Dentistry a family affair for third-generation DDS learner

Dailey family outside of Moos.

Dentistry was an easy choice to make for Jack Dailey, DDS ’26. After all, it’s all in the family.

Jack’s grandfather, Don, graduated from the School of Dentistry in 1963 and opened a practice in his hometown of Mitchell, South Dakota in 1972. In 1998, Jack’s dad, Matt, followed in his own father’s footsteps, attending the School of Dentistry before returning home to work under his dad.

“It just made sense as a career to me,” said Matt, who is one of three but the only one of his siblings to pursue dentistry. “My dad was passionate about the field, and I found that it excited me, too.”

Jack saw that passion in both his dad and grandpa as he grew up. “I got to see the field up close and personal from a very young age,” he recalled. “I saw how great the job is, and how much they loved it.” In fact, Jack witnessed his grandfather working in his practice until the age of 79, and was even his grandfather’s last patient before he died.

It wasn’t long before Jack realized dentistry would be the right career for himself, too. Today, he’s a second-year DDS student at the school. He has enjoyed the experience so far, and finds it challenging, but rewarding.

“It’s obviously a huge learning curve, but I’m working in the labs now, working with handpieces, and I’m really enjoying the journey,” he said.

Even more than the work, Jack is fully embracing continuing a generational legacy. Though his grandfather passed away before Jack learned he was accepted to the school, he is proud to be continuing what Don started.

“It’s really cool to be following in their footsteps,” he reflected. “I’m really proud to have been accepted to the school, and I don’t take my family’s guidance for granted.”

And Matt couldn’t be prouder of his son, either. He enjoys revisiting his own educational experience through Jack’s eyes, seeing what has changed and what has remained the same. “I enjoy seeing the ways the school prioritizes student wellbeing, and witnessing the changes in technology,” he said. “Dental school has changed so much, and it’s cool to watch Jack go through it.”

It may feel daunting, following two generations of Dailey men in the school and knowing that a practice is waiting for him at the end of the day–but Jack knows that he’s free to choose his own path forward.

“My dad has always had an open door policy with me,” he explained. “He never pushed me toward dentistry, and he doesn’t want me to feel like I have to join his practice. It certainly would be a very cool experience, being third-generation and practicing with my dad.”

But he also knows that, at the end of the day, Matt will support him no matter what. “My hope is that Jack and his wife will be happy, will choose what’s best for them,” he said. “I don’t care what he does, or where he does it–as long as he never stops learning.”

Jack doesn’t know what the future holds for him–and Matt doesn’t know whether he’ll practice for quite as long as his father did. But the love and support that bonds this family of dentists together will remain at the forefront, no matter what.

“I hope my grandpa and my dad know how grateful I am for the experiences they’ve given me, and the support I’ve received from them along the way,” Jack said. “My grandpa was so impactful in guiding me in this direction when I was young, and I’m so appreciative of that. I’ll never take my family for granted. I’m so grateful for them.”