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A California dentist has modeled his practice after the community-oriented dentist's office he grew up going to.
When Lincoln Parker, DMD, was a teenager, his father sat him down and asked what kind of lifestyle he wanted to lead. Not, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Because at that age, Parker likely had no idea.
“He was wise in that he knew my personality,” Parker recalls. “That I was open to many different things. So he decided to focus on what I wanted out of life.”
Then he listed several career options that would afford that type of lifestyle. Dentistry was one of them.
But that wasn’t the only factor in Parker’s decision-making.
“The dentist who I grew up with ran a practice that was relationship-based,” Parker recalls. “And I grew up I realized that relationships are really what makes you happy. With dentistry, relationships can be built over decades. So ever since I was around 16, that has been my goal—to be a dentist.”
Today Parker owns and operates Parker Dentistry, based on Ladera Ranch, CA, and he has taken his recognition of the value of relationships to heart.
Three years ago, at a time when his practice had been open for all of five months, Parker launched a partnership with Laura’s House, a local domestic violence nonprofit. He also connected with the Smiles for Life Foundation, the children’s charity arm of Crown Council—an alliance of dental teams committed to charitable work.
“Crown Council has been doing this for just under 20 years now,” Parker says. “So far I think it has raised more than $36 million for charity, through whitening and other related events.”
Participating Crown Council dentists donate their time. Ultradent, makers of Boost and Opalesence, donates the teeth whitening materials. Patients make a minimum donation to have their teeth whitened, and 100% of all proceeds go to charity.
“Relationships are key to me,” Parker emphasizes. “Building a better local community is something that’s really important to me and to my practice going forward. I want to be an influence for good in my local community.”
Parker was involved with many charities while growing up, and though it felt good to be contributing in some fashion, he also recognized that there wasn’t a lot of change brought about by his efforts. He wanted to do something impactful; something that would have a positive impact going forward.
“As an undergrad, I volunteered at a domestic violence shelter and saw firsthand that these are people that are in dire circumstances and in dire need of somebody to lift them out of their current situation,” Parker says.
But what really had an impact, he recalls, was how the shelter helped individuals become self-sufficient so that they didn’t find themselves in such dire circumstances again. So when Parker signed on with Smiles for Life, he began looking at local charities where his practice could have a positive impact going forward. That led him to Laura’s House.
“The change that’s brought about can be generational,” he says. “It gets the victim and the kids out of that situation, and sets them on a path so that hopefully those kids don’t ever have to be in a situation like that again. [Laura’s House was] an easy partner to join up with.”
Through the Smiles for Life campaign, from March 1 through the end of June, whenever patients whiten their smile at Parker Dentistry, 100% of the proceeds go to Laura’s House to help those in need. Two years ago as a first-year effort the practice raised $1,500. Last year that figure climbed to just over $6,000. This year, Parker has his sights set on the $10,000 mark.
“One of the fun things to see is we set it up as a minimum donation,” Parker explains. “You know, this is the minimum ($50) that you need to donate in order to participate. But we see patients open up, you know, and donate six to 10 times what we asked them to donate.”
Parker says patients will often apologize that they’re able to donate only $50, but he tells them that every dollar makes an impact. Those dollars can help purchase activity books to keep children occupied while their parent is going through therapy sessions or legal sessions with attorneys.
“It costs about $3,000 to sponsor a family,” he explains. “That’s a pretty big number. If we hit that, we’re pretty excited. We didn’t only help with the small stuff, but we were able to help at least one family get on their feet and get out of that situation. And hopefully, changed their lives and their world going forward.”
That’s important, Parker says, because those who successfully graduate from programs like Laura’s House go on to become an incredible influence on those around them. They’re able to empathize with people who have fallen on hard times, and are dealing with difficult situations in their lives.
“These people now have the tools to help others around them,” he says.
Having an Impact
Parker Dentistry also reaches out to the community in general. The practice is involved in sponsoring Little League and other youth sports teams, as well as doing a career day activity at local schools to teach oral hygiene. Parker and members of his team are also personally active in local community events.
“We try to stay local and lift the community,” he says. “We want to be a good influence and leader within the local community.”
That includes the cosmetic and general dentistry performed every day. And from those daily activities come some of Parker’s most rewarding experiences.
“The other day we took a single mom, somebody who’s confident and going back to school and making sacrifices for her kid,” Parker says. “She’s a professional, but her teeth were in pretty bad shape. She sat in the chair and cried for 10 minutes when we were done. All the hard work to build my office to do the type of dentistry that I want to do, and be different, it’s all worth it for that 10 minutes that we shared just talking about how her life is now going to be different, forever.”