She's sinking her teeth into a new career

Jennifer Dyess spent 35 years in the mortgage industry, most recently as a senior loan underwriter, before being laid off twice last year.

She knew jobs were scarce in her increasingly turbulent field. And she'd grown tired of working six- and seven-day weeks and of bringing work home to finish at night.

So, about a month ago, Dyess, 53, graduated from The Myers Park School of Dental Assisting as a Dental Assistant I. Dyess has been caring for her mother, who has Parkinson's disease, and recently moved her into a nursing home. She plans to look for a job this week.

A widow, Dyess knows her income will fall by more than half, from about $70,000 a year to around $30,000. But she's OK with that. She's trying to sell her townhome in Ballantyne and hopes to buy a smaller condo.

She read about the course in a newspaper ad, and paid around $2,800 for 12 weeks of training. Now she's certified to take X-rays, apply topical anesthetics and assist dentists with a variety of procedures, as well as perform CPR.

At first she was scared. “I'm the type of person that doesn't like change,” she said. “I'm comfortable in my little box.”

She said she's now excited because she sees dentistry as a growing field, evidenced by new dentist offices she notices popping up around town. She acknowledges that she lacks the experience others may have, but she's optimistic.

“I'm not going to come with bad habits,” she said. “I'm coming to (the practice) saying ‘Mold me the way you want.'”