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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Stay-at-home mom jumps heart-first into dental assisting career

September 14, 2017

Fresno Dental Assistant program graduate Krystin Kahle

In her mid-thirties, Krystin Kahle loved being a stay-at-home mom to her and husband Will’s three kids, Scott, Aerin and Liam. But something was pushing her to look outside her role and her life.

“Should something happen to my husband, I needed to be able to provide for my family,” she reflects. “And I needed to find out who I was; I’d felt like I’d lost that.”

Krystin spent a couple of years searching for something that felt right. “All of these career choices – with or without education – just didn’t intrigue me, didn’t excite me enough.”

A Dental Assistant friend gave Krystin some career training resources that she explored online. She put in a request for Dental Assisting program information at SJVC and spoke to an admissions advisor. Krystin visited the Fresno campus, took information home to discuss with her husband, then soon enrolled for the next Dental Assistant program start.

She told herself, “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to excel. Failing is not an option.” The promise she made to herself required significant sacrifices.

“I spent a lot of hours studying after my kids were in bed, sometimes until after midnight and then up again at 3:00 AM,” says Krystin. “It was really a big sacrifice on their part, too, because they were still very young and used to having my full, undivided attention. And, my husband works odd hours so was asleep a lot of times I was awake. But, they were my biggest cheerleaders.”

An important part of the Dental Assistant program curriculum is Clinical Observation, where students visit dental practices that offer a variety of specialties. “It showed you every aspect, every specialty of dentistry,” says Krystin. “Those visits allowed us to see, first-hand, the types of things you do in that field.”

One such visit brought Krystin to an oral surgery office. Until that point, Krystin was set on working in an orthodontist’s office after graduation. But it was then that she made a dramatic shift. “I walked into that oral surgery office and walked out knowing, ‘That’s it for me,’” she enthused. “It (oral surgery specialty) caused that kind of excitement in me. I asked a lot of questions that day.”

She went back to class in a state of euphoria. “I basically loved the office and couldn’t stop talking about it,” says Krystin. “My Program Director suggested I go in and apply. But who would hire me while I’m still in school?”

Krystin had made it a practice to send a thank-you note to each office staff she had been allowed to observe. For her first-choice employer, , she included a dozen Coffee Crisp chocolate bars from Canada, which an oral surgeon had mentioned he loved. The road to success is paved with chocolate, it seems.

When Krystin dropped off her resume, she was surprised to be invited to interview on the spot with the Office Manager and then two of the four doctors on staff. She later interviewed with two additional doctors there and was subsequently offered an Oral Surgery Assistant position.

She began working 30-hour weeks in October 2016, five months before completing her Dental Assistant program and before she had even begun externship. Krystin was both thrilled and a little apprehensive. “Work, externship and school became quite a balancing act,” she remembers.

“I always wanted to work somewhere medical-related, and this was the perfect combination of dentistry and surgery,” she says. “It’s all about sedation; how anesthesia affects the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. I thrive on that excitement.”

Along with that excitement comes a lot of responsibility. Two Oral Surgery Assistants are required to assist doctors in any surgical procedure. Each assistant performs one of two functions for surgeons in the operating room. The first assistant is responsible for passing every needed instrument to the surgeon. The second position is with the patient from start to finish and directly assists the surgeon during the procedure.

“We get the patient ready and are with them whether they are awake or asleep until they leave,” says Krystin. “That assistant might have 15-plus patients a week, but if you’re a ‘passer,’ you might do 10-plus procedures a day.”

Krystin likes the close contact with patients. “When I’m with a patient and they’re sedated, I have the training to care for them if something goes wrong. It’s a huge responsibility and not to be taken lightly at all. I had no idea that so much would be resting on my shoulders.”

Krystin soaked up all she was learning in her new position, even as she fought to maintain a 4.0 GPA in her Dental Assistant program. “I don’t naturally have the brains to just get a 4.0 GPA; that took a lot of hard work and studying,” she says. “At night, my kids would pray that I would do well in school. Those prayers, that was the most important thing to me.”

“Krystin was always so positive and warm to everyone on campus,” says Veronica Behringer, Dean of Student Services. “She volunteered with her program and off-campus for her church, which shows her selflessness and passion to help others. She is a great model of a successful SJVC student and graduate.”

Krystin graduated with honors from the Dental Assisting program this past March and was the recipient of the college’s Founders Award for Academic Excellence. The most important thing she walked away with was a new-found sense of self. “I changed a lot. I gained a lot of confidence.”

She is ready for whatever her new career brings her way. “I know the magnitude of what is expected of me in my knowledge,” she says. “Everything fell into place; the right thing at the right time. It’s everything I could have wanted.”

Krystin is the one who made that right move at that right time in her life, but she also credits her Dental Assistant program. “If not for that program, I would not have had the confidence to walk into that (oral surgery) office to get a job.”

Happily-ever-afters are always great fun to witness.

Learn More About A Career In Dental Assisting

Are you interested in dentistry and passionate about helping people? Then a dental assistant career could be for you. Dental assistants work in dental offices under the supervision of dentists. They have excellent interpersonal, organizational and listening skills.

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