Some of us might be a little squeamish here at Mochi, but Amanda Cheng has never shied away from the blood and guts. A biochemistry major focusing on heart transplant and rejection episodes in college, she followed up with four years at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and obtained her D.M.D degree. Now, she’s a specialist in orthodontics at the University of Minnesota.
Did you know you wanted to pursue orthodontics or a career in medicine when you were younger?
Many of my family members were doctors or dentists, so I aspired to be in the healthcare field at an early age. I’d spent a lot of time during my childhood volunteering in hospitals and playing with microscopes that my grandma owned.
What do you love most about the dental field?
I love the hands-on aspect of dentistry and the immediate satisfaction that you can bring to your patients based on what you do. For example, I delivered dentures to cancer survivors who lost many teeth due to radiation therapy. These patients were excited to smile at their family members and to be able to finally eat turkey for Christmas! I also had one patient who opened a bottle of champagne after removing his braces and said that it would forever change his career as a concert pianist. Being a dentist is definitely very rewarding.
How did you prepare yourself for a career in orthodontics? What steps did you take in high school and college?
I didn’t know that I wanted to be an orthodontist until I learned more about the specialty in dental school. I think orthodontics found me because I studied fashion designing before college, and I always wanted a career that would combine my interest in science and art. It should be noted that orthodontics is highly competitive, so academic excellence is a requirement throughout high school, college, and dental school.
Describe what you do on an everyday basis.
Most orthodontists manage a fast-paced clinic seeing between 60-100 patients per day with the help of five or six assistants, so strong management and communication skills are crucial. Some orthodontists will work three days in private practice with one day teaching at a dental school. Others will choose to work part-time or full-time in a hospital treating medically compromised patients with cleft lip and palate and other craniofacial anomalies.
What surprised you most about working in orthodontics?
Moving teeth involves a lot of geometry and physics! I’m also amazed by the technological advancement in the field to provide more customized and rapid treatment for patients using computers and robotics.
What three qualities allow someone to be most successful as an orthodontist, and why?
A successful orthodontist needs to be detail-oriented in order to notice millimeters of teeth movement, which will affect how the patient chews or talks. Ideally, an orthodontist should have an analytical mind and visual acuity that allows them to create a treatment plan with the correct sequence of teeth extractions or jaw expansion to obtain the optimal profile for the patient.
What kinds of career growth opportunities are available in this field?
There are lots of opportunities in orthodontics to collaborate with other specialties, such as plastic surgery and prosthodontics, to deliver better outcomes for patients. Many orthodontists are also involved in developing patented devices to improve patient care.