate of mine who is also a pharmacist, and he had gone back into dentistry and he did practice pharmacy part time on the side.
So I mean, you can do it.
For me, I that would have been way too stressful, but I think you can you can do whatever you set your mind to.
It’s just whatever situation you’re in at that time.
And I wasn’t married, I didn’t have kids and I didn’t have a job at the time.
So it was just kind of, you know, a no brainer.
I had a nice student loan, so I didn’t have to make much money.
I was going to ask, So you went through your program?
What happens when you graduate, graduate from the program?
I guess I’m guessing there’s a practicum they that you go to you.
so how it works is when you go into dental school, you take two years of medicine and this is specifically at the University of Alberta, I’m not sure how all the other programs work, but you take two years of medicine, so you’re actually with the medical students taking all their didactic courses, but of course, not doing the practical part.
So you just have to memorize everything for the test and then forget it.
And and like some things, the important things you remember.
And then there’s intercession, which is where you practice chemistry and you go and you work on like a like in a lab, on a dexter, sort of like kind of like a little model and you take x rays on them and all that kind of stuff.
And then the second two years, so you’re one or two, you don’t really touch people.
You might do some like period charting in the clinic.
And then the year three and four are primarily clinical, but you have less and less classes, didactic courses as you go through at the program to the point where in year four, you might have like, I think, a more one morning of classes on Monday morning and then the rest is all just clinical work.
So it’s kind of like the clinical part gears up as you go throughout the years and you end up doing a lot of clinical in the last two years.
So that’s the practical part.
There are general practice residences that people can take kind of like as if you were going to be a physician and you have to do like a residency, but it’s optional and you have to it’s it’s very competitive to get into these residences.
And you don’t end up really making a lot of money.
And I mean, I figure that you get experience working as a dentist anyway.
So that was my take on that.
I thought about doing a GPR.
But but I didn’t.
What was your first position after you graduated and you became a dentist?
So I actually worked for about three and a half years as an associate dentist in a town about 45 minutes away from where I live.
And so usually I would say most people come out of school and become associates.
For another dentist, so they just work for another dentist as kind of like an independent contractor.
And then I worked as an associate at another clinic while we were building our clinic here and now I’m five, about five months fresh of being a business owner, dentist.
So OK, that that fascinates me, and I think we should jump into that.
So not only are you a dentist, but suddenly you’re a business owner.
Those are two entirely different things.
I really want to talk to you about that.
How do you how do you manage?
How do you manage that?
I’m guessing you have a good support group.
Yeah, I have.
So I married into a wonderful family and I have an excellent mother and father in law and my my mother in law watches our kids.
Jeff and I are both only children, and so our kids are their primary concern, which is kind of nice.
We don’t have any competition.
And and my parents are also incredibly supportive.
And so as far as the kids go, we mostly have it taken care of between the two grandmas.
And then, yeah, just like we were very fortunate, very blessed to find an amazing team right off the bat, which isn’t ever a guarantee, and especially out in a rural area like where we are in Killam.
There’s not very many people, there’s 900 people in the town.
So the fact that we were able to find, I mean, there’s four hygienists not working all at once, but all part time hygienists one of them is my mom and we have two receptionists.
And right now we have two registered dental assistants and another girl who is getting her training remotely at our office.
And I mean, they’re all fantastic.
I mean, five months in and maybe it’s hard to her to gauge what people are like.
But so far, I mean, they they’ve been really, really good.
So we’re very lucky.
I saw the photos of of your office.
Congratulations on that.
Did you take any business courses or any training on how to operate a business?
But what like in dental school, there’s there’s a course called practice management, which is the course that you catch up on your Facebook.
And so there’s like a little bit of business kind of stuff in dental school where you learn how to write like a business plan and everything.
But honestly, most of it has been Googling stuff, being on Facebook pages with other dentists hiring consultants.
We hired one person who she’s like into practice management stuff to come and help us set up our systems, and we ask her a lot of the time now, you know, for for anything regarding H.
, you know, how do we handle this situation?
Well, we’ll contact her a lot.
We also have an HR company that we use just being so new at it and having, like no idea we have a payroll company.
So we have a lot of people that we reach out to and and ask questions to.
Does your husband have business experience?
What is his profession?
He’s a farmer.
So he does he has he has business experience in running the farm, which is like a, you know, I would say, like multi-million dollar.
Corporation that he’s a shareholder of, so.
So they do have he does have experience with with the farm, which is interestingly like not dissimilar to a dental clinic as far as like the large equipment purchases that you have to make and the big the amount of money flowing in and going out all the time.
So that’s kind of, you know, because because at first it’s like, OK, our credit card bill is like, you know, $50,000 or so and it’s like, holy crap, like as a as an individual.
And I’ve learned this as like individually like your dollars mean more like every every dollar that you spend, every dollar that you save, it’s like, oh, you know, like like our credit card bill, maybe like $5,000.
It’s like, Oh, OK, like, we better be careful as a business.
You just have to make those those purchases.
You have to pay payroll.
You have to, you know, buy equipment.
When it breaks down, you have to pay for security systems and all that kind of stuff.
And so I’ve learned that like the currency of a business is different than the currency of your personal account, if that makes sense.
So I think so.
I think with like with having a farm, Jeff was used to that, whereas I’m like, Oh, my goodness, there’s like so much money coming in and going out.
And Jeff was a little more used to that, so he was able to calm me down a little bit with with regards to that.
But he also was a mechanic for.
I want to say, like 13 years, you watch for Kal Tire.
And so he, you know, he knew what it was to produce and, you know, like the prediction matter and he was always very interested in business kind of thing.
So as far as business training, we don’t have a lot of it.
A lot of us like ends up being self-taught.
We did have a course that we started and we have it haven’t finished yet.
But yeah, we’ve kind of been learning on the go.
You mentioned that your your mom is a hygienist.
Is that correct?
And she’s working with you, kind of.
So she’s mostly being Gramma, but she’s also our our hygienist.
If everyone else is sick and can’t make it and we have patients schedule that, she’ll come in.
Well, first of all, she must be so proud of you to see in this position.
And how fun is it to work with your mom?
It’s fun bossing her around.
You know, it’s a it’s it’s good she’s she saved us a lot of times and it’s it is fun because it’s something we have a common language that we can talk about, you know, dentistry.
I can be like, Oh, you know, like, you have spinach cut in between your 22 and 23, and she knows exactly what I’m talking about.
You know, your teeth numbering system, right?
So I’m just wondering if you can take me through a typical day for you.
And this is really interesting to me because you are a business owner.
So it’s not just being a dentist, but could you take me through what a day is like for you?
So right now, because I have two kids, it’s always, I’m still waking up at night to feed our youngest, who is ten, he’s going to be ten months pretty soon.
So he’s still waking up at night.
So I don’t want to scare any of your listeners into thinking that this has to be your life when you’re dentist .
But just like, you know, prefacing it with like, I’m also a mom.
So usually I wake up in the night at some point to feed the baby and get up, usually now around 6:00 a.
And I usually like to kind of like sit, drink my coffee and go through the day.
And so I’ll pull the schedule and I’ll look at the schedule and, you know, make sure that I’m looking at all of the patients that we’re seeing.
We have all their medical histories that we have.
You know that we’re really prepared for them come in 8:00.
Usually we’re all here.
8:15 is our morning meeting where we all just go to the back and we have like a big screen.
We pull up the schedule and we go through each and every patient and we say, OK, you know, this is this is what we’re doing.
This is what we need to be aware of.
So any like individual notes for people, any like insurance, pre authorizations or anything, we have to know if this person wants like a blanket like this show on TV, we always like to try to have everything really personalized for each, for everyone.
Then going throughout the day, it’s been a little crazy and it’s changing.
We I like to schedule through lunch.
Not everyone likes doing that.
So we started blocking out lunch like an hour lunch in our different columns.
So what it is like if you look on the computer, there’s a schedule and it shows each of our four chairs that we have right now, and we’ll run a treatment column, which is like, we’re doing fillings, crowns, root canals, and then we have another column like another chair.
And in that chair, we usually do exams.
And then another chair where we have a hygienist working and she’s cleaning teeth.
And then another fourth chair where we will do like orthodontics, like Invisalign or if we were placing space maintainers or, you know, it’s just kind of like that extra overflow chair.
So that’s kind of how we’re working it usually there will be like an assistant per chair.
So, you know, each assistant will be kind of responsible for her own, her own chair.
So then yeah, it’s just kind of like running throughout the day, trying not to fall behind and trying to give each person a really good experience.
You know, doing all of the different procedures, trying to help them not feel the needle, all that kind of stuff.
And then we usually end the day for a 4:30 is when we try to end all of our treatment, everything.
And then I usually spend a little bit of time at the office, probably about an hour, just going through everyone from the day catching up.
We have like task lists.
There’s, you know, sometimes consultations.
Sometimes we need to talk to people’s doctors and make sure that they’re going to be OK to have treatment.
Some people, like we get back to about, you know, whether they can have Invisalign or, you know, whether their insurance will cover something.
So I spend a little bit of time at the office at the end of each day, usually leave around 5:30 and head home.
It takes about 20 minutes and then they’ll stop and pick up groceries.
So the nights get a little bit late.
And I think this is like the whole new business owner thing.
So the goal is to not have it be like this.
The goal is to be like the dentist that works like three days a week and, you know, nine till two and goes on vacations all the time.
But we’re not there yet.
I’ll see you will one day.
I am fully confident in that.
I just want to back you up a little bit to when you’re first starting out.
How nervous are you when you’re working with the patient for the first time?
I mean, that might seem like a really vague question, but I’m just wondering what it’s like when you’re doing your first, you know, work with the patient.
I would say at first, it’s very nerve wracking because you have no idea what to do.
Like, you have a sheet of paper.
The first, I would say, you’re doing assessments like you’re doing exams on people.
And so like, they ease you into it.
It’s not like you’re walking in and the first person you see, you’re doing a filling on, right?
But we had to practice doing local anesthesia on people or on each other.
Sorry, we had to practice giving injections on each other.
And that’s nerve wracking when you’re the patient.
And you know that the person giving you a needle their first time and they know that, you know, and like, you know, and they’re coming at you and they’re shaky.
So that’s kind of nerve wracking.
But I would say, yeah, like it is.
Your confidence builds over the years.
Like, I wouldn’t even say that I’m fully confident now, and I’ve been doing this for five years plus two clinical years of dental school for like seven years, right?
But I would say just like as you keep practicing and keep working on people and you learn little techniques and not just dentistry, it’s also like patient psychology.
You know, it’s it’s learning what what you say to people, how people are going to take it right.
Like what kind of wording, what kind of phrasing should you use?
How do you use language that’s not triggering because you learn very quickly not to use the word needle in front of kids and not to use the word hurt or pain.
Use the word discomfort because it’s less triggering, so you just learn to be very careful with your verbiage.
I would say, are there any myths that you’d like to debunk about dentists?
Oh, well, OK, there’s I always hear this story like every patient has a story about the dentist that was pulling a tooth and had to put his or her knee on their chest to get the tooth out.
And I would love to meet this dentist because I can’t even figure out like how the physics like the how the mechanics of it would work.
Like I’ve thought about it before, like, but I don’t think that putting my knee on someone’s chest would actually help .
So anyway, that’s I think that’s like a myth.
And I can and I understand I get that.
It’s like a lot of pressure sometimes, but I’m really interested to know how the knee thing works because I want to learn that technique.
But what other myths?
There’s a lot of them, but that’s the main one that comes to mind.
So are there any challenges or dislikes that stand out for you that maybe a student thinking about becoming a or a person thinking about becoming a dentist should think about?
Is there anything that you dislike about what you do?
Yeah, definitely there’s always, always things that I would say most of it comes down to the people aspect of it, not even so much the dentistry aspect.
Sure, there’s times where it’s like there’s like a tough scenario where a tooth is in a weird position and you’re trying to restore it or, you know, it’s like really tough.
And there’s like you’re working in a small wet environment where things have to be dry, like glue has to be dry in order to work right.
And if you’re putting in a filling and you’re gluing it, then you have to keep it dry.
So there is that stress of it.
But I would say it’s not so much the technical aspects of it, but the patient management and the team management now that I’m a business owner.
So I would say dentistry is well suited to you.
If you are someone who is motivated and driven and not afraid of working hard to get to where you want to be and you like attention to detail and you’re you’re interested because like it is, it’s a lot of schooling and you have to just kind of like, enjoy every, every part of it and just see it as like, you know, one step after the next or it gets overwhelming.
If you think of like, Oh, I have to do all this schooling because it goes by so quickly once you’re into it right?
Like, I can’t even believe that like, I’m I’m I feel like I was in high school yesterday, but really, I’ve been through like six years of post-secondary education and five years of working as a dentist, and it seems like the time flew by.
But it seemed like so much when you’re at the beginning of it.
So you just have to see it as kind of like one challenge after the next and just be present in whatever whatever stage you’re at.
And it’s fun and it’s rewarding.
And there’s lots of things that I enjoyed about dental school like we made.
I made great friends in dental school.
And you know, all of it can be fun, but you just have to take it one piece at a time.
But if you’re interested in science, if you’re interested in an art, if you like being around people that you like also working independently.
I mean, I think dentistry is like a great profession, especially if you’re well suited to it.
But mostly, I love that I’m very, very passionate about it.
Is there anything that you know now that you wish you knew when you were just starting your business so we won’t go all the way back to when you were school?
But is there anything that you’ve experienced that you wish you knew on day one when you were launching your business?
I think I think I knew this on day one, but it’s hard to it’s hard to feel like it’s real, but that everything will come together and you don’t have to have everything perfect at the beginning.
And just like to be honest with people, I mean, I think sometimes like, you want everything to be perfect, you want everything to be, well, run and coming together.
But when you’re a brand brand new business and you know, everyone is new at it, you’re going to have little hiccups and mistakes.
And I think just like being honest with people and saying, Hey, like, you know, I want to have this 100% together for you, but we are brand new and you have to understand that.
And like, sorry that we’re running late for your appointment.
But you know, we’re also just learning these systems and we’re bringing the service to your community so you don’t have to drive two hours to get dental treatment done, you know what I mean?
So I think just like giving, giving yourself some grace and giving everyone in your in your office like that permission to make mistakes, because that’s the only way that you’re going to learn.
And I knew that at the beginning, but it’s just it’s hard to to feel it sometimes, right, because you want to be perfect.
Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you would like to share with with our listeners?
If you are thinking of going into dentistry, probably finding a dentist and shadowing one would be a good place to start, maybe shadowing a couple because every dentist is different.
And even as a dentist, I know that I and I’ve worked in different offices like everyone is dramatically different where you might not like one office, you might find that it’s it’s really good in another office.
And yeah, I would say that would be the place to start.
If you’re interested in becoming a dentist, it’s a great career.
I love it.
It’s a lot of work, it’s don’t get tricked into thinking that you it’s like a license to print money because I know a lot of people think that about dentistry, but it’s a lot of hard work.
And you know, it is something that you know, you could end up being very profitable with and it could have great rewards, but it takes a long time to get there, and I’m not even there yet.
Right after after being out of school for five years, you know, I’m still working my butt off.
Dr. Ball, I’d just like to thank you for joining us today.
It’s it’s been great talking to you, and I wish you the best of luck with your business.