Dr. Joyce Kahng, a cosmetic and restorative dentist based in Orange County, California, is one of the many working moms juggling both a career and motherhood.
Joyce has been practicing dentistry for 12 years and she originally did not want to own her own practice because she wanted to maintain a healthy work-life balance. However, Joyce soon realized she did not want to work for other people because she did not feel like she could provide the best quality of dentistry to her patients under other dentists’ control.
“I never wanted to own a practice, but I opened it because I had to,” Joyce says. “I didn’t want to be a dentist if I didn’t do it my own way.”
The result of this decision was Joyce’s current practice, Orange and Magnolia Dental Studio.
Although Joyce originally started in general dentistry, she now only does cosmetic dentistry at her practice. While it can be challenging since she has to try to satisfy patients according to their perceptions of beauty, she enjoys impacting how people view themselves.
“Cosmetic is what really fulfills me because it helps people with the way they show up in the world, both personally and professionally,” Joyce says. “It really impacts people’s confidence and I found that to be really empowering for me to be able to do that for somebody.”
Joyce also shares content on both Instagram and YouTube to educate people about dentistry. She enjoys finding ways to incorporate dental concepts into internet trends to make fun, entertaining content.
“I always thought people didn’t want to know about teeth because people hate the dentist, and when I first started, it was an uphill battle,” Joyce says. “But I’ve learned that if I can present the information in a certain way, people actually do want to know.”
Joyce also uses her Instagram platform to shed light on what it is like to be both a practice owner and a mom by sharing moments from her daily life. She likes to find ways to relate to her audience, even in small ways — for example, one day she was eating Sour Patch Kids, and she received messages from people who were glad to see a dentist eating candy since they eat it, too.
“It’s just not polished at all,” Joyce says. “I think it’s nice for people to see that because it humanizes dentistry. It makes people feel more open to asking questions.”
Although Joyce now has a large social media following and is running a successful practice, she initially struggled as a new practice owner. Joyce took over a practice formerly owned by a man, and she lost a lot of patients who, presumably unintentionally, did not feel she fit the mold of an experienced, established dentist.
“It impacts your confidence as a provider,” Joyce says. “I had dealt with it my entire life, so it wasn’t a new thing for me, but I did find I was always trying to play the role of a dentist — how I thought an older dentist would talk. I would just knead myself into the mold of what I thought people wanted.”
Although Joyce struggled to find her own identity as a dentist, she began to gain confidence as she built a following on Instagram.
“That’s the first time that patients would actually call our office and come in knowing what I look like, knowing how I sound, knowing who I am, and that was very powerful for me,” Joyce says. “It gave me permission to keep being more myself, and now at the practice, it’s completely changed. It’s not how I thought it should be — it’s how I want it to be because that’s who I am. It’s a reflection of me.”
However, Joyce is also still trying to navigate how to juggle being a business owner and mother. She currently has a baby and has one more on the way.
To manage her multiple roles, Joyce works three days a week at her practice, and she dedicates the other two days to content creation and non-clinical dentistry, which she can do from home. She also finds it helpful to network with other mothers and ask for their advice.
Motherhood has impacted the way Joyce runs her practice. In fact, even though she has received multiple awards such as being part of Forbes’s The Next 1000 in 2021, Joyce is most proud of the way she changed her approach to the practice after having her first child.
“When I felt most proud personally is after I had the baby and I realized the way that I was practicing before I had the baby was not something I could do after I became a mom,” Joyce says. “It helped me take a lot of ownership with the practice. I put in a lot of work to change my practice so I’m only doing procedures I really love.”
As she looks forward to the birth of her second child, Joyce hopes to continue to use her time in the most worthwhile way — even if that means eventually selling her practice.
“If it ever comes to a point where I don’t enjoy doing it anymore, I have actually given myself permission to sell the practice and go where my heart leads me,” Joyce says.
Through her story and content, Joyce hopes to show that women who are professionals can share all sides of who they are with the world.
“I think when it comes to dentistry, there was a specific way I felt like you had to be or a way you had to present yourself in order to be taken seriously, but I think these days hopefully you can be yourself,” Joyce says. “When I first started Instagram, I would only show the professional sides of myself because I had so many experiences where people judged me. You can show both sides of yourself and you shouldn’t be afraid to have a multidimensional persona.”