Living a Smiling Life

You can hear Dr. Carol Ford smile over the phone. There’s a warm interest in her voice that tells a story behind the beautiful white smiles and healthy teeth she creates.

The story Dr. Ford tells is not one of a single-minded little girl who always wanted to be a dentist. Her story is of personal growth of a creative soul who first pursued music with intuitive grace. The seven-year-old Carol wanted to be a concert pianist and rapidly learned how to read and play music.

“I couldn’t look at my hands and play,” she says. “I had to play intuitively, feeling the keys and trusting my fingers to follow the music.” The piano was her favorite instrument until middle school, when she discovered boys. She never lost her love of music, though, and the energy it brings her. “A few years ago, I considered buying a baby grand piano, “ she said, “but I couldn’t give up the upright piano I played as a girl. It still sounds great!” She still plays music that brings smiles to her family’s faces.

There was a time, not so long ago, that little girls could dream of being a concert pianist, but not of being a dentist. Little girls’ careers in those days were steered toward family and children, with few other options.

Drawn to helping people and interested in dentistry, Carol studied to be a dental assistant. She joined a dentist’s practice and continued learning, watching the dentist create crowns, fill teeth and keep gums healthy. All the time she was watching and learning, she had a secret suspicion she could do it better.

One day, her mentor’s niece came to visit. Carol discovered the high-school student was preparing for a ‘pre-dental’ college curriculum. For the first time Carol realized the career path ahead of her could include being a dentist instead of helping one.

Carol graduated from Northern Arizona University, and went to dental school at the University of Washington. It was Dr. Carol Ford, with her interest in people’s lives and stories combined with her clinical skills, who discovered the importance of treating the whole person.

“It’s a violation of everything I believe to do dental work on a stranger,” Dr. Ford says. “You have to know who you are working with to develop trust. You have to spend time talking to a new patient, getting to know them as a person. Only then can you understand their teeth.”

She is so comfortable with her patients that her cell phone number is printed on her business card. “Of course I give patients my cell phone number. I trust them to call me when they need me. I trust them to respect my privacy. I’ve never had a problem with it.”

The same Carol Ford who was so intuitive in learning music as a girl is happy to bring that intuition to her patients, blended now with 28 years of clinical experience. “It’s a good combination, and I love having my own practice,” she says.

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