Combining clinical excellence and compassion
What can you tell us about your background?
I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. I attended college, dental school, and my postgraduate endodontic residency at the University of Maryland. I moved to the Chicago area in 2003 to pursue my career and life in a city that drew me in with its vast culture and beauty.
I practice full time, and I am also a faculty member in the Department of Endodontics at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry. I lecture nationally and internationally on clinical endodontics and present hands-on courses in association with Axis/SybronEndo. I am a Diplomate of the American Board of Endodontics.
When did you become a specialist and why?
As a first-year dental student, I found myself wondering if wearing the many hats of a general dentist suited me. As the son of a successful general dentist, I was able to spend time with many specialists in our area. It was at the office of Dr. Barry Jurist, an endodontist, that I found my calling. I was enamored by the digital radiographs, microscopes, and rotary instruments. I was
thunderstruck by the potential of the field. I was fortunate to be accepted into the Department of Endodontics at the University of Maryland immediately after graduation from dental school.
Is your practice limited solely to endodontics?
My practice is solely limited to endodontics. It was started in 1982 by Dr. Kevin King and has served the northwest side of Chicago for over 30 years. We have six operatories and an experienced and dedicated team of staff members. Located in Niles, Illinois, 20 minutes north of downtown Chicago, Dr. Hammad Khan and I practice together, offering appointments and emergency care 6 days a week.
Your practice is limited solely to endodontics; why did you decide to focus in that area?
At first, the technology grabbed my attention. The advances in technology over the past 20 years have allowed our specialty to grow in efficiency and safety. I found the study of the dental pulp and its myriad of complexities very interesting and challenging. I also recognized how endodontic practice allows you to use your empathy and compassion to foster a sense of calm and reassurance in our patients.
Do your patients come through referrals?
Yes, my practice is a referral-based practice. The great majority of patients visit us based on a direct referral from their general dentist. Others may be referred by a family member, friend, or colleague who has been our patient in the past.
How long have you been practicing endodontics, and what systems do you use?
I have been in private practice limited to endodontics for 11 years. I have tried many systems over the years to help improve the efficiency and safety of my treatments. I currently use TF™ Adaptive System files, the Apex ID apex locator, and the Elements Obturation Unit™ (Axis/SybronEndo). As ultrasonic tips have always been an extremely important part of my ability to locate and clean pulpal anatomy, the new tün® ultrasonic tips (Engineered Endodontics) have been a high-performing addition to my armamentarium. In an effort to maximize my irrigation efforts, the Irrisafe™ tip (Satelec/Acteon) is an easy and effective way to perform ultrasonic activated irrigation. We are fortunate to have so many well-engineered and designed instruments to help us provide the best possible root canal treatment to our patients.
What training have you undertaken?
After my 2-year endodontic residency, I have pursued a passion for continued learning. Much of this comes from my love of teaching. As part of the faculty at the College of Dentistry, University of Illinois at Chicago, I have had the opportunity to work with the postgraduate endodontic residents for over 10 years. I also have been lecturing and presenting hands-on courses around the country and world since 2008. These teaching opportunities create a great learning environment for me as I am constantly re-evaluating technique, philosophy, and literature. I am able to present didactic and clinical instruction based on the ever-increasing evidence-based knowledge gained from the many brilliant research projects being carried out across the world.
Who has inspired you?
Three doctors have had a profound effect on me and serve as my role models. My father, Michael, was my inspiration to pursue dentistry and to understand how a doctor can successfully run a business. Two of my inspirations are no longer with us today. My great uncle, Dr. Joshua Breschkin, an optometrist for 56 years, was a model on how to be a passionate, precise, and caring doctor. Dr. Thom Dumsha, my mentor, was a brilliant and logical thinker. He was a model on how to be genuine, caring, and to remain who you are once you have attained a high level of success and respect in your field. He is a person I always try to emulate.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your practice?
The ability to create an environment in my office in which patients feel comfortable is very satisfying. My staff and I work extremely hard to be sure each patient’s personal needs and concerns are addressed. There is no more rewarding feeling than to walk into the room to a very anxious patient, and then an hour later, he/she walks out saying how easy the procedures and experience were. This is the measure of success in our practice, and my staff is an integral part in this pursuit.
Professionally, what are you most proud of?
I am most proud of achieving board certification from the American Board of Endodontics. I am also proud that I have been able to develop a 2-day endodontic training course for general dentists. This course is designed to provide an immersion experience into endodontics for practicing dentists. I recognized the lack of continuing education opportunities for general dentists to gain clinical knowledge and hands-on skills. It is my goal to provide a clinical course that includes live patient treatment demonstrations to allow the skills learned to be translated directly back to their own offices.
What do you think is unique about your practice?
The level of compassion and care we show to our patients is what I believe allows us to be successful. This approach is one I shared with Dr. Kevin King, now retired, and with Dr. Hammad Khan, my associate. Our staff is experienced, caring, and dedicated to our patient care from the time they call our office for an appointment until their treatment follow-ups are complete.
What has been your biggest challenge?
I feel successful endodontic practice is achieved when you are able to merge the highest level of clinical excellence with a passion for creating a positive and caring experience for patients. This is a challenging goal our team pursues each and every day in our office.
What would you have been if you didn’t become a dentist?
The honest answer is that I have no idea! I can only remember wanting to be a dentist since I was a small child. It is a great feeling to have been able to achieve this goal.
What is the future of endodontics and dentistry?
I believe that the future is bright for the dental industry and for endodontics. We continue to strive to improve our armamentarium, techniques, and education to be able to provide patients with an opportunity to save their natural dentitions. The future of endodontics will continue to see an improvement in success rates as we develop better ways to cleanse root canal systems. I am excited about the advances demonstrated in the literature regarding our ability to irrigate root canal systems. The potential for greater success is tremendous by use of waves of energy propagated through our irrigating solutions. Our advances in regenerative endodontics are cutting-edge science. As endodontists, we are at the forefront of regenerative techniques that we are able to provide to our patients to improve their oral health. The potential for further development in this area of endodontics is incredible.
What are your top tips for maintaining a successful specialty practice?
Successfully communicating and educating patients on the cause of their endodontic disease and the treatments we provide to resolve them are critical to success. When patients give consent for treatment, they should feel completely comfortable that they have had any and all questions and concerns addressed by their doctor. Being able to then communicate the findings and treatment summary to referring dentists is another area of communication critical to success.
What advice would you give to budding endodontists?
The most important advice I would give is to be kind to yourself. The only way to attain excellent skills is to learn from your mistakes and procedural errors. As an inexperienced endodontist, you may have incidents and occurrences that will keep you up at night. My sincere advice is to be kind to yourself, learn from the error, and don’t beat yourself up! You must recognize that even the most experienced endodontist will have a procedural error occur at times. Communication skills must be an ever-evolving skill set. Recognizing that your ability to communicate with patients, referring dentists, and your staff in an effective way will alleviate pressures and allow you to relax even in the most stressful situations.
What are your hobbies, and what do you do in your spare time?
My family comes first in regards to spare time. With two daughters ages 5 and 7, my free time is simply their time! Exercise is a great stress reliever in my life and a way to stay in shape. I am a passionate Baltimore Ravens fan, and my wife, Kari, and I love to travel. With downtown Chicago just a 30-minute ride away, we have a great deal of fun spending time in the city. Life is good!