5 insights from 1 dentist's 60-year career

Richard Hess, DDS, has seen several changes take place in the dental industry during his career, the Daily Journal reported March 11. 

Dr. Hess has practiced dentistry in Kankakee, Ill., for 60 years. He served as a captain in the U.S. Army Dental Corps from 1962 to 1966 and taught at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry in Chicago for seven years. He was president of the Kankakee Dental Society and the Illinois Dental Society and was chair of the Illinois dental board.

He reflected on his career and the dental industry with the news organization.

Five insights:

1. Community involvement. Dr. Hess said he has enjoyed meeting people during his career, including during his time working for the state board of examiners and connecting with his patients. He does not take on new patients, but continues to serve longtime patients and generations of families.

2. Practice ownership. Dr. Hess said it was common for dentists to immediately open their own practices after graduating from dental school, but it is now easier to join corporate dental practices because of the amount of student debt dentists incur.

3. Technology. Dr. Hess has witnessed the evolution of dental technology over the years, telling the news organization that high-speed dental drills did not exist until his senior year of college. Low-speed, belt-driven handpieces were instead used to treat cavities.

4. Staffing. Dental hygienists were uncommon in the industry when Dr. Hess entered the field and patients were reluctant to receive teeth cleanings from a hygienist. Dr. Hess also noted that more women are in the industry than when he graduated from the University of Illinois in 1962, when there was only one female student out of 90. About 54.5 percent of dentists in the U.S. today are women.

5. Insurance. Dr. Hess told the news organization that only 5 percent of patients had dental insurance when he first opened his practice, but now about 5 percent of his patients are uninsured.

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