Dr. Hyunji Lee


English, Korean
University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine

Most people either loved going to the dentist as a kid—or absolutely hated it. Where did you fall? How come?

I hated going to the dentist as a kid. I hated the smell, the sound, and the dentist. I always had at least three dental assistants who needed to either strap me or hold me down. Back then, there was no understanding of dental anxiety or phobia, so it was always my fault. They never took time to explain anything, so there was a fear of the unknown. My parents are still surprised that I became a dentist!

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

I often encounter patients with high dental anxiety...sometimes, it's their first dental visit ever. Every interaction I have with a patient can either make them like going to the dentist (and thus encourage them to take care of their oral hygiene from here on out) or make them hate the experience. I feel most rewarded when patients leave the room feeling relieved, better and healthier than when they walked in.

How do you recharge after a long week? What’s your go-to activity for hitting the restart button?

A really, really long nap.

What is the absolute coolest thing about the human mouth?

Its ability to heal so fast.

When I’m in the patient chair, I’m probably grooving to {blank} in my headphones.

Disney music

What’s something that really, really, really makes you smile? Like, really?

My dog, ROY, even when he makes a mess or does something he's not supposed to do. I still love him.

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