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Dr. Michelle Dandridge (’06) opened Dandridge Dental Family Dentistry in Dothan, Alabama in 2011, just five years after she graduated from UAB’s School of Dentistry.

Michelle Dandridge

Owning a business at which she is the sole practitioner and being a full-time wife and mother to two sons (Tyler, age 9 and Myles, age 1) is not for the faint of heart. But it took a global health pandemic and quarantine at home for her to realize just how busy she had become… and how much sleep she wasn’t getting before!

“I got more sleep during quarantine than I got in the last ten years! I normally get up around 4 or 4:30 am but I was able to sleep another two hours before I started my day. I just felt really rested,” she said.

She and her husband, Terrynce, became pros at juggling childcare and their jobs during the lockdown, swapping off between afternoon and morning shifts. And with all the extra time, she was able to focus on her personal health more than ever. “Being able to prioritize health was the biggest win for me during those six weeks. Before, I’d work out some but would often have to choose between exercise and sleeping,” Dr. Dandridge said. The quarantine allowed her to get ample amounts of both.

Upon returning, Dr. Dandridge happily embraced Alabama’s new safety and health mandates for dental offices. While her staff was already used to taking patient temperatures long before COVID-19, she suspects that her office will continue preventing people from sitting in the waiting room, spacing patient appointments, requiring all staff to wear face shields, and thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting operatory areas between appointments. “It takes a little more time,” she admitted, “But it gives me peace of mind about the germ levels in the office.”

Yet, even though she supports wearing and using more PPE, Dr. Dandridge fears how profits may be impacted for dentists who, at this time, are expected to pay for additional PPE themselves. She thinks this will result in some dentists refusing to follow the rules because of what it may cost them, and hopes to see some sort of financial relief to offset PPE costs.

Still, if there’s anything that this pandemic has taught her, it’s that she never wants to return to the ‘noise’ that used to follow her incessantly.

“I burnt the candle on both ends and it was exhausting. There are twenty-four hours in a day, and I usually made twenty-seven. I am realizing the value of my emotional health and taking the time to care for myself. I have to stop and take a breath. For working, dental business-owning moms, we often have kids on one hip and we’re writing a prescription with the other. Now that I’ve returned to the office, I’m trying very hard to not let that ‘noise’ back into my life so much. I’m focusing on and prioritizing being more present. And I feel better because of it!”