“It’s always a delight to see beautiful smiles,” says Dr. Munira Jivraj. “A beautiful smile not only makes people feel good but is also important in relation to our health. Perhaps that’s why I’m so passionate about dental care.”
For Munira Jivraj, owner of Calgary’s successful Millennium Dental, cosmetic dentistry is about more than just creating beautiful smiles—it’s about treating the patient holistically, ensuring balance and personal care.
Jivraj was born in Kenya to a family of Indian descent, and while at boarding school in England, she began to contemplate her future in medicine. “I was good at science,” Jivraj says. “Every Indian child wants to be a doctor, so I said, ‘Okay, I’ll do medicine.’”
Today, Jivraj is pioneering the field of cosmetic dentistry and is considered one of Canada’s most notable businesswomen (she was recently the recipient of the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Momentum Award).
Her journey began at the behest of a friend in medical school who thought Jivraj should spend a weekend experiencing the atmosphere on his campus.
“He said to me, ‘Come and spend a weekend, and you’ll know if this is something you’ll like,’” Jivraj says. “So I spent the weekend, and it was the most depressing weekend of my life. I just knew it wasn’t for me. But then I thought, ‘Now I have to go back to the drawing board.’”
However, after visiting a dental school in London, Jivraj saw a future for herself. After receiving a full scholarship, she graduated in 1983, with short-term goals for her career.
“I distinctly remember saying, ‘I’ll just be a dentist for 10 years. Then I’ll be married and have kids and look after my family and that’ll be it. It’ll keep me excited for a decade,’” she says.
But as the years went on, Jivraj’s enthusiasm didn’t wane.
“I loved it,” she says. “There’s such a great satisfaction in doing it. And one nice thing about dentistry is that you can get instant gratification. As soon as you fix someone’s tooth, they love you.”
In 1988, a mere five years after she completed her degree, Jivraj opened her own dental practice.
“It was me and one receptionist, and our location had previously been a bank,” Jivraj says. “We started from scratch and quickly evolved into a successful practice with a total of 12 staff members. One of my associates became my partner.”
Jivraj’s experience in her practice only deepened her passion for the field, and she sought ways to further hone her skills. She took courses at the prestigious Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies and received a mastership in cosmetic dentistry.
Then, in 2008, Jivraj took over at Millennium Dental and has watched the practice grow.
“The staff, the whole team, everybody here really promotes not only a nice smile but wellness in the whole body—wellness in teeth positioning, jaw positioning, posture,” Jivraj says. “Some practices you go into and it’s ‘fill and drill.’ Here, it’s more like you are actually restoring the patient to the bite she was born with.”
As one of the few women in the field of innovative cosmetic dentistry, Jivraj claims her natural inquisitiveness has been integral in her success.
“Dentistry is a system,” she says. “You have to look at the whole mouth and how it’s organized. It’s an involved profession, and you have to really get into it and study it and take time for continuing education. If I had a failure in something—a broken crown or filling—I’d think, ‘Why did this happen?’ You have to keep questioning yourself.”
Ever humble, Jivraj says she could not have come so far without the support system her close-knit family provides.
“I had a mother and mother-in-law and a lot of support from my kids,” she says. “I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing my kids for my profession or sacrificing my profession for my kids.”
Three decades into her profession, Jivraj’s passion for her work is still going strong.
“I can’t think of a profession that is more satisfying for me,” she says. “Of course, I’ve had challenges, but I’ve never thought even one day in my life, ‘Let’s give it up. I can’t be bothered with this anymore.’ It’s been a wonderful journey.”