Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

Jennifer Oliveira. I grew up in Cleveland, Oh. My mother was an administrative assistant and my father was a police officer. I went to college at Ohio University and then on to dental school at the Ohio State University. I have been treating patients for 10 years and have been enjoying the sun of Southern California for the past 4 years with my husband.

Why did you decide to become a dentist?

I always enjoyed going to the dentist as a kid for my cleaning. I thought perhaps I wanted to be the dental hygienist. As I grew up, I realized I wanted to be the dentist as I had the opportunity to shadow the dentist and learn more about the profession.

Could you give us a quick overview of what a dentist does?

Our job is to regularly oversee the oral health of our patients and educate them on how to prevent problems in their teeth, gums, and mouth. Also, it is our job to accurately locate and diagnose problems when they arise and explain these problems to our patients, as well as how to go about treating them. In general, we prevent and restore unhealthy teeth and gums.

What kind of person would make a good dentist?

Hands-on person who is good with small fine details. A person who is a people person, who can communicate well with others. A person who can dedicate hard work towards sciences and organization.

How does someone become a dentist?

Study hard during college so that you can apply to and be accepted to dental school. After 4 years of dental school, it is best to network and apply to become an associate dentist, where you can work as a dentist under an established practice or dentist, prior to becoming an owner.

What is the pay like?

Compensation can vary greatly. It can range from $70,000/year to $500,000/year depending on the the procedures, hours, and office that the dentist works in.

What are the best parts of being a dentist?

Patient appreciation, by far.

What are the biggest challenges in being a dentist?

Educating patients to have them understand their oral health and dental needs. Many patients dislike the dentist because they do not want to hear about problems in their mouth or the cost associated with it. Many patients think the dental office is simply a place to go once a year to have their teeth polished.

Best advice you've ever received?

Never ignore a patient's chief complaint.