Love for orthodontics led to love for one another for dental grads

Zach Slama, DDS ’20, and Maddy Gamble, DDS '19, are co-residents in the Division of Orthodontics. They’re pretty much together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And the two wouldn’t have it any other way.

Slama and Gamble first met when they entered the School of Dentistry’s DDS program one year apart. They joined the same dental fraternity and moved into the same house. They quickly became friends, then started dating.

“It’s a unique situation when you live with someone before you date them,” Gamble reflected. “You learn a lot about people really quickly.” Their relationship continued to flourish, with an engagement during Slama’s D4 year and a wedding this past August.

Their wedding was “a silver lining” of the pandemic, Gamble explained. They enjoyed a small ceremony with family. “I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” she said.

Today, Gamble’s completing her second year, and Slama his first, as orthodontics residents. They’re professional, like any other co-workers, while in the workplace—so much so that some of their coworkers didn’t even know that they were together until a few months ago.

“Anything that happens at home never comes to work with us,” Gamble explained. The two love working together, just like they learned together every step of their journey.

But when they go home, their love for orthodontics comes with them. “We talk about orthodontics more than the average person,” Slama joked. “We go home and we discuss cases, what we would’ve done for each one. It’s nice. We’re always learning from one another.”

Gamble and Slama know that their respect for one another is a major part of working successfully together. “You always worry about couples competing,” Gamble explained, “but we are incredibly non-competitive. We acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses, and we make a good team on and off the ice.”

Those individual strengths factor into their love for orthodontics, too: with all they have in common, the two view the field through a different lens.

“I like the planning of it, thinking through cases,” explained Slama. “There’s a lot of data.”

But what draws Gamble to the field is “the art and design, and the social interaction of orthodontics.”

But both agree on their favorite part of working in orthodontics at the University of Minnesota: it’s fun. “I love taking care of kids, making a difference in their lives,” Gamble explained.

Slama agreed, pointing out, “people come to the orthodontist to get braces, and they usually want to be there. Everyone’s in a good mood, it’s a happy environment.”

The pair has invested their whole selves into their orthodontic careers - and it’s become a family in more ways than one. “My co-worker said to me, the other day, ‘you don’t put a lot of time into your education just to have a nine to five job,’” Gamble recalled. “For me, that’s how orthodontics is: it’s your family and friends. It’s who you are.”

For the first time later this year, that family will branch out as Gamble graduates and starts working in a clinic in the cities. But it’s not the end of the couple’s working together, they hope. They might work together in a clinic, or start their own practice someday, or work in academia together. “We ultimately want to work together in some capacity,” Slama explained, “but we’re just taking it one day at a time.”

It’s new, and scary, but it’s also exciting. “For the first time in our lives, we don’t have a concrete five-year plan. We get to start working and enjoy the process and see where life takes us.”

And whatever happens next, they’ll tackle it together, and with fond memories of their time at the School of Dentistry.

“I’m really grateful that I’ve had the experience of being here at the U of M for the last six years, and Zach having the last ten years here,” Gamble reflected. “And I’m so glad my husband and I have been able to do it together.

Zach Slama, DDS and Maddy Gamble, DDS
Maddy Gamble, DDS and Zach Slama, DDS