silvera_maria_1 In life it is all about relationships, developing and nurturing them. It is about using and developing our God given gifts to make our life count by contributing to peoples’ well-being.

I opened my periodontal practice in Santa Maria, CA, and I saw my first patient on November 7, 2006. Today I begin my 7th year in private practice.  Contributing to my patients’ well-being, the opportunity to continue learning in my fields of Immunology and Periodontics, and making amazing friendships with patients, colleagues and other professionals are what I most enjoy about being a periodontist.

It is remarkable to see how contributing to a patient’s well-being also contributes to raising their self-esteem. I have seen many of my patients transformed; they begin taking better care of themselves all-around after their oral health has improved with treatment and education. When they come back for their follow-up appointments it is like meeting brand new people for the first time because they are not the same people we initially met. It is as if they have had a makeover. Patients look happier.  They look so different; there is more eye contact, they walk taller with a spring to their steps, and more confident. My team and I are startled at the changes – wow, they look amazing, and sometimes we wonder: is this patient X?

My journey to becoming a periodontist began during my third year of completing graduate studies for a PhD in Immunology from the University of Rochester. I met Pedro, a dentist, at a social for graduate students. Pedro was completing his residency in Orthodontics and working on his PhD in Biochemistry. He told me on several occasions that I needed to seriously consider dentistry as a career since it is awesome how you can combine expertise in science with helping people.

One night while I was working on my experiments, I had an epiphany.  I love interacting and helping people much more than my love for the analytical thinking of a scientist and spending time alone doing experiments!  I had the opportunity to ask other dentists working on their PhD thesis, how they felt about dentistry.  Every dentist I spoke with, especially the periodontists, was excited about dentistry. For over a month I visited the Eastman Institute for Oral Health to observe surgeries being done by periodontists. I was impressed with periodontics. I began to research what I needed to do to become a Periodontist. The requirements were four years of dental school and 3 years of specialty training in periodontics. Even though I was already in my 10thyear of professional school, 7 more years of school did not deter me from changing my scientific career and pursuing periodontics.

I found my calling!  I began to see what Pedro was talking about for the last year and half!  I decided to combine my knowledge in Immunology with dentistry to help people with their well-being and to make a difference directly in their lives. Periodontics, of all the dental specialties has the most direct relationship with immunology (the science that investigates how our bodies fight disease).  Diseases like osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease affect oral health. Now I could use my knowledge in immunology with dentistry to help people with treatment to address these health concerns to improve their oral health and well-being.

In July 1994, I defended my PhD thesis. On August 1994, I began my rewarding journey as a dental student at the University of Buffalo, NY and began to enjoy amazing friendships especially with classmates- Matthew, Candy, Alysia , (to name a few), with patients, and with instructors. In my senior year of dental school, I was accepted into the department of Periodontics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN where I spent three years in one of the coldest states in the USA. I learned from Dr. Sheridan, an outstanding periodontist and instructor and completed my certification in Periodontics. Then I moved to Arizona, one of the hottest places I have ever lived in, where I worked for four years.

In July 2004, I visited Avila Beach and enjoyed the moderate weather of the Central Coast of CA. The natural beauty of the area reminded me of Bogota, Colombia where I was born and raised until age 13.  I decided this was the ideal place to open my periodontal practice one day so I moved there in September 2005 and worked with other dentists for one year and then opened my private practice in 2006.  I am extremely lucky that my sister Bibianna came to help me grow my business for two years and half, I am where I am because of her great contribution to me and the business.

That is my story of how and why I became a periodontist. Again the key to success in life is focusing on people and in developing and cultivating relationships, skills, and God given talents to help people and to make a difference in their lives.  It is all about growing harmonious and enjoyable relationships with people- with patients, with colleagues, with team members, with referring dentists, and with other professionals- that contribute to their well-being and it is very rewarding in that you know you are making your life count for the good of others.

Dr. Maria Silvera

Leave a Reply