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How I Fell in Love with Being a Dentist

How I Fell in Love with Dentistry

Dr. Wohlers loves helping others.

My love of dentistry was not born out some boundless love for teeth and gums (that came later!). For as long as I can remember, I wanted to practice medicine. Yes, I was one of those kids who treated sick Cabbage Patch dolls and performed life-saving surgeries on my teddy bears (100 perfect success rate, of course). Long before I had the words or maturity to describe it, there was a stir in my heart and mind to dedicate my professional life to helping others.  

But after four happy years majoring in Biology and Chemistry and playing basketball at Francis Marion University, I was not quite sure what type of medicine I wanted to practice. I returned to my hometown of Raleigh, NC to coach high school basketball and teach P.E. And while there,  the answer I was seeking would appear in the most unexpected place.

Learning Lessons from My Hometown

After my first year of teaching, I spent a summer internship shadowing over 50 physicians. From open heart surgery to full knee replacements to brain surgery, I stood back in awe as I watched each specialized physician skillfully navigate simple and complex procedures.

In between patients, as doctors zipped between exam rooms and swallowed quick snacks, I also made it a point to get the answer to my biggest question: would you go back to your pre-doctor self and do it all over again? Out of the 50 physicians I asked, there was only one who said without hesitation that they’d do it all over again. That physician was my long-time family dentist, Dr. Bettie McKaig.

After 35 years, Dr. Bettie still loved her profession just as much as when she began. The joy she received from helping others through dentistry was only equaled by her knowledge, precision, and compassion. Could all this really come from keeping people’s teeth clean?

I made it my mission to find out. When I wasn’t teaching or coaching, you could find me at Dr. Bettie’s office, falling head over heels for dentistry (which, as it turns out, also means much more than keeping people’s teeth clean). I will never forget the day I asked Dr. Bettie if I could shadow her to prepare for dental school. From dentistry and Dr. Bettie alike, the answer was yes all the way.

I am forever grateful for Dr. Bettie. She answered countless questions, encouraged me, and offered me the most precious gifts of her time and her belief in my capabilities. (And, who could forget, she also kept my teeth radiant and healthy!). Today, is that mentor of mine still a powerhouse of professional passion, precision, and grace? All that and more. This year, Dr. Bettie was installed as the first female president for the International College of Dentists. She inspires me (and totally rocks) as much then as she does now.

Why I Practice Dentistry

Today, I practice because the power of a smile can change someone’s life. I love that by being in dentistry, I can give someone the smile they have always wanted and make their smile goals a reality. I practice because I love to connect with people and dentistry allows me to develop an ongoing relationship with my patients and their families. We have three and even four generations of family in our office (how cool is that?). Every day, I have the opportunity to get to know these awesome individuals and families and to help them experience the far-reaching benefits oral health has on one’s overall health, self-confidence, and quality of life.

Could it possibly get any better? Well, since you asked, dentistry also allows me to never stop learning, improving, and expanding. A nerd (ahem…student) at heart, I love going to continuing dentistry education courses to better myself for the sake of my patients. I am humbled and honored to have the daily opportunity to provide my patients with a positive, well-informed dental experience that allows them to achieve a beautiful, healthy smile at every phase of their lives.

So, you might ask, would I do it all over again? Hand on my heart, twinkle in my eye, absolutely yes.


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