Dentists—like mouths—come in all shapes and sizes. Each year, New Jersey Monthly seeks to identify the best of the best. To that end, we survey the state’s dentists to learn which of their peers they would recommend to treat a family member. The result is our annual Jersey Choice Top Dentists list. This year’s list represents 535 dentists in eight practice areas.
As we do each year, we’ve also assembled a panel of six dentists to discuss current developments and issues in dentistry. Each is among the leading vote-getters in his or her specialty. This year’s panelists are Dr. Joseph Banker, a general dentist with offices in Westfield and Elizabeth; Dr. Ilya Lipkin, an orthodontist in Emerson; Dr. Christina Mazzone, a pediatric dentist in Warren and Chester; Dr. Rosemichele Sorvino-Macchia, an endodontist in Chatham; Dr. Manaf Saker, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Ridgewood; and Dr. Thomas Schneider, a periodontist in Toms River.
Here are excerpts from their roundtable discussion with New Jersey Monthly correspondent Leslie Garisto Pfaff.
New Jersey Monthly: Are there any brand-new advances in dental technology that you’re excited about?
Rosemichele Sorvino-Macchia: The Cone Beam CT (CBCT) scan is revolutionizing endodontics.
It provides high-resolution, 3-D imagery in about 30 seconds, using very low radiation levels in a very limited field of view—that is, the area under assessment can be limited to just a few teeth instead of the entire mouth.
Thomas Schneider: CBCT has revolutionized periodontal therapy, especially when it comes to dental implants. We can now get instant, super-high-resolution images of the patient’s facial structures, especially critical anatomy like the underlying bone, sinus cavities and neurovascular canals. And we can use the technology to perform virtual surgery before even touching the patient, which ensures a more predictable outcome.
Ilya Lipkin: CBCT lets us see the true anatomical structure of the mouth, whereas 2-D X-rays give us only a distorted projection of 3-D structures on 2-D film. I also like the iTero scanner; it gives a digital impression of the teeth, so dental molds are becoming history. And new ways to speed up orthodontic treatments, like AcceleDent, Propel, and Wilckodontics, allow patients to be done with braces in three to six months.
NJM: What are some of the other important technical advances?
Joseph Banker: Computer-aided dentistry and computer-aided-manufacturing technology (CAD/CAM) enables us to make restorations like crowns, onlays and veneers without impressions. The technology uses a laser scanner to create a virtual model so we can make restorations the same day—no more temporary crowns that take two visits.
Manaf Saker: Bioengineering allows for the production of proteins that can guide tissue regeneration, such as bone construction, for patients seeking implant placement. It’s allowed me to cut treatment time for some complex reconstruction implant cases from a year to a few months, and sometimes even a few weeks.
NJM: What’s the most important thing a dentist can do to ease patients’ fears?
RSM: Most people who come to see me for the first time present with a combination of pain and anxiety. Confident, warm and empathetic communication is key to making a patient feel safe.
JB: It’s essential to spend the time necessary to help patients understand their treatment options. After an examination, I explain my findings and we decide together on the best treatment.
TS: The most important thing a dentist can do is listen to patients’ concerns and determine the cause. It might be the sight of the instruments or the sounds or smells associated with dentistry. And a fair number of patients complain about the needle—the pain of a local anesthetic injection. But with today’s advanced technology, tools like DentalVibe and Onset [a special buffer that changes the pH of the injection solution] allow dentists to routinely deliver pain-free injections.
MS: The general environment of a practice can influence a patient’s apprehension and anxiety in so many ways. The delivery of care today is no longer predicated only on the individual dentist, but on a dental team. So it’s extremely important that the entire team be educated about the various problems patients might encounter and the management of patients’ fears and anxieties.
NJM: Apart from regular brushing and flossing, what’s the key thing patients can do to support dental health for themselves and their children?
CM: Pay attention to your diet and choose healthier food options, staying away from sugary drinks like Gatorade, soda and fruit juice, as well as candy and items that stick to the teeth, like fruit snacks.
IL: Diet. The fewer the carbohydrates in the diet…the less food there will be for bacteria to consume. That translates into fewer cavities, a reduced risk of gum disease and a healthier body overall.
MS: Education, education, education. A patient armed with knowledge really understands the need for good oral hygiene and routine dental visits.
JB: Regular dental visits are essential to identifying oral problems in their early stages, when they’re easier and less costly to treat. Start children when they’re young, so that a trip to the dentist is part of their normal routine.
TS: There’s a very easily identifiable genetic marker for susceptibility to periodontal disease. If patients have advanced gum disease, I often recommend testing their children for the marker, so if necessary, we can initiate more vigorous home care and professional preventive programs.
RSM: Don’t ignore discomfort! Sometimes pain comes and goes; don’t dismiss it. Discomfort is a warning, and the solution is often small and relatively inexpensive in the early stages. Wait too long and you could find yourself facing a drawn-out, expensive and sometimes painful problem.
NJM: What’s the best part of being a dentist?
RSM: It’s the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I come from a large medical family and grew up going on hospital and house calls with my grandfather, who was a physician.
IL: As an orthodontist, I get a 100 percent cure rate.
MS: The ability to help people restore their confidence, function and smiles.
CM: Helping to shape patients into non-fearful teenagers and adults who take pride in their oral hygiene.
TS: The opportunity to use cutting-edge technologies and to partner with some of the best restorative doctors.
JB: Changing lives. There’s nothing more gratifying than seeing a patient smile after treatment.
NJM: And the worst part?
RSM: Negative preconceptions about root canal.
IL: Trying to “sell” myself.
CM: Trying to regain the trust of a child who’s had a bad experience elsewhere.
TS: The stigma associated with the profession. I cannot tell you how many times a patient has said to me, “No offense, Doc, but I hate dentists.”
JB: There aren’t enough hours in the day to treat all of the patients that I’d like to treat.
Dr. Christina Mazone, Pediatric Dentist.
Offices: Warren and Chester.
Solo practitioner; in practice 8 years.
Dr. Thomas Schneider, Periodontist.
Office: Toms River.
Solo practitioner; in practice for 17 years.
Dr. Joseph Banker, General Dentist
Offices: Westfield and Elizabeth.
Solo practitioner in Westfield. Elizabeth associates: Dr. Abraham Banker, Dr. Jonathan Banker, Dr. Karen Mancini and Dr. Christine Guanlao. In practice for 18 years.
Dr. Rosemichele Sorvino-Macchia, Endodontist
Associate: Dr. Craig Hirschberg. In practice for 23 years.
Dr. Ilya Lipkin, Orthodontist.
Solo practitioner; in practice for 15 years.
Dr. Manaf Saker, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon.
Solo practitioner; in practice 15 years.