Bill Zortman: I just came from getting an award. It’s a media award: Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau Midwest Communication. I want to thank all the little people. Little people! Let’s see, we got Dr. Lou George, Dr. Dennis Miller; you guys are pretty important to this community.
Lou George: Thanks, Bill. We appreciate that.
Dennis Miller: Thanks, Bill. We try our best, eh?
Bill Zortman: You know, it’s not only about Siouxland Oral Surgery; it’s about some of those other people in the dental industry that help you. How would you describe some of those folks like a donated dental program and some of those that are involved with labs and a lot of other directions?
Dennis Miller: The donated dental program was started nationally, I think in the 90s, and then it came — either late 80s or early 90s — then mid to late 90s, it came to South Dakota. And it’s a collaborative effort between the dental community, patients who are in need and not covered by the variation of insurances, whether its private insurance or whether it’s through the dental assistance program such as Medicaid and other ways of assisting with dental care. This is a collaboration of patient, dentist, and different labs. I think it’s about 20/30 different labs around South Dakota and, of course, East River — we deal with about half of those, of course. And this is where patients who are in need for significant dental work, can’t afford it, they apply through the donated dental program through the South Dakota Dental Association — Brenda’s the contact there. They go through an evaluation process and then the STDA (South Dakota Dental Association) contacts dentist who have put their name in the hat, so to speak, to be part of the program and labs and hooks everyone together. Many times, these people have dental neglect so, yes, they have periodontal or gum problems, yes, they have cavities and needs for operative dentistry, but unfortunately, they need a lot of oral surgery as well. So, as a regional practice, we really participate with donated dental through our different offices in Brookings and Yankton and Mitchell and, of course, Sioux Falls. And as part of our referral network, a lot of the dentists we work with also belong to that program as well, and that’s where we get to do oral surgery, get these people rehabilitated. The dentist gets to do operative dentistry, save what teeth they can, and a lot of times, they are going to need partial dentures or dentures and that’s where the labs get involved, and they do a lot of their work for free as well. And this gets the working poor basically rehabilitated and getting a healthy mouth. They don’t have pain anymore, they don’t have infections anymore, they have a nice smile, and it gives them a lot of confidence that they didn’t use to have. They also don’t miss a lot of work anymore, they don’t miss a lot of time with their kids, they’re not in the emergency room, so it’s a good program. I think if I remember the numbers right, it’s something like 1200 or 1800 people have cycled through the program.
Bill Zortman: 1735 since 1998 and 196 volunteered dentists.
Dennis Miller: Yep.
Bill Zortman: When you start looking at that and just to be a number dropper, 5.2 million and currently 87 active patients, which means there’s people that need help.
Dennis Miller: Right, and I think the waiting list is depending on how you want to count — anywhere between 100 to 400 on the waiting list to get through the program. I think South Dakota’s got around 400 general dentists, so it’s good to see at least half of the dental community is participating in the program. So, I think nationally those are fantastic numbers so hats off to the dental community, the lab community, in South Dakota for doing something to give back.
Bill Zortman: Dr. Dennis Miller, Dr. Lou George, Siouxland Oral Surgery. When we talk about this, you guys are constantly working to make sure that the smiles look good, the people feel better, and they’re happier to be in South Dakota. How does Siouxland Oral Surgery fit into this? And you’ve got a referral network, you’ve got a lot of things. It’s not just the two of you or your staff working; you’ve got a lot of people working together in South Dakota.
Lou George: Teamwork is a very important approach to this, Bill. As we’ve mentioned many times in the past, most of our patients don’t just pick up the phone and randomly call us out of the blue. They are sent to us by our referring dentists, orthodontists, endodontists, physicians in the community who know that we are going to do an excellent job for these folks. So, the teamwork aspect of our approach to oral rehabilitation is very paramount, and the role of those people who work with us, those folks that I just mentioned, cannot be overstated — it’s impossible. Our role is basically to step in and do what needs to be done on a surgical level and either get the patient back to their referring dentist or get them to the appropriate place where they need to be before they return to their dentist to treat whatever comorbidities they have going on. We’re just very happy to be part of this big wheel, and we appreciate everyone who calls us or refers to us.
Bill Zortman: We know that the big spoke is Sioux Falls, but you guys also go to Mitchell, Brookings, and Yankton. It’s important that people understand that it’s not just one community; it’s a bevy of communities around this great state.
Lou George: Well, that’s a very good point that you mentioned that, Bill, because we’ve often stated that one of the main reasons we go out there is to reach these folks who it’s no easy task for them just to hop in their car and head to Sioux Falls. So, the question always remains, why come all the way to Sioux Falls when we’re the only surgical specialists in Brookings, in Yankton, in Mitchell? That’s what we do, and that’s why we’re going up there, is to help the folks in these communities. We’re proud to say we’ve been going there for quite some time in each of those locations.
Bill Zortman: Siouxland Oral Surgery, who should come? Who should look for services?
Dennis Miller: If you’re looking for specialty services, such as the removal of wisdom teeth, bone reductions, dental implants, things that aren’t typically taught in dental school that are taught at the residency level, those would be the main ones right there. If you’re being ruled in or ruled out for surgical correction of sleep apnea or temporomandibular joint disorders or facial disorders, we’d get referred over to us to either say, “Yes, you’re a candidate or a patient to have this managed surgically,” or “No, you’re more of a patient that should be managed non-surgically.” And for the vast majority of those patients, they are managed non-surgically, but our job is to do the evaluation, take the X-rays, interpret everything, and then use the knowledge that we learned in residency. That’s what we went there for — for four years, six years — to be able to give patients all of their options. That’s probably what I’d like to hammer home today is that as a specialist, we can give people the entire range of options. So, let’s pick on dental implants, for example. We can have long ones, we can have short ones. We can have about 10 different types of grafting. We can do nerve repositionings. We can go into sinuses where other people cannot. So, when we offer people options, we can give them the full range of them, and that’s really very important when you’re trying to get proper consent to do procedures. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, whereas we’ve got a big tool box. We’ve got nails and screws and nuts and bolts and jackhammers and all kinds of stuff. You probably don’t want to know all that but anyways, the idea is that you have all your options. And I think over the years — my lord, I’ve been at this for 19 years, just about; I graduated in ’98 — so, for the viewers, I’m kind of halfway through my practice now. I’ve got 17 years left to go, guys, and then I retire. So anyways, we tie things together. I think that’s one of the things I’ve learned in that period of time is it’s not just oral surgery. We have so many people that come and they have been given one or two options — one or two stories, let’s say — to take care of their particular problem, and then we kind of tie in everything that we learned in residency, which means things that we learned on rotation from other residencies like ENT and anesthesia and plastics and general surgery, and we combine all those little bits and pieces of information so that patient has something that they can wrap their head around and understand where they belong in that context. Almost every week, I get someone that says “Wow, about time someone tied this all together for me.” So maybe that’s the essence of what I wanted to talk about today, and it was a nice little segue how you got me there.
Bill Zortman: Well, I did my best. You guys have quite the big tool box, and you do have a study club where you share on pretty much a monthly basis with others that can help a lot of people throughout this area.
Dennis Miller: Yeah, coming up in September, October, November, we’re going to be talking about stem cells from teeth and how stem cells are being used to treat different conditions and experimentally make teeth in the experimental model. So, 20/30 years from now, they’ll probably be able to make some kind of a tooth that would actually look like a tooth and you could use. We’re going to be talking about medical malpractice and close case summaries, and we’re going to be talking about periodontics and different surgeries. And then in the winter months, we’re going to be talking more about implants, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, and one of the favorites is real stories from the ER. So, we have a lot of things going on that it’s always a lot of fun. Typically, 30 to 50 people come, and they have a good two-hour presentation from local educators and leaders and regional ones, as well as national ones.
Bill Zortman: You got a little chatty today on us. Dr. George, what has he left out in his toolbox?
Dennis Miller: I’m not coughing anymore. That’s why I have to make up for the last one.
Lou George: I was going to say I think he covered the whole toolbox. I can chirp in quickly with a point to kind of augment that. You mentioned dental implants earlier so we’ll use that as the frame to discuss. A lot of folks when they come in, one of their biggest concerns is not whether they think they would like dental implants or even if they want dental implants, it’s can they afford dental implants. It’s very important. I always say, aside from medical competency, the two biggest things that patients are worried about is time and finance. We really try to make both of those aspects very easy. Both Dr. Miller and I at Siouxland Oral Surgery offer free implant consultations where we go in, we sit, we review the case with the patient, give them other options and then give them a very competitive price compared to the other folks here in the city and in the state. So, please do not let the thought of dental implants scare you off from a financial aspect. We do many large cases, and we work with our patients to make sure that they’re not financially strapped and that they’re very happy with the outcome of their work. Otherwise, we wouldn’t still be doing as many as Dr. Miller and I do. That’s just my take-home point for the day. Please come in for the consultation, let us talk to you about it, let us present things to you, and I think you’re going to be very pleasantly surprised with the final numbers and the final result.
Bill Zortman: Siouxland Oral Surgery, Dr. George, Dr. Miller. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis Miller: Thanks for having us.
Lou George: Thank you.