Beaufort Family Dentistry
Author: David Tobias | Photographer: John Brackett and Doctor Photo Submitted by Beaufort Family Dentistry
Juxtaposition is a fun word you don’t get to use all that often, but it’s a word that fits just perfectly to describe the mix-and-match feelings of warmth, energy, technology, sophistication and hominess of the Beaufort Family Dentistry offices on Ribaut Road in Beaufort.
This is a place where you feel, see and hear hums, hugs (patients actually hug dentists here) and high tech all at the same time, with hygienists and doctors plugged into headsets, working the room, greeting the patients, speaking two or three languages and moving through the office, guiding patients to the proper operatories as if their movements were being diagrammed by a systems engineer or choreographed by a practiced dance instructor.
This kind of atmosphere doesn’t just splash down all in a heap in a single day, a week or even a month. It’s cultivated over time and influenced by the introduction of new players and new state-of-the-science technology into what is clearly a well-coordinated and lavish production. It’s kind of the reverse of Survivor, with new tools, hygienists and doctors having been voted onto the island over the past two years by Dr. Richard Porcelli, D.D.S., owner of the practice and milieu genius.
Dr. Porcelli has built a team which has created an environment that works from all angles—for hygienists, dentists and patients; for moms and dads and kids; for those who are just in for a cleaning and those here for something a whole lot more serious and perhaps even complicated.
Relatively new additions to this opera are Dr. Eric Popky, D.M.D. and Dr. Alvin Danenberg, D.D.S, both of whom dipped their toes in retirement a while back and decided the water there was too cold. Both are absolutely ecstatic that a second career was hiding on the road to downtown Beaufort in a practice run by a young, dedicated dentist and his lovely Romanian hygienist wife, Alina, both dental school graduates of NYU.
Dr. Popky, especially, thought his future was headed toward golf five times a week, but was relieved (after discovering that he was simply bored) to learn that his love of dentistry still had plenty of miles left on it—he makes the commute four times a week from Hilton Head Island; and Dr. Danenberg discovered that high-tech learning never stops in his specialty—the amazing and rapidly expanding field of periodontal laser treatment.
Together, and along with a phalanx of hygienists, front desk staff, office managers and file coordinators, this team approach is beautiful to watch. It’s far more, however, than just well-coordinated, highly technical motion. The practice was purchased two years ago when most of the work at that time was general dentistry, but it has grown and diversified in many ways since.
“When I took over, it was a very good family practice with two doctors and four hygienists handling about 8,000 cases,” said Porcelli. “Now, the practice is much more comprehensive and has grown to about 10,000 patients, with 80-100 treated here daily.
“There’s a major push in this practice to increase our clients’ health IQ and encourage them to make good dental health decisions. Is it working? Oh yes! The other thing is we give them options,” Porcelli continued. “There’s never just one option for our patients. We help them decide, based on what their needs are, what their wants are and what they can afford. We remind them that we don’t have to do everything all at once.”
“It’s a philosophy I’ve always had,” added Popky, “that good dental health is like building a house: You don’t want to move too quickly or in the wrong order or you end up putting a strong roof on a weak foundation.”
All three doctors agree that the bottom line in health care today—whether medical or dental—is that treatment is an investment, and it can be expensive.
“We’re very aware of what the economic climate is these days,” said Danenberg. “We’re sensitive to the possibility that a patient’s economic situation will figure into his decision-making. And we’re okay with that. We like to guide them through to great decisions, even if we have to just stabilize things in order to give them time to make those decisions.”
One of the best decisions of all, in Danenberg’s opinion, considering that perhaps two thirds of all patients visiting the practice have some form of gum disease, is to take full advantage of remarkable advances in laser periodontal treatment technology.
“I have been doing periodontics for more than 30 years, and this is changing the way periodontics is being done,” he said. “Periodontal therapy used to be a painful, time-consuming procedure, taking the patient out of work for a few days, requiring rest and having to deal with shrinking gums and sensitive teeth. The laser does none of that. Once we’re done, the patient goes back to work the next day; there are no sutures, minimal gum shrinkage and minimal sensitivity. The beauty, from a periodontist’s perspective, is that the procedure actually causes bone to grow.”
The geeky sophistication of that technology, with its extraordinary capabilities, along with the high-intensity 2.5 power Xenon Discovery light—essentially a dental headlight that Popky wears clipped to his glasses—and the omnipresent early Madonna-style headsets—are all set against the smiling, nodding, understanding staff of receptionists, patiently processing payments and checking new patients in while hygienists whirl through the office making their way deftly from room to room to room to check up on those in various stages of treatment.
It’s a remarkable sight, and patients seem to enjoy it.
Beaufort Family Dentistry