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A New Jersey dentist loves tinkering with machines, but he also makes plenty of time for the great outdoors.
Don’t ever underestimate the impact you can have on adolescents.
Jonathan Mundth, DMD, clearly recalls his first visit to the dentist. He was very young, and had to have a lower left deciduous tooth pulled. His recollection of the Michigan dentist he saw is vivid.
“He let me look at everything,” Mundth recalls. “He let me spray water into the little cup that I was going to rinse out my mouth with.”
Ever since that extraction—and he says he kept the tooth for years—when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, Mundth would answer, “I want to be a dentist.”
He wavered only once, taking a year after graduating college to question whether or not he wanted to go to medical school. That was when a senior partner at a Chatham, NJ, practice, whose children Mundth had taught how to swim, made an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you come and work in my office for a year and start a dental laboratory for me,’” Mundth recalls. “So that’s what I did, and that sold me.”
Today, Mundth is in the same office, in the same town—albeit in a different location—where he started as a dental technician in 1979.
Mundth’s passion for his profession is enhanced by his love for cutting-edge technology. And for that he can thank the dentist who gave him his start as a dental technician.
“He was a gadget man,” Mundth says of the dentist. “The office was in his home at the time, and about every two months I’d have to clean out his basement for him. Much of it was filled with old equipment he had purchased that didn’t work, or didn’t work out the way he wanted it to.”
That was like being in a candy store for Mundth, who describes himself as being very mechanical.
“I’ve changed the (electric) service in my home from 80 amp to 200 amp,” he explains. “You can do almost anything you want if you take the time to study and learn about it.”
That’s an approach he’s brought to his practice. Mundth admits that when it comes to technology, he’s made some purchasing mistakes over the years. But says the most worthwhile thing he’s done, technology-wise, in the last three years is make the transition to virtual design of teeth and crowns.
“It’s unfortunate because I kind of started out as an old-time technician casting crowns out of gold,” Mundth says. “But this is the way technology is going. And I think having a passion for the profession means you’d better keep yourself up to date by reading, investigating, and keeping yourself moving forward.”
Mundth keeps moving outside the office as well. He has been extensively involved in community service, including coaching youth sports on all levels, and was a past commissioner of Pop Warner Football in Somerset County, NJ. He is also a certified men’s lacrosse official, as well as a member of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials.
“I wasn’t good enough to play in college, but I’ve always been involved in sports,” he says. “And I love children, and always wanted to give back to the community.”
Mundth says that being the youngest of five children—he has two older brothers and two older sisters—may have had a strong influence on him.
“Maybe it’s because I never had any younger brothers and sisters,” he reasons. “But I just love giving back to families, giving back to the community.”
But it was a traumatic experience that would lead to his love of swimming and all water sports. His brothers and sisters were all very good swimmers, and always involved in competitive swimming. Mundth, however, was the last to learn how to swim. And at age 10, it almost didn’t happen.
“My father decided one Saturday that he was going to teach me to swim, and he almost drowned me,” Mundth recalls. “Literally to the point where the lifeguard who was on duty, who would typically not want to interfere with an interaction between a father and son, blew the whistle and told my father to stop doing what he was doing.”
Which was, essentially, repeatedly pushing Mundth’s head under water.
One week later, his mother tried a different approach. She took her youngest son into the water and encouraged him to follow her across the deep end. Somehow, he thrashed across the water and made it to the other side.
“And that’s all it took.”
To this day, Mundth loves being out on the water. He will often take his boat out to the middle of Lake Hopatcong in northern NJ, turn off the motor, and float around relaxing, reading and listening to music.
“My wife says the only time she sees me really relax is when I’m on the boat,” he says.
If being on the water isn’t enough of a calming influence, Mundth also gets much satisfaction going for Sunday rides in the country on his Harley motorcycle. He purchased his first bike as a sophomore in dental school, but eventually sold it to help pay his dental school tuition. He didn’t get another until about 10 years ago.
“My wife told me that if I wanted a motorcycle, and as long as I promised not to make it my primary means of transportation, I could get one,” Mundth says. “I think she just wanted to make sure the life insurance was paid off.”
And even though he doesn’t put a great deal of miles on it—“I’m not a hard core Harley guy, although if you saw my office at the practice, there’s a big Harley painting on the wall—Mundth loves coming home, walking through the garage, and seeing his Harley.
“I get a big smile on my face because I know it’s sitting there and available to me when I need to just let my hair down and need that release.”