MANKATO — For Christina Sorensen, one of Mankato’s newest dentists, life is all about achieving balance.
“I started in gymnastics when I was four,” said the Worthington native, “and I was a four-year gymnast as an undergraduate biology major at Gustavus.
“In college gymnastics, I primarily did the balance beam and vault—and the beam does translate to dentistry because you have to be steady, focused and proceed with confidence in both.”
Already in her fourth year of practice, the 33-year-old Sorensen is indeed confident in her professional skills.
She joined the staff of Mankato Family Dental in late May, having previously worked for three years at Park Dental in St. Louis Park. Sorensen, a 2010 graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College, earned her doctor of medical dentistry degree in 2018 at the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health.
“She couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Christopher Meehan of his new associate, mentioning that dentist Bruce Dumke recently retired from Mankato Family Dental.
“Everything about Dr. Sorensen is a good fit with our practice—her disposition, her skill with patient care and her positive interactions with our staff and hygienists.
“She’s great to work with in every facet.”
Sorensen’s philosophy of care is reassuring, especially for anyone who doesn’t place dental checkups or procedures at the top of their “favorites” list.
“I’m pretty gentle and have had a lot of patients comment to that effect,” said Sorensen. “I try to explain everything to my patients. I’ve seen quite a few anxious patients over time, so I let them know they’re not the only ones who feel that way, and then I slowly walk them through everything and empathize with them.”
Cutting her teeth
Although it may seem like dentistry comes naturally to Sorensen, she didn’t begin dental school until she was 26.
“When I was in college, I knew I wanted to do something related to health care, but I wanted to do some career exploration first,” said Sorensen.
With that mindset, Sorensen spent her first post-college year with an AmeriCorps literacy program in Bloomington. Her next stop was General Mills, where she worked in the Betty Crocker baking and packaging research and development department. A stint as a regulatory associate at Ecolab followed.
By then, Sorensen had decided dentistry might be a good fit, but in the keenly competitive dental school application environment, she wasn’t accepted on her first try. While polishing her application, and preceding her dental school matriculation, she worked at AppleTree Dental in Mounds View as a community care coordinator.
“I’m really glad I had the experiences of being in the corporate world and seeing other ways you can use a science degree,” said Sorensen, recognizing her period of exploration afforded her more insight into where some of her patients are coming from.
Rooted in dentistry
In fact, Sorensen has deep family dental roots; she is a fourth-generation dentist.
She is the eldest of three children—her two younger brothers are both employed in science and engineering positions — born to Grant Sorensen and Maureen McGuiggan Sorensen.
The elder Sorensens, who grew up in Marshall and began their relationship as high school prom dates, are both graduates of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. They shared a practice for 36 years in Worthington and retired last spring.
Her maternal great-grandfather, Charles Anthony McGuiggan, graduated from Marquette University’s dental school in 1915 and began his dental practice immediately thereafter in Minnesota Lake, a mere half hour south of Mankato. Service in World War I interrupted his career; when he returned from the French battlefields, he relocated to Marshall, where he practiced until about 1960.
His son (Sorensen’s maternal grandfather), Charles Francis McGuiggan, earned his dental degree at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. He specialized in orthodontia and followed in his dad’s military footsteps, serving in both World War II and the Korean War before joining his father’s Marshall practice.
“There was a point where we didn’t think the legacy would continue because all the kids seemed to be going in different directions,” Maureen Sorensen said with a laugh.
“We were very happy when Christina began discussing dental school. And yes, we always gave her pointers — whether she took them or not, we don’t know.”
Sorensen admits that, as the eldest grandchild on her mother’s side, she felt a little pressure to carry on the family dental tradition.
But she finds the profession personally fulfilling, just as her parents did, and she benefited professionally from growing up in a two-dentist household.
“First, I’ve always been comfortable at the dentist myself, because it was either my mom or dad doing the exam,” said Sorensen.
“And we [she and her brothers] spent a lot of time helping at their office; we cleaned bathrooms, mowed the lawn, helped process insurance forms, answered phones, worked at the front desk, did just about everything except dental procedures.”
Observing her parents’ patient interactions was also valuable and has informed some of her own patient care approach.
“It definitely helps to know how the business side of a dental practice works,” said Sorensen. “You don’t learn all about that in dental school.”
Sorensen is happily settling into the Mankato area, having purchased a house with her fiancé, Adam Macho, a 2004 New Ulm High School graduate and fellow Gustie. The couple are anticipating their wedding next spring.
“Adam likes to cook a lot, and I like to eat his food,” quipped Sorensen.
The former gymnast balances that intake with a regular running habit.
“I also ran cross country and track in high school, and now I typically run about four miles a day,” said Sorensen, mentioning she ran the Twin Cities 10-mile race in early October.
She is eager to establish long term relationships with her patients and become more involved in the greater Mankato community.
“We love the fact she’s putting down roots here; that’s fantastic,” said Meehan.
And Sorensen loves the combination of science and people.
“When I was working at a computer or in a lab, I missed having regular interaction with people,” said Sorensen.
“Dentistry is a good mix of patient care and science.”
Ever a problem solver, Sorensen finds that aspect satisfying, too.
“If someone has a chipped front tooth or a toothache, most of the time you can solve those with a procedure that day,” said Sorensen.
“I remember being at the grocery store with my dad or mom when I was young and having people stop to say thanks for helping them,” she continued. “I saw the impact my parents had on their patients, and I’m proud to carry on this family tradition of dentistry.”