MY MAJOR WAS medical technology. I wanted to do more in medicine, so my options were medical school or dental school. I was previously in orthodontics for four years and had more interest in dental. I like that I can help people with their smile, which boosts their self-esteem.

I did my residency in the U.S. Army. You’re trained to learn every aspect of dentistry to be able to treat all the soldiers. I completed a one-year AEGD training. The only downside is that soldiers transfer, or you transfer, and it’s hard to complete cases or follow up. In the military, you’re always learning, and I’ve brought that desire to learn new techniques into my own practice.

Giving back is important. It brings me joy to see other people’s lives changed by donating my time and services. Having the ability to help someone, whether relieving pain or changing their smile, is a feeling that’s hard to express.

I did a lot of research in planning my practice. I wanted a modern, clean design. Benco Dental’s CenterPoint showroom in Texas helped us learn things to do and not to do. We strived for something comfortable, not clinical. The gray gives a modern look, but the pops of spring color add a feminine touch.

We’re a one-stop shop: pediatrics, endodontics, implant placement and more. Only complicated procedures are referred to a specialist.

The hard-and-soft-tissue laser is the most effective tool in my practice. I’m able to do gingivectomies, biopsies and canker-sore treatments, and prepare teeth for composite restorations. Usually for biopsies, patients are less likely to require sutures; it also decreases healing time.

My advice to practices that have not yet adopted digital impression technology: Try it and you’ll never go back. It’s cost-effective, because you reduce chair time and eliminate lab shipping, trays and material.

Dr. Tara Howell’s practice, Carolina Dental, was the first in Charlotte, North Carolina, to offer digital impressions. A University of Delaware graduate, Dr. Howell earned her DMD from the University of Pittsburgh. In her free time, she enjoys community events, traveling, shopping and cycling. She’s also a Charlotte Hornets season-ticket holder.