Dr. Nathalie Tungesvik prioritizes continuing education in her career as a dentist — a concept she had no choice but to embrace from a young age.
"I grew up in Quebec, Canada. My family — I was the oldest of five children — moved to Iowa because my dad was a physician and he wanted to practice medicine in the U.S., and he really wanted us to learn English," Tungesvik said.
So at age 18, entering college at the University of Iowa, she learned English in addition to her native French. She hasn't stopped learning since.
"I think it's a good position to be in to not think that you know everything, to learn from others," she said.
In professional dental practice for 26 years now, the owner of Diamond Ridge Dentistry has used that love of learning to her patients' advantage.
Last year, she completed an advanced dentistry program through the Kois Center in Seattle, which versed her on a nine-course curriculum spanning the latest advances in aesthetics, implant and restorative dentistry.
"Technology keeps amazing us. We can now scan your teeth with a small camera, and at any time in the future, we can scan them again and see exactly where the teeth have changed," she said.
Tungesvik started treating patients with Invisalign in 2004, just three years after the orthodontic technology became available to general dentists. This fall, she was recognized at the national Invisalign summit for treating more than 500 cases, with her cases selected for publication in the official Invisalign case gallery publication in five separate years, including 2017.
One dental development she's invested her time in hit particularly close to home.
"Good sleep is crucial to healthy living. Some people won't get diagnosed and treated for sleep apnea/snoring because they don't want to be told they need to use a CPAP for the rest of their life. In most cases these people could instead wear an oral appliance that keeps the jaw from falling back during sleep, keeping their airway open," Tungesvik said.
"I got interested in that because I could tell that my husband would stop breathing at night, and he wouldn't go for a CPAP. So since the day that I've been doing it, he's wearing one every night."
Making that device available to patients requires advanced training in sleep medicine.
"It just makes such a big difference if I can talk somebody into getting tested. Sometimes when we test them we find out that they're severe and that a mouthpiece won't help them, but it's still a life-saving test that I can do to help them figure it out," she said.
"So it's not just filling teeth and cleaning teeth anymore."
Now with an associate dentist since 2012, Tungesvik spends more time focusing on managing her practice.
"Being a leader is not something that most people are born with. You have to study a lot of it, too," she said. "You have to read a lot. You have to watch mentors, see how they've done it, and you just have to keep refining your systems."
She seeks the same balance in her personal life, always trying to maintain focus on her family and her faith.
"Personally and professionally, the most impactful event in my life was having a change of heart as to what Jesus did and does for me. It's given me clarity in every aspect of my career and personal life," Tungesvik said. "I'm a better leader, wife, mother and friend because of it. I still fail miserably, as we all do, but knowing that each one of us is created in the image of God gives me joy and hope."
Q. Who has invested in you and your career?
A. "My husband's been my rock. He's always been positive, supportive, a cheerleader. A classmate from dental school who lives in North Carolina has also been a good coach and cheerleader, too. She's my go-to when I have questions."
Q. What choices have you made to invest in yourself and your career?
A. "I've made a commitment to continuing education in all aspects of owning a dental practice and being a dentist. I've tried to always keep a balanced life, realizing that it always needs rebalancing depending on what season of life you're in."
Q. Of what professional achievement are you most proud?
A. "There's a few professional achievements that I'm proud of, but for my practice, it's my incredible staff — to have been able to put together a team that is not perfect but we all have a common goal, and that's to take care of our patients.
"Having graduated from the Kois program is also a big achievement for me. It involved a lot of trips to Seattle over a five-year period, long days from 7 to 6 at night."
Q. What do you see as the biggest issues facing women in the workplace?
A. "This concept that you have to do it all perfectly. You have to look good; you have to be a good mom, a good wife and the best in your profession. Those are good things to strive for, but it's impossible to achieve. Society puts a lot of pressure on women today."
Q. What drives you most in life and in your career?
A. "It's my faith. I'm lucky that it's no longer just a Sunday morning event. On my drive to and from work, I listen to Christian radio, Christian podcasts; and it just gives me peace and it gives me clarity. And my family — my children, watching them go out into the world and be productive members of society — that's what I'm most proud of, is being a mom to these kids."
Q. What advice would you give to a woman entering the workforce?
A. "Find something that you love, and do it well. I would like to say, 'Don't take yourself too seriously,' but I think I do take myself too seriously sometimes."
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