This self-proclaimed ugly duckling with bad teeth was so inspired by the transformation of her smile that she became an orthodontist. And she was so dedicated to her goal that she started her residency the same week she had her first child. Meet this Lebanon, KY, native who is helping smiles all over Louisville at Tran Orthodontics: our FACE of Louisville, Dr. Kristen George.
What do you do for a living?
I am an orthodontist at Tran Orthodontics, along with my other full-time jobs of being a mother and a wife.
When did you discover that you had a talent for this?
I have always been a “tooth” person. The first thing I notice when I meet people is their smiles. This, combined with the fact that I was a good student with an interest in health care, was a perfect combination to lead me on the path to orthodontics. I also had a pretty awesome case of the “ugly-duckling syndrome” as a pre-teen, so my smile transformation experience at the orthodontist was inspiring.
Tell us about your knack for pulling teeth.
I hated to pull teeth when I was a dental student until I finally realized it isn’t about strength, it is about physics – combining force with direction. After I figured that out, I really liked it. These days I only pull the occasional very wiggly baby tooth that a patient specifically asks me to pull. It is always a great feeling when the baby tooth comes out and the patient looks at me incredulously and says: “It’s out? That didn’t hurt a bit!” I have a feeling I will be chasing my daughters around the house when their little teeth become wiggly.
You started your residency the same week you had your first baby. How did you manage?
Ignorant bliss! I had no idea what being a resident at the University of Kentucky was like, nor did I know anything about being a first-time mom. I was so determined to make it work. I returned to class after four weeks of maternity leave, which was insane. I told my daughter, Eden, that I did it for her, and someday I hope she and Ivy (my other daughter) will learn from that experience. When you put your heart and soul into achieving a goal, anything is possible.
What is your biggest life lesson?
That there is no such thing as best-laid plans. I may have the worst timing of anyone on the planet. Very few things in my life have gone according to plan or, at least, to my plan. However, it is because of those forks in the road and path changes that I have learned the most, grown the most and truly found myself.
Who is your mentor?
Dr. Paul Tran. We have been friends for quite a while. It wasn’t until I worked as an assistant in his office that I realized I wanted to become an orthodontist (although my mother used to tell me I should be one). Our office is unique in that we practice side by side every day. We love working together to give our patients the best experience possible.
What job would you secretly love to have?
Growing up, I always wanted to be a famous singer. I am not sure this is much of a secret to people who know me well or the people who sit beside me at church. My favorite performances these days are singing lullabies to my girls at bedtime.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I am a total believer in karma. I used to laugh at my sister, Sarah, because she would freak out in an elevator. Now I am claustrophobic, and elevators are my least favorite thing. That’s what I get!
What is your favorite place to eat?
Louisville has such an eclectic restaurant scene. I love trying new places, and I usually order the strangest thing on the menu. My girlfriends and I went to Mussel & Burger Bar not long ago, and it was awesome. I also love the restaurants in NuLu. If you happen to be in Bradfordsville, I highly recommend the Country Store for some real Southern food.
Your office is dressy. How do you safeguard your clothes on the job?
Orthodontics is different than other fields of dentistry. Our environment is less sterile, and there is a very low risk of contamination during most patient visits. I really don’t worry about my clothes, and I try to look nice and professional. I think it is also helpful to assuage that all-too-common fear of the dentist by looking more like a mom and less like a doctor. Our office environment is very relaxed and comfortable; we are all like a family, and our attire reflects that. I enjoy dressing up for work. Needless to say, we follow all of the rules and regulations to protect our patients and ourselves.
What is a treat or a luxury you do for yourself?
Bubble baths. That is when I do my best reading and relaxing.
What is your weakness?
I have a terrible sweet tooth. A meal is not a meal without dessert in my book — breakfast, lunch or dinner.
What are three things you cannot live without, besides faith, family and friends?
- Chanel perfume. I love it when people tell me I smell good. I remember when my parents used to go out to dinner when we were growing up. We would hug them before they left, and they both always smelled so nice.
- My favorite cookbook – America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. It is my go-to for new recipes and yummy twists on old favorites.
- The Louisville Cardinals! I am a huge fan. It has become a family affair. My youngest daughter, Ivy, was doing the CARDS chant before she took her first step.
What are you reading?
Goodnight Moon — one of our nightly stories. As far as “grown-up” books, I just finished Cornbread Mafia by James Higdon. I am from Lebanon (Marion County), and it is a look into the history of my home. It was absolutely fascinating, especially because I have heard the stories for so long and know some of the main characters.
What are three of your favorite things right now?
- Incognito braces. They are braces that are on the inside of the teeth, so one knows you have braces. They are pretty cool, and they make beautiful smiles — during braces and after!
- Downton Abbey is the best show on television. My mother-in-law got me hooked! I seriously mourned it when the season ended. It evokes so many emotions — I laugh, I cry. It is awesome.
- Date night with my hubby. We have season tickets to the Broadway Series at the Kentucky Center, and before each show we pick a local restaurant we have not tried before. It has been an awesome season, and I cannot wait to see Book of Mormon.
Thank you to Dr. Kristen George. She made getting braces seem like a much nicer experience then when I had them 30 years ago! To contact her, click here: tranorthodontics.com
As always, much gratitude to my FACES photographer Adele Reding for her fantastic work. See her profile here: www.facebook.com