For those suffering from an extremely difficult-to-treat disorder, specialization can be a wonderful thing. For the majority of dental patients, however, having access to a dentist who can comprehensively diagnose, treat and prevent a variety of concerns can be simply beautiful.
The father-and-son team behind Thorndale Dental Associates, Dr. Richard DeForno and Dr. Patrick DeForno, offer a wide variety of services including basic care, restorative, cosmetic and implant dentistry, ZOOM teeth whitening and treatment of sleep apnea. Their practice relies on the latest advancements in technology to address many patients’ concerns in the office—and many times in only one visit—including cone-beam technology that enables the pair to evaluate patients for dental implants, crowns that can be made in their on-site laboratory using CAD/CAM technology and Invisalign clear plastic aligners that can be used to address many patients’ orthodontic needs.
“We stay up on the latest advancements,” Dr. Patrick says. “What will be standard of care in 10 years? That’s where we want to be now. I like to be in a practice where we are doing the best we can for people.”
Dr. Patrick was drawn to a career in dentistry after serving two years as his father’s chairside assistant and being able to watch many fascinating procedures being performed. After graduating from Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry, Dr. Patrick returned to Thorndale Dental Associates because he was impressed by seeing patients who had been returning to his father for care the last 20 and 30 years.
Dr. Richard had once worked alongside his own father—an auto mechanic. “I rebuilt an engine at age 13 using the Chilton Manual,” he says. “I liked mechanics but not the environment.” Prompted by a college counselor he took the aptitude test for dentistry and quickly discovered he enjoyed working with patients.
Since graduation, both DeFornos have remained avid learners. “The Pennsylvania Dental Board only requires 25 hours every couple of years and that is all most do,” Dr. Richard says. “I found that the more I learned, the more exciting it became to do. Your skills get better.” He dedicates approximately 150 hours each year to continuing his education, much of it at the Pennsylvania Academy of General Dentistry’s PEAK Program.
Forty years ago, Dr. Lindsey D. Pankey Sr. had a national and international reputation in dentistry as a world-class restorative pioneer and educator. He was a passionate advocate of comprehensive, patient-centered dentistry. The Pankey Institute was created so that he and several colleagues could offer post-graduate education in “complete dentistry” to their peers. The concept of complete dentistry addresses “not just teeth and gums” but also positive behavioral influence, occlusion, functional aesthetic dentistry, complex diagnosis and treatment planning, explains Dr. Richard, who was mentored by one of the institute’s founders. “He began this at a time when many were not open to sharing their knowledge.”
Doctors attending the L D Pankey Institute and the PEAK events present cases to one another, listen to speakers from around the country and share with their peers. “Some of best times I have spent, as far as learning a skill or about a new piece of equipment, have been at the Institute and PEAK,” Dr. Richard says. “The time spent after lectures when we get to sit and talk with our cohorts, hear about their struggles and get their feedback is a tremendous experience.” Dr. Patrick attended his first week long L D Pankey Continuum, and his second five day PEAK event where he made his first presentation to the group. “It is a joy for a father to see him do so well,” Dr. Richard says of his son.
Their understanding of comprehensive care is what enables Thorndale Dental Associates to offer such a broad range of services. “We do work a lot with local specialists,” Dr. Richard says, including “great oral surgeons, orthodontists, periodontists and endodontists.” In the 1970s, however, when such specialists were not as widely available, he learned to perform in specialties including pediodontics and endodontics in order to better serve his patients.
He says the field is changing, with technology allowing general dentists to accomplish much more, and patients are benefitting as a result. “Our focus is on keeping teeth and preserving their function. We used to have to rely on partial dentures and complete dentures to replace missing teeth but can now offer implantology.” Cone-beam technology now allows the dentists at Thorndale Dental Associates to evaluate a patient for an implant and to complete the placement of an implant within 20 to 30 minutes. “We used to have to guess about nerve location and bone density, now we can see it,” he says. Cone-beam technology enables general dentists to place implants fairly easy.
Other technologies the staff is experienced with include digital impressions and CAD/CAM technology that allows a crown to be made in one day. “It is more accurate [than taking physical impressions],” Dr. Richard says. “Getting 3-D models printed takes out human error.” Same-day service is a specialty of Thorndale Dental Associates and an area in which Dr. Patrick is specifically educated. Even root canals, cores and crowns that used to require five one- to one-and-a-half-hour visits can now be completed same day in a matter of two to three hours. “Patients struggle with time away from work,” Dr. Patrick says. “To go from one specialist to another and another for treatment is three days out of work.”
According to clinical administrator, Stephanie Sands, other ways that Thorndale Dental Associates strives to offer a more patient-friendly experience include offering juice, coffee and paraffin wax treatments. The office also provides a separate space for kids to play while waiting. Thorndale Dental also bakes cookies daily for each of their patients. “Patients always look forward to the cookies,” she says. “We began offering them at the front desk six or seven years ago as a way to try to change the sensory experience of the dental office and take patients mind off of dentistry.”
During examinations and procedures patients are also given access to massage chairs, blankets, headsets that allow them to listen to music, nitrous oxide or oral and IV sedation to allow for anxiety free dentistry and heated cloth towels for their use after.
“Anxiety is a huge concern,” Dr. Richard says. “As many as 50 percent of dental patients have anxiety about visits, a lot of efforts were started 30 years ago to improve that.” Thanks in part to the skills he learned at the Pankey Institute, Dr. Richard is able to offer many ways to ease patients concerns at Thorndale Dental Associates.
The office is designed so patients are given a view of a picture window so from the chair they do not see any apparatus. The doctors explain procedures using educational videos and photos that help to take fear away by showing patients precisely what they can expect. The verbiage used is also clear and honest but avoids words that cause anxiety. Dr. Richard says kids relate well to this and do better because they do not get alarmed. “A relaxed patient is easier to treat,” he says.
Thorndale Dental Associates also offers a health savings plan to any patient who does not have a dental plan. For a cost of $295, Sands says patients receive two cleanings a year, X-rays, a VELscope exam along with a 10 percent discount on any restorative work.
Helping people is a mantra that extends beyond the office. Dr. Patrick volunteers his time doing dental exams and teaching oral health at the local schools, for individual who often have no other access to care. “I enjoy being able to help them out,” he says. “It is important and it is one of main reasons I chose this field. If I examine someone with a broken tooth, I can provide them with a new one within an hour. There are few other areas where you can have that immediate gratification.”
His is not the only charitable work taking place at Thorndale Dental Associates though. This year the staff has been active in charity work, as well. “We put them in charge of coming up with an idea or two a month to follow up on, a project that is dental or community related,” says Sands. So far the staff has adopted a local road, organized a food drive, collected for Toys for Tots and offered a Halloween candy buy-back which donated the sweets to military members.
“I am surrounded with bright and positive people,” Dr. Richard says, referring not only to his staff, but the patients of Thorndale Dental Associates as well.
Thorndale Dental Associates
3105 C. G. Zinn Road
Thorndale, PA 19372
<a target=_blank href=http://thorndaledental.com>www.thorndaledental.com</a>
Photograph by Jody Robinson