by Jeffrey Eberting, D.M.D., M.S.
Life-altering decisions can occur at any point in one’s life – during childhood, during adolescence, or during adulthood. We have to make decisions about what is right and what is wrong. We decide about whom we choose to associate or befriend. We choose what career we might wish to pursue or what college we might wish to attend. As we get older, we decide who might wish to choose for a spouse and whether or not to have children.
Sometimes, these decisions are with the idea that a positive outcome will result. Many times, the positive outcome might not seem evident. When a decision is being made which has a profound effect on one’s life (or many lives), the road to achieving that ultimate positive outcome may be fraught with speed bumps or potholes. These challenges serve to strengthen us, and most of the time, we learn that they justify the decision we made.
My decision to be an orthodontist came during my late adolescence. I knew that it involved years of schooling, and that, even then, there was no guarantee that I would be accepted to dental school or an orthodontic residency. I worked very hard to be an excellent candidate for admission to dental school and was granted my wish. Given that an orthodontic residency was not a sure thing, I needed to bolster my profile. I decided to enter the U.S. Navy as a dental officer – a decision that was not only to affect me, but my then-wife. I had an idea that time spent in the Navy would be a time of uncertainty. Where would I be stationed? Would it a on a ship? Would it be overseas? What would my wife – who was then mid-way through law school – do when she graduated? Clearly, this was a decision that was about to have a profound effect on both our families and us.
“It took some time for me to fully appreciate my time in the Navy… I took a detour which brought challenges into my life, but I survived them and I am stronger and richer for the experiences.”
I entered the Navy and was stationed in San Diego for my first year (my then-wife was in law school in Philadelphia). It was a difficult time for us having a transcontinental marriage, but we toughed it out and were ultimately reunited in Norfolk, Virginia, as she had decided to enter the Navy JAG Corps. I was stationed onboard the USS TRENTON for the next two years which required the crew to be underway at sea for weeks at a time for training operations. Let me be honest, living on a ship is no Ritz Carlton. The air conditioning may or may not be working. Water may have to be rationed for showering. The food…well… And there are times when you have no idea where you are going or how long you will be out to sea. All of these training exercises were in preparation for the ship’s six-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. More time at sea. More time in less-than-great conditions.
When I returned home from the deployment, my time in the Navy was over. I applied to orthodontic residencies, and I admitted to a program. The rest, as they say, is history. It took some time for me to fully appreciate my time in the Navy. I made some life-long friends. I had some great experiences. I visited countries which I might not have ever visited. In pursuing my goal of being an orthodontist, I took a detour which brought challenges into my life, but I survived them and I am stronger and richer for the experiences.
How does this translate to how I practice orthodontics? The challenges I experienced along my path to becoming an orthodontist allow me to have a great deal of empathy for challenges my patients are about to face as they begin their journey into braces. I make every effort to impress upon my patients that orthodontics is truly a “no pain, no gain” endeavor – that the discomfort that a patient feels is merely a road bump down the road to our ultimate goal…that being a beautiful smile.
Dr. Eberting owns Hardin Valley Orthodontics and holds degrees from Duke University and Temple University in both General Dentistry and Orthodontics. He is a member of the American Dental Association, the TN Dental Association, the Second District Dental Society, the American Association of Orthodontists, the Southern Association of Orthodontists, and the TN Association of Orthodontists. He is a Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. Eberting enjoys theater, music running, politics, reading and movies. He has three children.