So much has changed in dentistry over the last few years. Recent technological advances — from the advent of implant surgery to radically improved porcelain veneers to the use of “invisible” braces — make it easier than ever to keep your entire mouth at its best (which, in turn, can positively affect your overall health). Here, we introduce you to four of the Valley’s top dentists (as chosen by their peers), all of whom use state-of-the-art products and techniques in their practices. And check out the full list — more than 200 strong — of the region’s top dental specialists. One of them is sure to be right for you.
» Next: Meet our Top Dentists
Dr. Jodi Gorelick
530 Rte. 6, Mahopac. 845-628-1018
Practicing dentistry: 8 years-plus
Dental school: Columbia University, then orthodontic residency at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Chairside manner: “Sometimes young kids will just sit there and refuse to open their mouths; it happens. So you coax them, try cajoling them, bribing them, using your charisma. But they usually come around. When you patiently explain that this (procedure) is good for them, they usually ‘get it.’ Also, the fact that I’m a woman, reminding them maybe of being around their mom or grandmom — the so-called feminine touch — helps put some of them at ease. Also, I don’t wear a white lab coat when I treat young patients; that helps them feel less nervous, too.”
Out-of-the-office life: You might find her working up a sweat at a kick-boxing session, or busy with “mommy stuff,” like driving her two kids to tennis, guitar, or soccer lessons.
On work: “Many people don’t really like the jobs they do. I’m so grateful I have a career that I love; I’m happy to get up in the morning and come to the office.”
Jodi Gorelick, D.D.S. on Orthodontics
In one sense, says Dr. Jodi Gorelick, not much has changed over the years in orthodontics — the specialty that involves preventing or correcting tooth irregularities, usually with braces.
“The basics are still the same; the mechanics of how you move a misaligned tooth haven’t drastically changed,” says Gorelick. “But the techniques have certainly been tweaked and honed. And many of the negative aspects — like the discomfort — are gone.” Perhaps that helps explain why one in five orthodontic patients, according to the American Association of Orthodontists, is now an adult.
Many baby boomers, however, still have squirmy flashbacks about their own adolescent ordeal of wearing clunky, unsightly braces decades ago, Gorelick says. But now that many of their own kids (or grandkids) are getting dental hardware, “the parents are seeing how science and technology have moved orthodontics up to a whole new level. They come into the office and say, ‘Goodness, our kids are so much luckier than we were!’ ”
One welcome orthodontic advance is a dip in the total time that braces are usually needed. Ten or 20 years ago, according to Gorelick, the average patient coped with them for two-and-a-half to three years. “And it wasn’t unusual to go as long as four years. Now, the average time is down to about 18 months.”
Teeth can also now be gently nudged into place with more ease — and much less discomfort. The wires, for instance — they’re attached to the braces to help realign those pearly whites — are now made of substances such as nickel titanium and beta titanium. “These newer ‘smart wire’ alloys are lightweight, yet they continuously help move the teeth with greater force,” Gorelick maintains. They’re a big improvement over those clunky stainless steel braces of the past. “We still use stainless steel — it has its place — but now we use it later in treatment.”
Another big breakthrough are so-called “invisible braces.” Some are worn on the back of teeth; others are unobtrusive, clear plastic aligners. “And now, we can use tooth-colored ceramic braces, too,” says Gorelick. “I have some adolescent patients who are into theater or dance — they’re in the public eye — and adults who do modeling. It makes a huge difference for them — or anyone — to feel confident with their smile even while they’re undergoing treatment,” she says.
Another new approach to orthodontia deals with the patients themselves — especially young ones. Instead of feeling embarrassed wearing braces, many now proudly revel in having a “designer mouth.” Some kids regard the little rubber bands that hook onto braces as a fashion statement. “Every month they pick a different color,” says Gorelick. “It’s like a new accessory, especially for young adolescent girls.” Orange and black are big requests at Halloween. “Or, say, sports fans can wear their team’s colors.”
Yet another orthodontia artifact — the retainer (the little gadget often worn at night to help keep teeth aligned) — has also come of age, style-wise. “The lab I use can create custom retainers, with anything from the Jonas Brothers’ symbol printed on it, to Yankee pinstripes, to a soccer ball — the sky’s the limit,” explains Gorelick.
“We’re glad to offer whatever makes patients feel relaxed and confident,” she adds. “With orthodontics, it’s no longer just coping with several years of ‘metal mouth’ to reach the goal of having beautiful teeth.”
Dr. Michael Tischler, Tischler Dental
121 Rte. 375 , Woodstock 845-679-3706
Practicing dentistry: 20 years (his dad Maurice founded Tischler Dental and has been practicing for 50 years)
Dental school: Georgetown University.
Out-of-the-office life: When he’s not chairside, you might find him out in the woods with a camera. Tischler is an accomplished landscape photographer; his mural-sized photos grace many of the walls of Tischler Dental. Focusing mostly on the Catskills, he creates limited-edition landscapes that are timeless, often-breathtaking works of art. To see examples of his photos, visit www.tischlerphotos.com.
Michael Tischler, D.D.S., F.A.G.D. on Dental Implants
“What’s really exciting to me now are dental implants,” says Dr. Michael Tischler of Tischler Dental in Woodstock. He notes that, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-quarter of adults in New York over age 65 have lost all their teeth. “And when you’re missing your teeth, your whole lifestyle is affected and your nutritional intake is diminished. It’s a very serious situation.”
Dental implants — titanium posts anchored into the jaw to support artificial teeth — are a high-tech alternative to conventional dentures and bridges, Tischler says. “An implant can replace one tooth, or every tooth in the mouth can be done; there are many options.” Besides being more attractive, implants are superior to bridgework in several respects: Surrounding teeth are not usually affected by the insertion of an implant (they must often be ground down to support a bridge); and the bone around the root of the replaced tooth is less like to resorb (or deteriorate) when an implant is used.
Tischler, an international lecturer and recognized authority in the fields of implants and dental bone grafting, is one of just 400 implant dentists worldwide to be credentialed by the American Board of Oral Implantology/Implant Dentistry.
» Read about Dr. Tischler’s Tischler Dental Foundation, which aims to bring bright, dazzling smiles to local kids’ faces
His expertise extends to his offices, too. Tischler Dental’s 10,000-square-foot Ulster County facility contains one of the only dedicated dental-implant suites in the Hudson Valley, complete with its own CT machine. “This allows us to plan the entire implant procedure, using a 3-D, computer-guided process, with a much more predictable outcome,” he says.
Implants are among a wide range of choices now available in restorative and cosmetic dentistry — from tooth whitening to porcelain veneers. “Cosmetic dentistry techniques continue to improve. They include metal-free crowns, more durable veneers — overall, we can get an excellent aesthetic result that looks completely natural,” he says. And when it comes to preventing tooth loss in the first place, new treatments, such as PerioLase — an FDA-approved laser procedure — are a boon to patients who, in the past, might have needed sometimes-painful gum surgery. “The laser actually removes bacteria from the gums without my having to perform any suturing. In fact, I no longer do any gum surgery here because of this technique. That’s major! A lot of people have gum disease, and it can affect the health of the entire body. So it’s especially important to take care of gum problems as soon as possible.”
Dr. Geri-Lynn Waldman, Dolson Avenue Dental
75 Dolson Ave., Middletown 845-342-1533
Practicing dentistry: 8 years
Dental school: Columbia University, followed by a two-year pediatric residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
Memorable patients: “It’s always rewarding when a child who’d had a negative dental experience somewhere else comes to me, and everything turns out fine. The other day I had a nine-year-old boy like that. But he did so well with us that he even told his mom it was okay for her to leave the treatment room. And he gave me a thumbs-up, too, when I’d ask how he was doing with the procedure. When I can turn someone around who’s been afraid, that’s very satisfying.”
Out-of-the-office life: When she’s not treating a young patient, you might find her buying pet food (“I’m a big animal lover; we have three dogs, four chinchillas, and fish”) or traveling with her two children. “Our favorite spots are Vermont, the Bahamas, and skiing in Colorado.”
Geri-Lynn Waldman, D.D.S. on Pediatric Dentistry
“A large part of being a pediatric dentist actually involves educating parents,” says Dr. Geri-Lynn Waldman, who specializes in treating young patients.
“Many parents don’t realize that children should first visit the dentist when they’re as young as age one,” says Waldman. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, in fact, recommends an initial visit when a child’s teeth first break through, or by their first birthday, she says.
Waldman admits her tiniest clients can be a challenge. “We don’t expect much from them at age one,” she laughs. “Sometimes they won’t even open their mouth. But you’d be surprised — some two-year-olds are better than adults about it all.”
On these earliest visits, Waldman will check the tot’s teeth and gums, and discuss with parents topics like baby’s proper oral hygiene, nutrition, sucking habits, effects of bottle or breast-feeding on teeth, and methods to prevent future dental problems.
“But the biggest thing we try to do is make their visit fun,” she says. “As a pediatric dentist, we have two extra years of training in dealing with children. So just creating a pleasant environment, and talking things through with them, really helps,” she says.
To that end, Waldman’s young patients get an extra dose of TLC. The office itself is kiddie friendly. Treatment rooms at the Orange County facility contain colorful murals — an ocean scene with fish and leaping porpoises, a jungle with monkeys and birds; and the waiting room is chock full of toys.
Treatment-wise, Waldman turns to state-of-the-art pediatric technology such as digital imaging (to diagnose tooth problems), fluoride treatments, and use of special dental sealants.
She stresses the need for parents to take a young child’s dental care seriously. “Sometimes parents think, ‘Well, baby teeth fall out eventually, so why not wait until the permanent teeth come in to see a dentist?’ But they don’t realize that decay in baby teeth can have the same consequences — pain, abscesses, swelling, discomfort — as decay in adult teeth.”
Waldman notes that, on a recent day, “three of my patients — they were three and four years old — already needed full-mouth rehabilitation and had to go under general anesthesia.” In another case, a four-year-old needed work on 16 out of 20 teeth. “Sadly, situations like this are fairly common,” she says.
Bad nutrition is often the key culprit, she says. “A lot of people are giving their kids junk food early on in life. Some parents are good about avoiding it with the first child, but then start slipping with the younger ones. Or maybe an older child has snacks in the house, so the younger one gets them, too. And some parents think it’s healthier to give kids lots of juice to drink, rather than soda. But sweet juices can create problems for their teeth, too.”
“The trick is to put kids on the right path to dental health while they’re still young, then stick with it,” she says.
Dr. Richard Whalen, Dental Design Studios
Practicing dentistry: 18 years
Dental school: SUNY Stony Brook
Most memorable patient: “Some years ago, we did a cosmetic dentistry ‘makeover’ on a lady. I still remember her husband coming to us afterward, saying he’d never realized how much it would mean to his wife to have this done; he had no idea how much the appearance of her teeth had always bothered her. The husband said she came home that night and kept looking in the mirror and crying — she was so happy. She even put a little mirror on her refrigerator to look at every time she walked by. It reminds you of the positive effect that cosmetic dentistry can have on a person’s entire life.”
Out-of-the-office life: You’ll often find Whalen in the great outdoors, or working out at the gym. “In fact, I went for a run in the gym today during my lunch break,” he said during an interview. He’s ready for anything that keeps him on the move. “Biking, basketball, skiing — I enjoy all kinds of sports,” he says.
Richard Whalen, D.D.S. on Improved Technology
“What’s exciting in the practice of dentistry is that the existing technology keeps improving,” says Dr. Richard Whalen of Dental Design Studios in Poughkeepsie.
“One big improvement we’re seeing is that the types of porcelain used in cosmetic dentistry are getting better than ever,” Whalen says. “The results have always looked good, but now the teeth are stronger, and you also get an even more attractive aesthetic result.”
Whalen offers general dentistry — it’s a completely mercury-free practice — plus a variety of services ranging from tooth whitening to TMJ treatments; the latter involves temporomandibular joint dysfunction, a painful, sometimes debilitating condition affecting the joints that connect the upper jaw to the skull; TMJ is sometimes linked to stress — such as clenching the jaw and/or grinding the teeth.
For instance, implant surgery — during which replacement artificial teeth are permanently “screwed” right into the bone — continues to become more popular. “And now we even have CT scan-guided implant surgery,” says Whalen. “This involves taking a CT scan of the area, so we can map out the entire implant process even more precisely.”
Whalen has also been trained to provide the Invisalign teeth straightening process (goodbye, bulky braces), as well as cosmetic restorations, bonding, veneers, and more.
Nifty new gizmos are helping dentists in their daily tasks, too. Whalen explains: “I’m using a new type of curing light, for example.” These are special small lights that, with a quick blitz of the blue beam, help harden sealants during dental procedures. “The old lights used to take 20 seconds,” Whalen says. “With the new ones, it’s done in just four seconds.”