Florida dentist says it's 'okay to talk about being a Black, successful dentist'

April Patterson, DDS, has reflected on the lack of representation she has witnessed as a Black woman in the dental industry and is using her position as a successful practice owner to empower other Black women in the field, according to The Story Exchange.

Dr. Patterson's Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based practice offers patients a luxury dental care experience, including options for massages and facials. Dr. Patty’s Dental Spa, founded in 2012, treats about 2,500 patients seeking orthodontic or cosmetic dental care per month.

Before establishing her practice, Dr. Patterson completed her dental residency and earned her doctorate at the Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan School of Dentistry, where she told The Story Exchange she was one of only two Black female dental students in her class of more than 100.

Only 15.2 percent of dental school applicants come from minority communities, according to the American Dental Education Association, and recent data from the American Dental Association shows that just 4.3 of dentists in the U.S. are Black. Dr. Patterson told The Story Exchange these statistics mark "a disparity with minorities and women furthering their careers."

To help address these disparities, Dr. Patterson told The Story Exchange she is seeking out diverse employees, including Black dentists. She also said she involves herself with nonprofits and publicly showcases her identity to act as a role model for other Black women and people of color. When she mentors Black women in the dental field, she said she emphasizes the importance of feeling “okay to talk about being a Black, successful dentist.”

"In the past, my role as a Black woman was muted because I didn't know how the response would be," Dr. Patterson told The Story Exchange. "I’m proud of who I am. It feels more comfortable to be out and proud as a successful Black business owner."

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