Providing optimal care for dental patients encompasses more than simply following procedure. Bedside manner and setting the patient at ease are so crucial to dentistry, most would list it as their greatest challenge as a practitioner. For Dr. BreeAnn Christiansen of La Jolla’s Bird Rock Dental, finding her ideal balance with patients includes open communication and understanding what the patient hopes to achieve with their treatment.
Before finding her way to the idyllic beaches of the San Diego area, Christiansen grew up in the arid fluorescence of Las Vegas with her parents, Markay and John, and two younger brothers, Austin and Garret. “Everyone asks me what it was like to grow up in Las Vegas, but it was probably no different from growing up here in San Diego; it was surprisingly boring,” she says.
A perennial big sister, Christiansen notes the protectiveness she felt towards her siblings helped instill a sense of responsibility early on. Attending Cheyenne High School, Christiansen participated in soccer and softball, while working at a local golf course through her undergrad years.
A chance toothache and visit to a dentist friend of her parents at age fifteen hinted at her future, with her father suggesting a career in dentistry. Though Christiansen entered UNLV intent on a career in broadcast journalism, her enjoyment of a science course and regular contact with dentists at her job altered her trajectory.
Accepting an offer to shadow a dentist in her freshman year of college and fascinated by the experience, Christiansen began working towards a dentistry career in her sophomore year. Completing her undergraduate work in biology and desiring a change of scenery, Christiansen matriculated at the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry. While moving to the small town of Loma Linda proved to be a culture shock for the native of a 24-hour city, a greater adjustment awaited her in class. “Dental school crushed me emotionally, because I was so used to being at the top of the class,” she recalls. “Everyone there was just as smart or smarter than me!"
Christiansen gained some relief from meeting her husband at dental school, Andre Soumekh, with the pair studying together and emotionally supporting each other through the more challenging aspects of dental school. After Christiansen earned her Doctorate of Dental Surgery with Dean’s List recognition, the pair relocated to San Diego, where Christiansen began practicing between two offices in Mission Valley and La Jolla. Following a six-month stint in Sorrento Valley, she began looking for practices hiring closer to her home base of La Jolla.
Since joining Bird Rock Dental in February 2016, Christiansen has placed special emphasis on educating her patients about the intrinsic links between oral health and all aspects of bodily health. “I stress that we’re not just fixing a tooth or area of your gums, we’re fixing how this all connects to your body,” she says. Imparting this knowledge includes the importance of daily maintenance by the patient to maintain the restorative work and ensure it lasts for many years to come.
In finding her equilibrium as a practitioner, Christiansen prioritizes her bedside manner, ensuring the patient’s ease during appointments and that any questions are answered. “I think I provide a very good nurturing experience, as the patient’s comfort is of the utmost importance to me,” she says. “I communicate what we’re working on and strive to make them happy and healthy with their mouth.”
Meticulous by nature, Christiansen’s clinical approach ensures her restorative work will last, and would possibly receive approval from other dentists. “I joke with my patients I want to make sure that if they go somewhere else, the new dentist would say ‘Wow, someone did a really nice filling!’”
Christiansen has been an active member of the California Dental Association since 2010 and the San Diego County Dental Society since 2014. Her inquisitiveness leads her to attend seminars to further her knowledge and stay current on emerging techniques and products she feels could improve her patients’ care. “I’d like to master intense aesthetic cases, as I think that takes getting to an understanding of what the patient wants and expects,” she says.
Though currently practicing full-time at Bird Rock five days a week, Christiansen does find time to indulge in her favored recreations of golf and yoga, though her latest hobby involves something decidedly more adorable. “I have a mini golden-doodle puppy who looks like a teddy bear,” she says, gushing slightly. “I love taking him to the beach, and training him is my new hobby.”
Christiansen has come to adore her life as a San Diego transplant, reveling in the cooler climes of living seaside in La Jolla, and the valuable experience gained from her professional home at Bird Rock Dental. “I really feel a sense of happiness now,” she says. “I’ve found a place where I’m really satisfied with my career and home life, and I’ve worked hard to get here.”