“Mama said, ‘Be a dentist.’…
I’m your dentist, …
I thrill when I drill, …
and I enjoy the career that I picked, …
Cause I’m a dentist, and a success!”
– Steve Martin, “Little Shop of Horrors”
You are not seeing triple! Legendary Atlanta dentist Novy Scheinfeld beams her own flawless smile in describing her group practice, The Right Smile Center, which includes daughters Dr. Zoey (ZoAnna) Scheinfeld, and Dr. Hanna Scheinfeld Orland.
Dr. Novy, who transitioned from a career in physical therapy, represents the changed arc of a profession not popular among females in previous generations.
Read on as all three dentists contrast their experiences in today’s practice, the stress associated with dentistry, modernization of equipment, and the synergy of being in a family business.
Marcia: What percent of your dental school class was female? Are more women going into dentistry?
Dr. Novy: 10 percent. As a career, it allows for a more balanced life between profession and family. It fits into the “caretaker role” most women play, … similar to when I was a physical therapist.
Dr. Zoey: Half of my (and Dr. Hanna’s) class was female. I think there are more women in every industry. My mother was part of the pioneer generation of professional women – especially doctors. Hanna and I were lucky to be part of the next generation with less obstacles. The structure of the traditional American family has shifted, opening a greater variety of opportunities.
We were raised with encouragement. My father, Mark, our business manager, instilled a mindset that it never occurred to Hanna or me that being female was inferior.
Marcia: What are some of the new technologies that developed between the 25-year gap in your two generations?
Dr. Novy: When I bought a practice in 1992, it had one computer, dot matrix printer, and peg board/paper ledgers for billing and collections. Computer technology has enhanced our business processes, our diagnostic ability with digital 2-D sensors for regular radiographs and 3-D/CBCT scans for 3-D imaging. The dental materials we use now are light years above what was available when I was in dental school.
Dr. Hanna: I use new and “older” perspectives for each patient who is uniquely different.
Dr. Zoey: The fundamentals of dentistry have been applicable for at least the last century, but computers are changing the way we diagnose and treat patients. There are endless new advancements. We are still in a guinea pig/transition period, which means that there is not yet enough long-term research to determine the success rate of using all this new technology.
Marcia: Plusses or minuses of being in a family business?
Dr. Novy: We rule as a group, and Mark/Dad usually has the final analysis. The girls have taken over the business aspect of running a practice to understand components from the ground up.
Dr. Zoey: We divide responsibilities and brainstorm ideas on how to better the practice as a whole. There are definitely positives and negatives to family business, but that is the case for any business or job. Our benefits significantly outweigh the negatives. We are asked often what it is like to work with our mom, or patients will share their personal sentiments about not being able to work with family. I can definitely understand their partiality, but I can’t relate to it.
We have a very unique dynamic between the three of us; we can almost switch from family to colleagues and back instantaneously.
It’s hard to think of any negatives other than scheduling dilemmas when we want to take a family vacation together!
Marcia: What are your individual strengths?
Dr. Novy: Esthetics and smile balance are my strengths, which I owe to my prosthodontics residency at Emory. Great instructors taught me the skill of visualizing how minor contouring achieves great results.
Anything anterior (front), I hear … “Let Mom see this patient.”
I’m known for patients not realizing they had an injection! I practiced because I hate that part of dentistry too.
Dr. Hanna: Zoey is the most artistic. I have a similar bedside manner to my mom, though Zoey and I have very different bedside manners. I wouldn’t say one is necessarily better. It’s a benefit to have the option to see either of us.
Zoey and I enjoy extracting teeth and placing implants, where my mom is talented in restorations. I am certified in Botox for cosmetic refinement and joint pain issues.
Dr. Zoey: Before we entered Mom’s practice, surgery-related (extractions, bone grafts, implants) were referred out. While in dental school, I discovered how much I enjoyed this aspect and sought out additional training. Thus, we create more “in house” conveniences to save patients time and money.
Marcia: What percent of your patient base is Jewish?
Dr. Novy: Probably 50 percent, due to native Atlantans and extended families. We decorate for the holidays, secular included, and it’s a warm feeling when Rosh Hashanah is celebrated. Our great roots come from our parents in whose memory [Temple] Kol Emeth’s social hall is named.
Dr. Hanna: Sandy Springs office 80 to 90 percent Jewish; Chamblee, 15 percent.
Dr. Zoey: We treat up to five generations! Some send their neighbors, co-workers, synagogue members or friends from Jewish organizations. It’s the direction in which the practice grew.
Marcia: Dentistry is stressful?
Dr. Novy: Both physically and mentally. When I was applying to dental school, I saw an article identifying dentistry as the number one “suicide profession.” Having always practiced with other dentists, especially now with my girls, I can immediately elicit a second opinion while the patient is in the chair. I can imagine how stressful it would be practicing alone.
Dr. Zoey: I don’t look at stress as a completely bad thing. I stress because I care, am motivated, stimulated and want the best results. I fear boredom far more than I fear stress.
Marcia: Do patients mix you up?
Dr. Novy: Dr. Hanna, is my “mini-me.” She will check someone in hygiene (cleaning) and say, “Mom, I think they thought I was you.”
Dr. Hanna: Yes. I try to be clear when introducing myself that I am different from my sister. I have heard patients remark, “Oh, I get it. There are two of you!”
Dr. Zoey: Yes. Every day patients confuse us. When I meet a new patient, I share that we all practice together and eventually they will meet all of us. Later, I introduce myself with not just my name, but my relationship to them so it’s easier to make a connection. We are never offended by the confusion and have grown to expect it. Most patients will refer to my mom, as “Dr. Scheinfeld,” and my sister as “Dr. Orland,” so I am “Dr. Zoey.”
Marcia: Last word?
Dr. Hanna: Dentistry is easy when we have a boss like Mom, who is truly a mentor.
Dr. Novy: This is happy medicine when patients leave better than they arrived. We can get people out of pain, educate them on staying healthy, and give them the smile that fits their desire and budget. The human interaction is why I love what I do. When I’m not drilling, I’m talking and learning from patients.
Dr. Zoey: Dentistry is a combination of medicine, art and people. No two days, two patients, two teeth are ever the same. It is never boring and requires constant adaptation and multitasking.