Taking a different approach

March 21, 2012
Renee Knight
Issue 12

Sports Dentistry Dr. Alexander Della Bella Team dentist for Major League Baseball’s Cincinnati Reds and the East Coast Hockey League’s Cincinnati Cyclones Imagine your patients walking into your practice to find a local professional athlete sitting in your waiting room.

Sports Dentistry

Dr. Alexander Della Bella
Team dentist for Major League Baseball’s Cincinnati Reds and the East Coast Hockey League’s Cincinnati Cyclones

Imagine your patients walking into your practice to find a local professional athlete sitting in your waiting room.

As the team dentist for the Cincinnati Reds and the Cincinnati Cyclones, that actually happens in Dr. Alexander Della Bella’s office. And that, he said, is a great practice builder.

Start small. But Dr. Della Bella didn’t start his career in sports dentistry as a team dentist for professional athletes. He got his start by volunteering to make custom-fit mouthguards for local high school teams and by making himself available to treat any traumatic dental injuries that happened during their games. He also took the time to meet parents and educate them about the importance of wearing a mouthguard and why a custom-fit guard is the best option. Working with the teams got him out in front of the community and also enabled him to expand his practice to treat patients suffering from other traumatic dental injuries, including car crash victims.

Going professional. As a hockey fan, Dr. Della Bella was thrilled when he first heard a professional team was coming to Cincinnati. So thrilled, in fact, he immediately called team management and offered to be the Cyclones’ dentist. That was in the early 1990s, and since then he’s also added the Cincinnati Reds to his list of professional teams he treats.

What it entails. Every year during spring training, Dr. Della Bella goes down to the Reds’ spring training facility to perform a comprehensive exam for all the baseball players. This includes an oral cancer check-something most people don’t associate with sports dentists, but with the use of spit tobacco products, they should. During the year, he may go to the games or is on-call in case he’s needed. Because the dental injuries can be more severe, he’s on site for most of the hockey games and said in the course of a year he probably sees six significant dental-related injuries.

Why you should try it. Over the years, Dr. Della Bella has found sports dentistry to be a great practice builder, from expanding what he can treat in his practice to happy parents who love that he cares enough to donate his time to help protect their children from a sports injury.

“It’s what has kept me going for 26 years,” he said. “Try to find different things along the way that catch your interest and make it exciting to be a dentist. For me, with my love of sports, combining the two has been a way to keep me invigorated and to keep me excited about the dentistry that I do.”

 

Green Dentistry

Dr. Steven Koos
Co-founder, ORA Dental Studio and ORA Oral Surgery & Implant Studio, Eco-Dentistry Association Gold Certified Charter Practices

DPR: What made you decide you wanted to open green practices?

Dr. Koos: All of the co-founders-myself, my partner Dr. Goran Kralj, Dr. Mladen Kralj and Dr. Reggie Thurston-we were all classmates and we were all employing eco-friendly practices in our personal lives and we wanted to extend that into our workplace. We decided from the onset that we were going to build practices, from the ground up, that were sustainably designed and also would function in an eco-friendly, green fashion. I’m a physician as well, and many hospitals now are being constructed via LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] protocols but there was never any focus on private practice, which is where we wanted to make a difference and stand out, as well as hopefully set an example for the next generation of practices to come. As a business model, we wanted to demonstrate this could be a ‘win-win situation’ for everyone, for patients, for the community and for the practicing doctors. We’ve enjoyed an enormous amount of success, being able to open four offices in two years, and we’re in the planning stages for a fifth one.

DPR: Why would you encourage other dentists to take steps toward making their practice more environmentally friendly?

Dr. Koos: Well the most critical thing is it’s doing the right thing. It benefits the team and the community and the patient and, lastly, it also will really benefit the provider’s bottom line. For a few small investments there can be big financial gains and savings. This streamlines a practice and its efficiency. For example, eliminating single-use items and using metal sterilizable, autoclavable substitutes. That’s a money saver right there. Also becoming a digital practice. Digital radiography and digital patient charting saves a tremendous amount of resources, time and money.

DPR: How does a green practice benefit the patient?

Dr. Koos: Our paramount tenet is simple-what’s good for the environment is good for the patient and vice versa. But our focus is to give patients the most comprehensive, positive experience available for their oral health, and that includes incorporating state-of-the-art technology, but at the same time ensuring the technology employed is both minimally invasive to the patient and minimally invasive for the environment.

 

Veterinary Dentistry

Dr. Brett Beckman, DVM, FAVD, DAVDC, DAAPM
Immediate past president of the American Veterinary Dental Society

His patients may be a little different than yours, but relieving their pain is just as rewarding.

Dr. Brett Beckman’s dental patients can’t tell him what hurts, and often when their owners bring them into his veterinary practice, it isn’t because they think their pet is in pain. The family dog might be sleeping a lot more than he used to, or is leaving food in his bowl at dinner time-something he never did before. Both are signs the animal is dealing with a dental problem, maybe it’s periodontal disease or a fractured tooth. Regardless of what the problem is, once it’s fixed the beloved pet leaves his office with renewed energy, something both he and the owner love to see.

Dr. Beckman went to school to become a veterinarian and while he said he never had an interest in working in “human mouths,” he’s always had an interest in veterinary dentistry. He performed procedures here and there early in his career, but after completing a program designed specifically for veterinary dentists, he now has an office that exclusively treats pet dental issues. He even travels to other states to treat pets suffering from dental-related pain.

How it’s different from what you do. Dr. Beckman works with everything from guinea pigs to cats to dogs to gorillas, so he has to know a variety of different anatomies. And on any given animal, it’s not just general dentistry he’s performing. Instead, he’s thrown into everything that the whole scope of human dentistry encompasses, without any help from specialists. 

“There is so much diversity in the anatomy of the oral cavity and so much diversity in the diseases that affect those different species, so it is very challenging from an equipment adaptation standpoint. We as veterinary dentist also are veterinary endodontists, we’re also oral surgeons. We also do orthodontics and restorative dentistry. So we do anything from removing jaws for cancer patients to root canals to periodontal regenerative therapy to teeth cleaning. We spread the gamut.” 

 

Spa Dental Office

Dr. Chris Walinski
Founder, Zen Diego Dental Arts


At first glance, the treatment rooms at Zen Diego Dental Arts look more like comfortable living rooms than a place where patients come for dentistry.

The rooms are at least twice the size of the treatment rooms most patients are used to, and the sofa and love seat add an element of comfort that most practices just don’t have. But a more cozy treatment room isn’t all this new dental spa has to offer. The office also has a European-trained master esthetician, an acupuncturist with a masters degree in Chinese medicine, and a holistic health practitioner who performs 30 different types of massage techniques.

Dr. Chris Walinski, who is originally from the East Coast, opened the San Diego-based practice in June, and said he already has more than 400 patients. And when those patients walk in, they don’t feel like they’re walking into a dental office. It smells different, it looks different, it feels different. Patients are offered bottled water and hot tea while they wait. Relaxing music plays in the background. Family members can sit on an outside balcony and relax with a good book while they’re waiting for a loved one who’s getting treatment. The panoramic view from the 7th floor office is amazing, and just another feature that makes this dental practice stand out. 

“Patients don’t get these types of things elsewhere. It’s how I’ve always wanted to have a practice, but I felt like I got a lot resistance when I tried on the East Coast. Here it’s very welcome. Patients say this is what I’ve always wanted, I’ve never been treated like this. It’s a lot about the patient experience and giving them that whole ‘wow’ experience.” 

 

Registered Dental Hygienist in Alternative Practice (RDHAP)

Kimberly Farrell, RDHAP
Owner, Smiles on the Run


A flyer changed Kimberly Farrell’s life.

When she first saw the flyer advertising the Registered Dental Hygienist in Alternative Practice program at the University of the Pacific, she was working full-time as a hygienist. But she was ready for a change, and loved what finishing the program meant. Not only would it give her independence and the opportunity to run her own business, but it also would enable her to care for special-needs patients who may otherwise go without the dental treatments they so desperately need.

Through Smiles on the Run, Farrell goes into nursing homes and hospitals to treat patients who simply can’t get to a dental practice, or who would have to be put under anesthetic even if they could get there. She puts them at ease, gets to know them and takes the time to educate their caregivers. In the about six years since she opened Smiles on the Run, Farrell has seen so many of her patients’ mouths transform from horrific to healthy, and she’s seen a change in how they view dentistry. They’re excited to see her, and some even fight over who gets to sit in the chair first.

“I feel like it’s kind of made my life complete,” she said. “I loved being a hygienist and loved being in a dental office, but when I started doing this I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I found my true calling in life.’ ”