Transforming a smile and a life | University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Close-up of smile

Transforming a smile and a life

Student Emily Padilla wants to enable everyone to see dentistry as an art that can transform well-being and self-esteem.

Emily Padilla’s career path was first revealed when she began volunteering as a dental assistant at Good Samaritan Dental Clinic in Rochester. “Through this experience I was able to understand the many barriers that people face in order to seek basic medical attention,” she says.

Today, Padilla is taking steps to prepare for a career in cosmetic dentistry, by studying the health sciences at the University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR), which prepares students for advanced studies in professional health programs such as dentistry.

“One of my long-term goals is to reduce these barriers,” she says. “I want others to see dentistry as an art that can transform, or at least enhance, one’s well-being and self-esteem.”

Cosmetic dentistry

Cosmetic dentistry focuses on the aesthetic component of a person's teeth and smile, as well as one’s overall oral health—before transforming a smile, the teeth must function properly. A cosmetic dentist can perform a variety of procedures, from whitening teeth to reconstructing a full mouth.

“The psychological effect that cosmetic treatments have is an immensely important aspect of one’s health and well-being,” Padilla says.

Student Emily Padilla in lab coat with dentist and assistant working on a patient.

A cosmetic dentist can perform a variety of procedures, from whitening teeth to reconstructing a full mouth.

Dentistry as art

There’s an artistic component to the field. “One must visualize the end result of the treatment plan,” Padilla says. “From there, the dentist must work backwards to figure out steps to take to get to that end result.”

While a cosmetic dentist works on a "small canvas," the dentist must focus on the details of the entire face. No patient is the same. “The smile needs to match one’s profile and face shape,” she says. “And the color of one’s teeth should correspond with one’s complexion.”

Why UMN Rochester?

“I chose UMR because of the small class sizes and the focus on health sciences,” Padilla says. “The support that the professors and student success coaches offer is unparalleled. There are plenty of opportunities because of the unique location of our campus and its collaboration with the community.”

One opportunity she benefited from was a work-study research experience with the Surgical and Medical Acute Care Research team at Mayo Clinic. Padilla assisted on a major study that involved institutions from around the country.

“Being able to work for this top ranked hospital was empowering,” she says. “I learned something new every day. Working alongside outstanding health care professionals made me excited to contribute to innovation in medicine.”

Meet the Student Researcher

Emily Padilla
Emily Padilla
Student, Health Sciences
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities