In 1866, Lucy Hobbs became America’s rst female dentist. Meet today’s superstars burnishing her legacy

DR. Kady Rawal


Age: 30

Boston University’s Dental Health
Center Faculty practice; the dental clinics at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center and Hebrew Senior Life

General dentistry

“I grew up learning so much from my grandparents that a geriatrics specialty was a great fit.”



WHEN PARENTS TELL their kids to learn from their
elders, it rarely works out as well as it did with Dr. Kadambari “Kady” Rawal.

Dr. Rawal spends two days a week treating adults at Boston University’s Dental Health Center Faculty practice, and three more attending to geriatric patients — most 85 and older — at the dental clinics at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center and Hebrew Senior Life, both in the Boston suburbs.

She’s drawn to older adults, she says, because growing up in Mumbai, she loved the fact that her grandparents lived nearby. “I grew up respecting them and learning so much from them that I thought taking up geriatrics as my specialty would be a great fit,” she says. (The master’s degree in dental public health she’s set to receive next year has a specialty in geriatrics.)

Dr. Rawal says the challenges of treating older adults are rewarding. Her patients, some of whom are older than 100, are unable to keep their mouth open for long, so she has to work efficiently during appointments. Geriatric patients also typically have many other medical needs, so Dr. Rawal is required to communicate closely with their other doctors, nutritionists and speech pathologists to devise her treatment plans.

Her priority, she says, is getting her patients back to dental capability so they can chew properly and get the nutrients they need to stay healthy. “It’s more about form and function than it is about aesthetics,” she notes.

Dr. Rawal is also a mentor with the American Association of Women Dentists at Boston U. She provides free screening services with other AAWD members at Rosie’s Place, which was the first women’s shelter in the U.S. when it opened in 1974.

Last February, she went home, accompanying six female dental clinicians on a trip, organized by the Angel Dentist Network, to treat women and children in Mumbai’s red-light district. “In the span of four hours, we screened about 400 women and their children,” she says, adding that she hopes to return soon. Her surviving grandfathers are surely beaming with pride.

DR. Pamela Schmidt


Age: 53

Schmidt Dental, Rockford, Illinois

General dentistry

“The human body knows how to be healthy. We just need  to support it and not get in  the way.”


“PATIENTS WHO FIND US are looking for a kinder, gentler, greener type of dentist,” says Dr. Pamela Schmidt. That’s exactly what’s on offer at the practice she shares with her husband, Roger: The couple specializes in providing patients with alternative therapy options, such as probiotics to fight bacteria and ozone to combat periodontal disease.

Certified in integrative biologic dental medicine and naturopathic medicine, Dr. Schmidt believes that the human body knows innately how to be healthy. “We just need to support it and not get in the way of that process,” she says.

In line with that philosophy, Dr. Schmidt offers her patients the option to have their blood drawn at a nearby lab so it can be tested for sensitivity to a variety of dental products, such as restoration materials and adhesives. This enables her to tailor what she uses on a patient, ensuring that nothing will cause inflammation.

She recalls treating one young man with severe periodontal disease; his gums were bleeding and he was in the early stages of bone loss. Because his mouth was highly sensitive, she had his blood tested and determined which pathogens were present in large amounts. She was thus able to treat him more thoroughly, and his recovery was quicker than it would otherwise have been.

Dr. Schmidt and her husband, fans of outdoor activities, treat the environment with the same concern. They installed a toxic-waste removal device to dispose of silver fillings, older versions of which are nearly 50 percent mercury. Their Anterior Quest system contains and disposes of mercury with complete safety.

“I think positive, and I believe in possibilities,” Dr. Schmidt says. “When I have an idea about a new treatment protocol, we incorporate it so we’re always able to offer the best to our patients.”

DR. Joyce Basett


Age: 56

Smiles by Joyce, Scottsdale, Arizona

General and cosmetic dentistry

I always want to do better. My goal in life right now is to inspire and ignite women.


GROWING UP AS the exceptionally bright and assertive daughter of a gregarious Lebanese dentist, Dr. Joyce Bassett remembers her father often saying what he regarded as a good-natured jab: “What are ya, stupid?”

Certainly not: Dr. Bassett, who graduated from high school at age 16 and finished dental school at 23, just wrapped up a year serving as the first female president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentists. She’s now eager to return to focusing full-time on her patients, her Occlusion II students at the Kois Center in Seattle and the international audiences of female dental professionals to whom she often speaks.

An ardent mountain climber, Dr. Bassett credits her dad’s old line with instilling in her the drive to want to be the best. “There’s always something to learn from every person around you,” she says. “I always want to do better because I can then help other people be better.”

That sense of purpose has taken her in recent years to Japan, Romania, Australia and more for speaking engagements. Her talks typically begin with a rapid-fire introduction to her straightforward, honest style: She shares a story about failure.

Dr. Bassett was one of few women pursuing cosmetic dentistry when it first began to distinguish itself with certification classes in the early 1990s. It was difficult to fit in amid the male-dominated certification system, and she struggled to pass the AACD accreditation test, ultimately taking it seven times. Her message to women: It’s not a big deal to fail. “I would never have developed the character or backbone to move into the future if I didn’t have obstacles,” she tells her audiences. “From failing, you learn how to fix the process.”

Dr. Bassett herself is Exhibit A: She’s now an AACD accredited fellow and an adjunct professor at the University of Arizona in addition to her duties at Kois. And no, she’s not slowing down, with a goal to reopen Women Teaching Women, a facility she established over a decade ago for women who feel they learn better from female instructors. “My goal in life right now,” she says, “is to inspire and ignite women.”

DR. Mary Teddy Wray


Age: 57

Laurel Bush Family Dentistry, Bel Air, Maryland

General dentistry

The happiness you feel because you’ve helped someone else — it makes you feel warm inside.


DR. MARY TEDDY WRAY was just 16 years old when she left her native country, Uganda, to attend boarding school in New York. She escaped political instability at home — Uganda was ruled at the time by the notorious Idi Amin — but in the U.S. she struggled with money while putting herself through school, first at New York University and then Georgetown, sometimes subsisting on nothing but bread and water.

That searing experience has imbued in her a spirit of giving at her practice in Bel Air, Maryland. The only dentist in her area who accepts Medicaid, Dr. Wray — “Dr. Teddy” to many of her patients — also offers low-cost treatment at several local nonprofits, including SARC, the Sexual Assault/Spouse Abuse Recovery Center, which provides abused women money, legal assistance and a safe place to live.

“But there was no one to help them with their broken teeth,” she says of SARC’s clientele. “I thought that if I gave them a smile it would help their self-esteem, and they could get a decent job.”

Through SARC, Dr. Wray began treating patients at Anna’s House, a shelter run by Catholic Charities for homeless women and their families. One of her patients there, a woman in her twenties eager to start beauty school, needed nearly all of her teeth replaced, a task Dr. Wray completed over two months — at no cost.

She now sits on the boards of SARC and three other organizations, raising funds for all of them. In addition to her practice, too, she performs reduced-cost dental services for the ARC Northern Chesapeake Region association for disabled adults, and the Mason Dixon Community Services group for low-income residents.

“The work is satisfying,” Dr. Wray says of her 24/7 humanitarianism. “The happiness you feel is because you helped someone else. It makes you warm inside.”

COL. Theresa Gonzales


Age: 57

Practice: Director of Orofacial Pain Management and Pathology at the Medical University of South Carolina College of Dental Medicine, Charleston, South Carolina

My students have come into the dental profession for the right reason: to provide a public service.


AFTER 31 YEARS on 17 military bases during her distinguished career in the U.S. Army Dental Corps, Colonel Theresa Gonzales decided to hang it up in 2013.
Her retirement lasted all of six hours.

Ever a woman of action, Col. Gonzales left the military, in which she had spent her entire career, to take a job as the Director of Orofacial Pain Management and Pathology at the Medical University of South Carolina College of Dental Medicine. The college is in Charleston, where she spent much of her childhood, and the only place she could imagine spending civilian life.

In the Army, Col. Gonzales taught pathology to graduate students, surgeons and postdoctoral students. Shifting to undergraduates was a learning experience all its own, she says, but three years in, the teachers she oversees have won national recognition, and test scores are the highest in the school’s history.

Yet Col. Gonzales doesn’t take a lick of credit for that achievement. It’s all about the students, she says: “I could not be more comfortable with the fate of the [dental] profession based on the people who have entered it. They have come into the profession for the right reason — to provide a public service.”

She learned the value of cultivating good students from her mother, a British war bride who was a classics professor in London before she married Col. Gonzales’s father. Her mother insisted that she and her siblings learn one new thing each day, and had an embroidered aphorism hanging on her office wall: the secret to success in education begins with a healthy respect for the pupil.
For Col. Gonzales, those remain words to live by.

DR. Susan Maples


Age: 56

Susan Maples DDS, Holt, Michigan

General dentistry

The whole dental team can improve America’s declining health if we just do a few things differently.


A FEW YEARS AGO, Dr. Susan Maples’s appointment book was filled with young patients home from college for winter break. It should have felt like a reunion with “my kids,” as Dr. Maples calls them. But she made a grim discovery: 16 of the 17 students had gotten a cavity since their last cleaning. “I sat down and cried,” says Dr. Maples.

That day marked a turning point. “Over nearly 30 years of practice, I’ve seen a sad down-slide in the health of our patients,” she says. Determined to rectify the problem, she wrote and published a book last September: BlabberMouth! 77 Secrets Only Your Mouth Can Tell You to Live a Healthier, Happier, Sexier Life. She tours the country nearly every weekend to promote the book to dentists and offer advice on how to identify signs of other diseases when examining a patient’s mouth.

“Dental team members — the whole team — can truly make a significant dent in America’s declining health with the relationships we already have,” Dr. Maples says, “if we just do some things differently.”

In her own practice, that means having her younger patients rinse with a solution that highlights plaque in blue; her charges then choose one of 30 tools to combat plaque. Dr. Maples coaches them on technique and tracks their progress over time.

Never one to miss a teachable moment, Dr. Maples also asks every patient under 18 to do a science experiment during their visit. In an old X-ray developing room she converted into a “children’s hands-on learning lab,” kids do age-appropriate experiments: youngsters taste peanut butter to learn the difference between natural and artificial sugars; teens are tasked with thinking like a detective to match a saliva sample to a patient’s medical record.

It’s educational and fun — and, Dr. Maples notes, it has had one major, unintended and positive consequence on her patients: “They all want to grow up to be dentists,” she says. With a mentor like her, is that any surprise?