Working to change the stigma of visiting a dentist - KCTV5

Working to change the stigma of visiting a dentist

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

When someone steps into the Smile Salon they'll be walking into something unusual.

"When we opened this office on the Plaza, we incorporated a dental spa. And when people come, they can get messages, we have an aesthetician, I have a cosmetic dermatologist that works here," said Dr. Maria Kunstadter.

It's not your typical dentist office and that's exactly what Kunstadter is trying to accomplish.

"Our whole goal is to take away the negative concept of going to the dentist," she said.

The Smile Salon combines cosmetology and spa services with dentistry, taking the sting out of fixing a cavity. When she started in the field, only 3 percent of women were dentists.

"When people traditionally have a fear of dentistry, they think of some burly guy with hairy arms coming at them," Kunstadter said.

For that reason, she said being a female dentist is an advantage.

"Women are just more nurturing and I think again, the fear factor goes downhill when patients are sitting with a female. They don't immediately get nervous and tense and we listen. Women are good listeners," she said.

When Kunstadter was still in school, she thought about being an oral surgeon, but men told her she couldn't do it.

"The first question (they had) – ‘you're not strong enough' and I just said if you use technical skill rather than brute strength you can take care of a patient better. Brute strength you've inevitably going to hurt somebody," she said.

She is passionate about women's rights and tries to set an example for her own daughters and patients. She even wrote a book called Working Women A to Z, showing pictures of women doing a variety of jobs that used to be reserved for men.

"I did this because I wanted to help girls and boys not feel they have to discriminate who they are and what they are and they can be anything. In fact the letter Y is you - you can be whatever you want to be," Kunstadter said.

The book was written in 1994. It received rave reviews and earned her two awards for it.

"The good news for me is this is still relevant, so it's been published in paperback 20 years later. The sad news is, it's still relevant because nothing much has changed for women in their position in the workforce," she said.

Kunstadter is working on her second book Men at Work A to Z.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.)  All rights reserved.

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