Dr. Ambridge Creates Art with Smiles

  • by AGD Staff
  • Mar 16, 2020
Spotlight_AmbridgeMarina Ambridge, HBSc, MSc, DDS, is a general dentist in Peoria, Arizona, whose practice offers cosmetic, esthetic and implant dentistry as well as orthodontics. She holds a Bachelor and Master of Science as well as DDS from the University of Toronto (U of T). Recently, she spoke with AGD Impact about her motivation to excel in the profession.

AGD Impact
: What inspired you to become a dentist, and what has your professional journey been like?

I didn’t know initially that I wanted to be a dentist. I actually went into professional modeling in high school. While modeling may seem like a lucrative and desirable career, it’s actually very taxing on your body and psyche. Your skin suffers from multiple applications of heavy makeup, and it isn’t easy when your appearance is constantly being criticized. I had to focus on school to open other career paths. I have always been a workaholic, and this led me to one of the most challenging programs in the country — U of T neuroscience. I definitely had second thoughts about being there, especially when I realized I hadn’t listened to music for a year because I was constantly listening to recorded physics lectures. Like most other students in my program, I saw medical school as the only logical goal, but I applied to dental school as well. I was lucky enough to meet my future husband before I had to choose between the two. He made me think about the importance of work-life balance, which had not really crossed my mind.

My first associate position only provided A2 composite to use for all patients, and I was frustrated by the lack of concern for esthetics. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) 2016 scientific session in Toronto shaped my professional journey. I was blown away by the dentistry I saw there, and it inspired me to take a lot of continuing education (CE).

In addition to cosmetic dentistry, I became passionate about the use of orthodontics to improve esthetic dentistry outcomes and have accumulated more than 300 CE hours in the field. My mentor, AACD President-elect Salvatore Lotardo, DDS, AAACD, recently invited me to partner with him on a two-day hands-on course that will teach conventional orthodontic techniques to dramatically improve cosmetic and restorative procedures. We will offer free mentorship to each attendee for the first five cases using techniques taught in the course.

AGD Impact: You’re currently pursuing both AGD Mastership and accreditation from the AACD. How does this process help you as a dentist, and why is it important to be recognized by specialty organizations as well as AGD?

I want to do advanced procedures as a general dentist, and I have been able to connect with multiple mentors at each organization who showed me how specific procedures are done at the highest level. My skills have skyrocketed.

Pursuing AACD accreditation pushes me to hone my cosmetic dentistry skills to the world-class level. The margins, contour, color and other aspects of each cosmetic procedure have to meet the highest standards. This is only achievable after a lot of practice, taking hundreds of hours of CE and performing countless cosmetic procedures on live patients.

For AGD Mastership, you’re encouraged to broaden your knowledge by taking CE from a variety of disciplines. It’s really easy to focus on one thing that you’re comfortable with, but this process forces me to broaden my knowledge so I can help patients in a variety of ways. It’s important to maintain a comprehensive understanding of dentistry. Having “FAGD” or “MAGD” says a lot about your level of dental knowledge and experience. It carries weight when dealing with other dentists.

AGD Impact: What are your favorite parts of dentistry, and how do you maintain your passion for the profession?

Dentistry is about marrying science and art. I am passionate about designing smiles using orthodontic and restorative procedures. I love creating beauty, and I enjoy doing it even for simple, posterior restorations.

Many people suggest separating your work from your hobbies because, if you don’t, you stop liking your hobbies. However, the opposite happens for me. Bringing art into work makes me really enjoy every day at my dental practice. For example, I set up a professional photo studio in my practice so I can do some patient photography after cosmetic smile makeovers. I’ll bring in a makeup artist and do a fashion photoshoot, and patients are just ecstatic.

AGD Impact: What technology and patient amenities do you offer at your practice, and why do you think it’s important to keep your clinical technology up to date?

: With rapid advances in technology, patients expect a lot more than just a painless experience from a dentist. Many dentists are trying to create a spa-like experience, which is great because it makes patients want to visit the office. At my practice, I opted for dental chairs with massage functions, mounted TVs on the ceiling, Netflix and noise-canceling headphones. This allows patients to focus on their movie rather than the procedure. When patients are comfortable, they can tolerate more in one appointment, and when they leave the appointment happy, that is a great morale booster for me and the team. 

We also work on different techniques to help make local anesthesia feel better. Different parts of the injection process are uncomfortable or painful. One is the difference in temperature between the body and the anesthetic, so we use an anesthetic warmer before the injection. We also have a tool which sends vibrations to the area around the injection spot. This distracts the patient from the needle prick. We also add sodium bicarbonate to neutralize the acidity of the anesthetic and reduce the burning sensation when it’s injected. Finally, we offer phentolaminemesylate, an agent that reverses the numbing at the end of the procedure.

I’m planning on purchasing a 3D operating microscope. I think it is essential for every dentist because it dramatically improves your posture and saves your neck and back from future problems. Moreover, this microscope offers much better magnification than loupes while still allowing you to move freely around the patient. 

Overall, when deciding whether to buy new technology, you should think about what it will bring to your patients and your office. Are you going to be able to provide better quality service, safeguard your health or improve efficiency in your practice? If the answer is yes, then I think you should get it.