Looking back on decades of growth, Kathy Uzelac can’t help but be proud of how Dental Arts Group has evolved. One half of a dynamic duo, Uzelac has been an active partner and support system to her husband Michael as they helped usher in a new era of dental care in Northwest Indiana.
Uzelac credits the company’s success to their penchant for staying on top of trends in the industry.
“Mike and I have always tried to stay on top of the latest technology,” she said. “He and I both consider ourselves to be lifetime learners.”
She is a dental hygienist and Michael is the dentist.
About eight years ago, Michael went back to school for 10 months to learn the proper techniques for placing implants, including doing bone grafts and sinus lifts.
“This has been revolutionary for replacing missing teeth,” Uzelac said.
The pair’s commitment to education led to an even more leading-edge venture, one that continues to place their level of care at a higher standard than others in the industry.
“Mike also spent the last seven years learning everything he possibly could about treating sleep apnea with oral appliances,” Uzelac said.
Michael is now a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine - one of less than 500 dentists in the world. He founded Sleep Airway Solutions to provide his expertise to the Valparaiso community.
“This has been so exciting for both of us,” Uzelac said.
The success of both Dental Arts Group and Sleep Airway Solutions would be less sweet without Uzelac’s partnership with her husband. She started working for Mike in August of 1989 as a dental hygienist at Dental Arts Group. Although this is still her primary role, she said she also plays a large role in Sleep Airway Solutions and will eventually commit to the sleep dentistry practice full-time.
“I have gone to many of the classes with Mike and have learned so much,” she said. “It has been so rewarding!”
Uzelac has been a driving force within the practice, in part because she so clearly sees its value.
“We are truly changing people’s lives by not only helping patients finally get refreshing sleep, but by improving their overall health and extending their lives,” Uzelac said. “I have been a dental hygienist for 32 years, and with the practice for 30 of those years. And although I still love my position as a dental hygienist, the new journey we have taken into the world of dental sleep medicine has been very exciting.”
Uzelac said the main reason she enjoys being a dental hygienist is working closely with so many patients.
“There is a very high rate of burnout in the field of dental hygiene. In fact, five years after graduation, a third of my class had already changed careers,” she said.
“To me, I look at what I do as treating people, not performing the same procedures day after day,” she continued. “Every patient is different, and I enjoy treating people as important individuals who deserve the highest quality of care. This holds true in both of my positions at the practice.”
Of course, it helps that Uzelac works with such a quality team.
“We have the most amazing staff,” she said. “I really like everyone a lot, and most have been with us for a very long time. We all get along and help each other every day.”
But what’s it like to work with her husband?
“Working together has been very fun and extremely convenient,” Uzelac admitted. “Working in the same company allows us to use each other as a sounding board, solving problems and coming up with new ideas to improve the practice.”
“We are both fully committed to making the practice the best it can be for our patients and staff,” she said. “It is also great to always have the same vacation time - an issue many couples struggle with.”
Speaking of vacation time, Uzelac has an interesting hobby outside of office hours: she enjoys flameworking and fusing glass. She took up the hobby years ago with her sister.
“We loved glass beads, so we would go to Milwaukee every year to take classes in making them - a process called lampworking, where you melt glass rods with a blow torch - so that we could put them into jewelry,” Uzelac said.
“After several years of that, we also learned about glass fusing, where a very specific type of glass is used to cut, layer, embellish, and fuse in a kiln, and then often put back into the kiln to slump into the shape of bowls, platters, wind chimes, birdbaths, flowers, yard, or wall art,” she said. “My studio has quickly taken over the entire unfinished side of our very large basement.” Meet Kathy Uzelac yourself on your next appointment at Dental Arts Group or Sleep Airway Solutions.