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The Practice

by Anya Uppal

Dr. Mira Albert recalls as a child how she could not resist what most kids her age love—apple juice and candy. Unfortunately, around the age of 7, she had a few cavities filled, and had “absolutely the greatest experience at the dentist.’’ That’ s when she remembers first deciding to become a dentist. “

Growing up and in college, I was that kid who always worked with children, whether it was babysitting in the neighborhood, being a camp counselor or lifeguard, or working in a preschool,” said Albert, who combined her love of science, working with her hands and working with children. “ Pediatric dentistry was a perfect fit for me as a profession. I momentarily considered general dentistry in my third year of dental school when I had my first challenge treating an apprehensive child.”

Back on the path to the specialty of pediatric dentistry in her fourth year of dental school, Albert spent much of her fourth year of dental school interviewing at various residency programs around the country, before arriving in Chicago.

“Children don’ t have an innate fear of the dentist, so a positive or age-appropriate experience can be foundational in shaping great lifelong attitudes,” she said.

Albert reminds parents that while kids love to eat candy and drink sugary drinks, it’s when they go to the dentist that they may discover the consequence of consuming large amounts of sugar at high frequencies. As a National Spokesperson of the AAPD, Albert said that nearly one third of all children experience a cavity between the ages of two and five. Albert says it’s essential that parents choose a pediatric dentist to ensure that their dental health is properly addressed.

“The most important step you can take in your child’ s oral health is to see a board-certified pediatric dentist by age 1, and choose a pediatric expert when you have the opportunity,’’ Albert said.

“[When] children have sugary foods and beverages, they are more susceptible to cavities, and should be taking extremely good care of their teeth,” Albert said. “ Begin brushing the teeth with a smear of fluoride containing toothpaste twice per day as soon as the teeth come in. All children should be screened for developing orthodontic issues by age 7.”

Q: Can you tell us how you balance family and a career?

A: I have been married for about 12 years, and my husband, Sherif Albert, is a general dentist who owns a nearby practice in Downers Grove. His office is really calm and laid back. While he adores children, he’ s the first to tell families that he’ s married to a pediatric dentist, and their kids might love my practice more than his. We have two awesome little boys. Needless to say, we spend a ton of time at the baseball diamonds, and telling them not to wrestle. Our life is constantly on the move, but I wouldn’ t change a thing.

Q: Has your perspective on your profession changed since becoming a mother?

A: My perspective changed the instant I held my oldest son for the first time. Motherhood is a club, and you get inducted the moment you have your first child. All the formal training in the world is great—but the best training is my experience of being a mother and the things I learn every day when it comes to my profession. It brings empathy, humor, understanding of child development and a major connection both to parents and to my little patients. Not to mention having every word to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse song branded in my mind never hurts with the tiniest littles.

Q: What advice do you have for mothers who are juggling careers and a family?

A: My advice to mothers who are juggling careers with family is the book LeanIn by Sheryl Sandberg—read it! I bought this book over and over again for many friends. As Sheryl puts it, “ Done is better than perfect.” I have thrown many birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese, not because it’ s beautiful or perfect, but because it gets done, my kids have a blast, and I don’ t have to spend 20 hours prepping, and another three cleaning up. I think just about anyone can appreciate that time-savings. While sometimes challenging, it’ s also so important to try not to get caught up in nonsense, and not to be too hard on yourself. Don’ t let anyone, including you, try to put your light out. I also think it’ s really important to have peers you can relate to. I belong to a small LeanIn circle made up of working moms in our area from very diverse industries. While we would love to get together more than a few times every year, we often text or e-mail about various struggles or comedies that occur in our lives, and we admire and support one another for the hard work we all put in at home and on the job. We celebrate professional successes and personal ones—and most importantly, we drink a little wine, and look forward to Sheryl’ s new book!

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Now that both of my boys are in school, I actually do find some time for myself. I don’ t see patients one to two days per week, depending on the week. I do a ton of administrative activities and meetings on those days, but I try to get a workout in, see friends, run errands, tackle the never-ending to-do list, and do my drop-offs and pick-ups. I learned to wake-surf last summer, which is one of my absolute favorite things to do. One last thing I do is take the first week of summer vacation off with my boys. This will be my third year doing it. We usually head into the city a day or two, go to the pool, and just kind of hang out with no huge agenda. When I tuck my kids in at night, my hope is that these are the times they remember about their childhood, and they simply know that their mom was trying to do her best.

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