Dr. Ernest Reeh, Practice Profile

140329 PP drreeh feature

Focus on patients, family, academics, and endodontics

What can you tell us about your background?

I have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a minor in business. I was accepted off of the alternate list for dental school and then attained my DDS degree, graduating third in my class and awarded the James McCutcheon Gold Medal.

(This award is presented to the student who, over the 4 years of the DDS program, had shown to possess, to an outstanding degree, those qualities of scholarship, leadership, and character, which may be expected to lead to a distinguished position in the dental profession.) I have taken specialty training in endodontics and have a master’s degree in Material Science, a PhD in Biophysics with a related-field minor in engineering. I am a Diplomate of the American Board of Endodontics (Board Certified) and a former faculty member at the University of Minnesota Endodontics Department. I have consulted for 3M and Carestream Dental (formerly Kodak Imaging), and have lectured both nationally and internationally on a variety of science and dental topics, as well as written peer-reviewed scientific articles and abstracts.

Is your practice limited to endodontics?


Why did you decide to focus on endodontics?

By my second year in dental school, I developed a keen interest in endodontics. I especially enjoyed the particular attention to the fine detail and the high level of fine motor control needed. I had done research in chemistry and wanted to do research in endodontics. As a result of frequent discussions with the director of the endodontics department, arrangements were made for me to be able to conduct research as a graduating  second-year dental student. I was able to present my work at an International Association of Dental Researchers (IADR) conference, as well as have my name associated with three other projects with which I was involved. I continued my research interests, and the following year also presented at the IADR conference and had my name associated with seven other projects that I had also been involved in during the year and summer break.  After dental school, I had wanted to go into endodontics as a specialty, but felt I should appreciate general dentistry before going to graduate school. I worked in a private general dental practice for 2 years and then attended endodontic graduate school. I did research during my endodontic residency and published two papers as a result of my graduate program research, as well as winning a national research award for my student research presentation award at the American Association of Endodontists (AAE) meeting. I have always had a passion for endodontics and enjoy the challenges my many colleagues send me.

How long have you been practicing?

I graduated from dental school in 1984 and practiced as a general dentist for 2 years. I then spent 2 years in an endodontic residency, graduating in 1988, and have been practicing as an endodontist since graduation. I went on to do a PhD after my endodontic specialty training but made it a requirement of my PhD program that I was able to do private practice 1 day a week. I worked for 7 years (during and after my PhD program) for Boynton Health Services as their endodontist. I then worked in several group practices before setting up our own endodontic practice with my wife, who is also an endodontist. Currently, I practice 2 to 3 days per week, and my wife practices 2 days per week, so we both can have some time to enjoy our four children ages 11, 9, 9 (yes, twins), and 5 year olds. They grow up so fast, and we both wanted to have time with them.

Who has inspired you?

I have had several people who inspired me. Initially, my dad, who told me when I was deciding to either follow chemistry (when I had standing job offers after graduation in chemistry) or go into dentistry (which would have been an unknown). My dad, who was a man of few words, told me, “You have always wanted to be a dentist,” (which I had since I was about 8 years old), and he said to me, “You never want to look back at your life and say, ‘I wish I would have …’”  I have lived his “no regrets” philosophy ever since.

My other mentors include the head of the endodontics department in dental school, who made doing research possible; Dr. Don Collins, the Dean who created a program when none existed to make it possible for me to do research; Dr. Gordon Thompson and my mentor doing dental research, who was just joining the endodontic faculty at the time; and the abundantly enthusiastic Dr. Ken Zakariasen.

In endodontic graduate school, I had two people who had a major influence in my life and career — Dr. Harold Messer, a brilliant scientist and the head of the endodontics division; and Dr. William “Bill” Douglas, a renowned biomaterials expert who opened his lab and mentored me during my masters and PhD programs. I learned many things, not only about dentistry and research, but also about teaching and mentoring.

What is the most satisfying aspect of your practice?

I feel most satisfied when my doctors have the confidence in me to refer tough cases that challenge my skills and abilities. As I like to say, “I enjoy challenges; I just hope that not every case during the day will be a tough one!” I feel satisfied when I can treat cases that were thought to be untreatable endodontically. I appreciate when I can be a part of their team and be a part of the treatment planning for cases. 

140329 PP drreeh 01

Professionally, what are you most proud of?

My master’s thesis work. I am sometimes at an endodontic meeting, and a resident will see my name tag and ask if I am the guy who published the work on stiffness of endodontically treated teeth. I reply that I am. Then they tell me that I am “classic literature in endo,” and I reply that I like to think of myself as contemporary literature in endo!  I have been told that my work is one of the 10 most referenced papers in dentistry. That makes me very proud of the work I did.

What do you think is unique about your practice?

We offer a very personalized experience. We work on one patient at a time, and each gets our undivided attention for  his or her appointed time. We have created an environment that is very calming from the appearance of the office, to the music, to the aromas, to the friendly interaction from each staff member. Patients are exquisitely numb, so care is done comfortably. Many patients who tell us they are difficult to get numb are surprised how easy care is for them.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Insurance. Need I say more?

What would you have become if you had not become a dentist?

Probably a neurovascular surgeon. I enjoy surgery, and I am very fine motor skill-oriented, so it would be another good fit for me. 

140329 PP drreeh 02

What is the future of endodontics and dentistry?

There is so much information that it is not possible for one person to do everything well. General dentists who take a lot of programs in endodontics certainly advance their skills and can do more and more complex cases but at the expense of other areas of dentistry. Most dentists want some balance in their profession, so they do not want to do more advanced cases. Even those who have trained further still need the help of their endodontist as there is a lot to learn in a 2- to 3-year advanced specialty degree. There continues to be improvements, and it is part of the endodontist’s job to explain the pros and cons to our general dental colleagues. Clearly, as knowledge continues to expand, the need for specialists becomes increasingly important. Endodontics is not about to be replaced by implants, and we are now seeing that retaining natural teeth is still first best compared to a good second best of an implant as the pendulum starts to swing away from replacing many teeth to preserving natural teeth.

What are your top tips for maintaining a successful practice?

There is no easy answer. First and foremost is providing a high level of care, but that is not enough. One has to create an experience for the patient that proves the value in the services provided. On top of it all is maintaining a highly motivated, well-trained staff that enjoy what they do. We create an environment in which the staff enjoys coming to work. Our staff currently averages over 10 years with our office.

What advice would you give to budding endodontists?

It is to not about all the devices. Cone beam, torque-sensing motors, and so on are all good, but it is about the patient. One person once told me, “Patients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Keep the patient experience in the forefront, doing what is right, and the rest will follow naturally.

What are your hobbies, and what do you do in your spare time?

My biggest hobby is my family. I love to spend time with my wife and kids, from little stuff like building a snowman to going to bigger things like going skiing. Four kids always take a lot of effort, but it’s worth it. I hope to share in my kids’ hobbies to the extent they want to include me. My kids enjoy chess, and I am the chess master for the chess club at their school. They wanted to try downhill skiing, so we took up skiing this year. I like cross-country skiing also, but none of them shows much interest, so I haven’t done any for a while. I have a few hobbies of my own that I enjoy. I enjoy automotives through reading car magazines (I subscribe to three), going to the auto show (usually with a friend as the kids typically don’t want to go), going to advanced driving skills courses; and I have an old car that I tinker with. I enjoy camping. I made a campsite down a path in our backyard. The kids and I go camping a couple of times each summer, as well as Cub Scout camps. (Mom typically doesn’t like to camp but, on occasion, is a good sport and joins us.)  I have a wood shop in my basement and have a number of projects that I like to do. I am currently working on a chessboard and chess pieces with my boys. I also enjoy cooking. I do not like being a short-order cook preparing multiple different meals for the kids and grown-ups, but unfortunately, that is most of what I do presently. It is just where we are at in our lives. When I get a chance, I like to cook and bake and am known for the cheesecakes that I make and for presentation of dishes.

Stay Relevant With Endodontic Practice US

Join our email list for CE courses and webinars, articles and more..

Scroll to Top