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South Florida's Best and Brightest
Originally published: Friday, July 1, 2011 (12:11:29 a.m. ET)

Dr. Karent Sierra
Cosemtic dentist Karent Sierra. (Photo courtesy of
Dr. Karent Sierra
With a booming dental practice in the Gables that's way more akin to a five-star day spa than a medical office, as well as first-place in a local beauty pageant, Miss Carnaval (1992), on her résumé, and a foundation that she created to provide dental care for underprivileged kids who otherwise wouldn't be able to pay for it, her life could never be considered conventional. To label her a trailblazer would hardly be a stretch. Dr. Karent Sierra knows most people don't look forward to things like root canals and cavity fillings, so she's enhanced her office with amenities like Bose noise-reduction headphones, wine and juice service, lavender-scented aroma therapy, and video eyewear that creates the illusion patients are watching their favorite TV show or movie on a 52-inch screen. Sierra was born in New York City but her family relocated when she was an infant to South Florida, where she attended St. Brendan High School. From there, she graduated from FIU before heading off to dental school at Marquette in Wisconsin.

Q: What advice would you give youngsters who want to embark on a career in your industry?
A: I do have a lot of young patients who are interested in finding out about my career. I think it's so important to focus from an early age on what you want. Grades are certainly important; that's what any university will look at. I have a couple of patients who have expressed interest and I have invited them to spend some time here at the office to make sure they love it. Especially for a woman, it's a very independent kind of career. Once you establish yourself, you can set your own hours, and work for yourself. I encourage kids who want independence that this is definitely one way to go.

Q: Of what professional accomplishment are you most proud?
A: To finally have my own office. I worked as an associate for many years. And then I was renting office space; I was officially on my own, but I was renting space from someone. Then, finally, over three years ago, I found my own space, and set up shop here. So the independence is a big accomplishment for me. I've been on my own for six years. It's definitely more rewarding and more enjoyable. We have a very unique office. It's very much like a dental spa; it's unlike any dental office. We have candles. It's soothing. We have aroma therapy. If I worked for someone, I'd have to follow their rules and they'd do things the way they want. Being able to implement different techniques has been wonderful.

Q: What's the most challenging part about your work?
A: The business aspect. The management aspect. Dealing with payments and insurance. Not that we take insurance. But sometimes we do the favor of having the patient pay us and then we'll submit the insurance for them. So there are always questions, and I think the overall management of the office is the most challenging component. It's not the dentistry, that's for sure.

Q: What did you envision doing for a living when you were growing up?
A: As a kid, for some reason, I don't know why, I always envisioned being a doctor. Some type of doctor. When you're young, you play "Operation," and I always seemed to love that game. I always had an affinity for it. I always dreamt of myself in a white lab coat, working as a doctor. I don't think I ever envisioned dentistry until I was older, but definitely a doctor.

Q: In ten years' time, I will be _________________.
A: I don't necessarily want to expand, because that would take away from the niche of my office, which is very much about being a dental spa. It's very patient-based. Maybe becoming more well-known, I suppose. I work on a lot of celebrities and movie stars and singers, especially in the Hispanic and in the South American community, so maybe utilizing their resources to get my name out there.

Q: Who are/were your professional role models and why?
A: Before I went to dental school, I worked as an orthodontic assistant, just sterilizing instruments, for an orthodontist named Jorge Coro. I met him at one of the organizations I became a member of, the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana. Kiwanis is international, and here in South Florida, there are different chapters. I started doing beauty pageants and modeling, and I won a pageant that was sponsored by the Kiwanis. I met the orthodontist who offered me the job. He knew I wanted to get into dental school. He gave me encouragement and he supported me by answering every question that I had and erased any doubts I had about going away, because back then, there were no dental schools in South Florida. I think he was my best professional role model.

Q: If you could do anything else in the world for a living, what would it be?
A: An actress. I used to do a little bit of acting before I left for dental school. I obviously had to let it go due to my studies, and being in Milwaukee, there was not a lot of opportunity. I am doing some acting and modeling and TV commercials now. Now that I can afford to do it and I have my own hours. I just became the spokesperson for Colgate, so I'm doing national TV spots. Since August, I've shot two different commercials. I would definitely want to do more of that. It's a passion of mine.

Q: What's the best part about your job?
A: The satisfaction I get when my patients see their smile for the very first time, especially when I'm doing a full-mouth, extreme makeover. That, to me, is the best, because you're able to not only change them physically, but also emotionally, as well. It improves their self-esteem when they see this beautiful smile that they never had before. Having them smile, and be so thankful and appreciative for what I was able to do for them, is the highlight for me.

Q: What's the worst part about your job?
A: This is going to sound corny, but I don't see what I do as work. I enjoy it so much. I guess it goes back to the whole thing about managing the office and having to charge the patients. If it were up to me, I wouldn't charge anyone. So, fortunately, I have an assistant, who is my bulldog. Charging the patients is probably the worst part. If I didn't have to, that would be wonderful and I could treat more patients. That's the only thing, honestly. I really enjoy it.

Q: What's the one most important thing that experience has taught you?
A: Definitely the importance of explaining to patients the procedures, risks, and potential outcomes. Sometimes, we assume that patients know what to expect out of something. I've learned now that you really have to explain to patients two, three, or four times, to make sure they understand and have a grasp of exactly what a procedure entails. Like tractions, sometimes if it's a surgical traction, they are going to be sore and swollen for a couple of days. All of that is to be expected. But when you're young and just out of dental school, sometimes you forget to tell them. So I've learned though the years to really inform patients. An informed patient is the best patient.

Q: What's the best career advice anyone has imparted on you?
A: It's something that both my parents and friends have imparted on me. And that's to be independent. Have a career, but don't work for somebody, work for yourself. That independence has given me the opportunity to be able to travel, to set my own hours, and to balance my modeling. So, always look for that independence.

Q: What one thing would you do different/better if you could start it all over again?
A: This might sound a little bit redundant. But I would have taken the plunge of going out on my own much sooner. I worked as an associate for another dentist, actually two other dentists, for six years. At the end of the day, I guess I didn't have the self-confidence that I could have done it on my own. I wish that I'd had a little more self-confidence right out of dental school because I know I could have been working on my own and have done just as well, maybe a couple of years prior to when I did it.

Q: What's your favorite South Florida charity?
A: It's a foundation that we started about two years ago called Sharing Smiles. It's to help underprivileged children who can't afford to either have dental checkups or any kind of dental work. We started it just to give back to the community. South Florida has been wonderful to me and I wouldn't change where I live and work for the world. I know what it's like to be away, having lived for four years in Milwaukee. Like everything else in life, if it's giving you a wonderful opportunity to succeed professionally, why not give something back?
Archive: 20 Good Questions
Best & Brightest: June 2011