Tucked away in leafy Pennington is one of the area’s most forward-thinking dentistry practices.
Dr. Paul Goodman — one of three Dr. Goodmans plying their trade in the Pennington Dental Associates office — says people shouldn’t let the small-town setting fool them into thinking they’ll get country dentist service. The practice is situated in a former residential building, but once patients are inside, they see how the facility has been transformed over the years to provide the latest in dental care, from the technology and techniques being used right down to the customer service.
An area where care has been developing rapidly in the last decade is dental implants, and Goodman, along with periodontist Dr. Steven Sierakowski, has been establishing himself and his practice as a leader in the field.
Goodman joined the practice in 2005. Other dentists on the staff are Dr. David Goodman (Paul’s father), Dr. Jeffrey Goodman (Paul’s brother), and Dr. Gerald Sternberg.
In addition to practicing with his family, Paul Goodman teaches residents at Albert Einstein Medical Center and lectures to other dentists throughout the country on the topic of dental implants. He completed three years of postgraduate training at Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he served as chief resident of the general practice residency.
Goodman and Sierakowski met at Villanova University, where they were in the seven-year dental program together. They both spent three years at Villanova and four at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine.
Sierakowski became a periodontist, specializing in gum tissue and bones around the teeth, while Goodman specialized in general dentistry. Together they have developed a keen interest in dental implants.
An implant, in the simplest terms, can be seen as an alternative to a root canal. Most candidates for implants are over the age of 45. Patients who receive implants have their teeth extracted, after which titanium posts are implanted into the jawbone, essentially serving the role of the root. The posts then can support crowns, bridges or dentures.
Though Sierakowski has a practice of his own — Brandywine Periodontics in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania — he also spends Mondays at Pennington Dental Associates, working with Goodman on patients’ implants. As a periodontist, Sierakowski is responsible for the part of the implant below the gumline, and Goodman works on the part above.
That arrangement is typical of the way dentistry works. But what’s not necessarily typical is giving patients the option to have everything taken care of at one site, as they do at Pennington Dental Associates.
“In the traditional referral model, patients go out to a specialist and then come back,” Goodman said. “There’s nothing wrong with that — that’s how Dr. Steve works with his regular practice. But when I joined here, I realized if we could offer some specialty within the practice, it would be very convenient for patients.”
Periodontal care — including implants — has turned out to be that specialty. Sierakowski readily sees the positives in spending one day per week and some Saturdays in Pennington.
“Paul and I have known each other such a long time, and as far as treatment philosophy we are on the same page,” Sierakowski said. “All three of us — Paul, me, and the patient — can all be in the same room at the same point, can talk from soup to nuts about what the treatment is going to involve, whether it’s routine periodontal treatment or implant treatment.”
Goodman says patients might be surprised to learn they can receive the levels of service at Pennington Dental Associates that he and his colleagues offer.
“For implant treatment, you might think you’d have to go to Philadelphia or New York,” he said. “When I was first here, we might do implants on a monthly basis, but now we do it almost on a daily basis.”
Because implants are relatively new, patients aren’t always sure whether they are the best option for them. Many patients are also concerned about cost, but Goodman said many find the cost lower than they had expected — comparable to the cost of a three-tooth bridge. He also said many of the insurance companies they work with now cover implants.
It takes time for implants to set fully in the jawbone (one reason the process is not always recommended for patients whose bones aren’t finished growing). The process used to take six to nine months from start to finish, but today, Goodman said, many are done in three or four.
A typical candidate for an implant might be someone between the ages of 50 and 80 who has an old root canal, crown fracture, or decay that makes the tooth nonrestorable. People who have sustained trauma to their teeth, such as Kate Kocik, patient care coordinator at Pennington Dental, may also be candidates for implants.
As patient care coordinator, Kocik offers another level of service for clients as they try to understand their treatment options. When it comes to implants, Kocik can empathize with patients perhaps more than most in her position. Though Kocik is under 45, she has suffered trauma that necessitated she have implant work done.
Before she worked at Pennington Dental, she had some implants done traditionally — dentist, oral surgeon, two different offices. She also admits she was a very nervous patient, so the first time she got implants, the procedure was done while she was sedated.
Kocik needed more implants in 2013, and got them done at Pennington Dental Associates, without sedation. If she could do it, she tells patients, then so could they, because she was as apprehensive as they come.
Many patients express concern that the implant process will be painful. To Goodman, having someone on staff who has been through the process is invaluable for patients.
“People see us like the dentist — they think of Kate as a ‘normal person,’” he said. “If we can decrease the phobia, it’s good for everybody. There’s nothing wrong with (sedation), but it makes the case more complex. There’s some risk with anesthesia.”
Once patients take the plunge and have the work done, he said, they usually realize they can handle the pain.
“If we change a patient’s mindset (about fear), they can be changed forever,” he said.
Pennington Dental Associates, 31 North Main Street, Pennington. 609-737-0288. penningtondentalcenter.com.