Dentists spend most of their waking hours in their practices, so they usually don’t get many opportunities to see what it’s like inside another doctor’s office. Dentaltown magazine’s recurring Office Visit profile offers a chance for Townies to meet their peers, hear their stories and get a sense of their practice protocols.
This month features Dr. Jerry M. Rosenberg, a dentist in private practice in Jamesburg, New Jersey. Rosenberg was randomly selected from all the Townies who completed their ballots in the 2018 Townie Choice Awards. In addition to appearing on the cover of this issue, he also received a $1,000 prize from Dentaltown magazine.
You’ve been practicing dentistry for 35 years!
Let’s go back to when and where it all began:
Growing up, most of the men in my family were accountants. I liked working with numbers, but I also liked science a lot while I was in school. Something in health care attracted me.
When I was in college at Rutgers University, I joined the pre-dental society to learn more about dentistry. I volunteered at a local hospital dental clinic and spent a summer working in a private practice. The idea of working for myself, being my own boss and helping rebuild smiles attracted me to dentistry.
Right after dental school, I went to work for another dentist in the small, cute town of Jamesburg, New Jersey. While I was working for him, I met my wife, Vickie, who became my best friend, and my partner in life and business. We got married, bought a beautiful brick house on the busiest corner in town, and started a practice from scratch.
Other than attending dental school in Pennsylvania,
you’ve spent most of your life in New Jersey, and you’ve been involved in the local community as long as you’ve practiced in it. Tell us about Jamesburg then and now.
My wife and I became very involved in the community: We coached soccer, helped start and run soccer tournaments in town, and organized local events. I became a board of education member. My wife was in the local women’s book club, helped organize the 100th anniversary celebration of Jamesburg, and also raised our children and worked in the business. Jamesburg is one of those Americana towns where everyone knows everyone, and at any given time walking downtown, we could hear, “Hi, doc! I think I have a cavity!”
The building had some renovations in recent years, including making it accessible to people with disabilities. You also offer transportation arrangements. Have you always had such an inclusive style for your patients?
Living and having our practice in the same town has provided the benefit of knowing our neighbors and patients through community activities, or just seeing them out in the evening while on a walk. Our practice demographics are very interesting—50?percent moms, dads and their kids, and 50?percent from the area’s 55-and-over communities—people in their 80s, 90s and even some more than 100. Any given day, we’ll have pediatric patients sitting next to patients in their 90s.
We see a lot of interesting medically compromised patients, with our medical community coming up with new treatments and medications every week. We pride ourselves in giving safe treatment and coordinating treatment with their families, if needed.
Your practice is sandwiched by about five other practices
to the east and southwest of you, all within a few miles. How do you stay competitive and successful in your area?
The key to our success is our team. At least once or twice a day I get a compliment about them.
Let’s talk about how we handle insurance for our patients. Occasionally, I’ll see a post from a Townie on the message boards saying that patients should know the ins and outs of their insurance plans and deal with any problems with it. The idea that this responsibility falls back on the patient is one of the most insane statements I’ve heard. My office has been reviewing insurance plans for 32 years, and insurance companies are constantly coming up with new, complex rules. We believe it’s our job to do that research for our patients. Debbie Gonzales, our scheduler/receptionist, and Karen Chen, our insurance coordinator, spend a lot of time working with insurance companies to know the coverages and maximize the benefits. We advocate for our patients!
In the clinical area, Leila Sigle has been with us for 18 years as a registered dental assistant. She knows all the patients, and in addition to great assisting skills, she’s very empathetic to what they’re going through. She’ll hold their hands, and she’ll come to me with suggestions on how to deal with specific issues. She’s an extremely qualified and caring individual.
Our hygienist, Joanna Masiello, is one of the best I’ve ever worked with in all my time practicing. She is thorough in her treatment, which includes not just scaling but also giving home care instructions and caring about how the patient’s mouth is doing. She is great with suggestions to improve our patients’ oral health; they feel very complete with her care.
We also try to make appointments that work with the patients’ schedules. We always treat emergencies that same day, and stay current on any patient medical changes.
You finished up a dental mission to Uganda in 2018,
and you’re planning another next year. What drove you and your wife to embark on such an endeavor?
Other than family and sailing, our passion has been getting involved with the Amaroho Homes, which house former street children. The pastor of our church, the Rev. Terry Chapman, met the founder of these homes, Caleb Rukundo, 10 years ago while he was visiting Africa and they struck up a friendship, which was the beginning of Amaroho Homes. Since then, Terry has made five trips to Uganda to bring water filtration systems to the rural areas. Vickie and I were introduced to Caleb in August 2017, and when he found out I was a dentist, he asked whether we would come to Uganda to help his children with dental needs, because most of them had never seen a dentist.
Vickie and I were intrigued, but we told Caleb that we knew very little about what it would take to complete a dental mission so far away. Caleb and Terry told us we could do it, and the seed was planted in our minds—we had 11 months to plan a dental mission from scratch.
We had a lot of fun researching how to “do” a mission; we read multiple books on the subject, and were lucky enough to be put in contact with two dentists who were very experienced in mission dentistry. Dr. Bruce Cunningham, a Townie who practices in Jacksonville, Alabama, and Dr. Gayle Cheetwood of Holtville, California, were my mentors through the next year, and in July 2018 we left for Uganda with 12 team members.
We were in Uganda for 12 days and screened 110 children from two homes. Our procedures included extractions, composite fillings, silver diamide fluoride treatment to arrest decay, and lots of oral hygiene instruction, as well as toothbrushes, paste and floss for each child. In addition, our team distributed water-filtration units to the rural areas.
We also collected and brought more than 75 pounds of Legos donated from friends and strangers—sometimes they were just left at our front door! We also gathered jump ropes, balls, Frisbees, etc., that were donated along with much-needed medical supplies.
After our mission was complete and successful, we realized how much love and joy we received by going through this experience. Our friendships with Caleb, his staff and all of the children are ongoing—we feel they are “our children” now as well, and want to see them all moving forward in their lives. Vickie and I will be returning to the homes in 2019 to see our friends again and to conduct another dental mission. We’re donating our $1,000 prize from Dentaltown to the Amaroho Homes to help supplement their much-needed medical supplies, and we’ll be opening the mission to also provide dental work in the surrounding rural communities.
(Editor’s note: Townies who are interested in Dr. Rosenberg’s mission can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The mission will accept supplies, donations and even willing new team members.
What is an average day like at your office?
There is no “average day”: We start and finish at a different time every day of the week. This lets us accommodate people’s schedules. We’ve found this way of operating actually accommodates everyone better than the traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There’s always a morning meeting to discuss the day. The first thing I do is ask a “Fact or Crap” trivia question, courtesy of a board game my wife got me as a Christmas present. These are the most stupid trivia questions, and everyone gets an early morning chuckle to start the day. I think everyone else hates it, but I get a kick out of it!
My day will be a mixture of restorative, crown and bridge, implants, treatment planning, occasional extractions and checking hygiene patients. The schedule is always fluid, because the best plans can always change.
Your wife, Vickie, is your practice’s business manager.
How did you two meet and how did she come to work in such an integral part of the practice?
Vickie and I met in 1985. She was a single mother who enrolled her son in the local children’s soccer program the same time I was looking into a weekend adult soccer group. We both are “get involved” type of people. She was asked to be secretary of the club, and I was asked to be president. Thirty-two years later, I can say that was one of the best things I have ever done, and I know she feels the same way!
Vickie had extensive background in business and organizational skills, and from that it was a perfect fit for us to open and run the business together. She has worked all the positions of the practice at some point, and can fill in for anyone who might be out on a particular day. She’s expert in taking care of our building, whether it’s routine maintenance, upgrades to the building, or making the gardening look pleasant for anyone coming to our office. She’s integral to the practice’s success, and the patients love her!
What is something you would like to see dentistry
do better as a profession in the next 10–15 years?
It would be wonderful to see implants and bone grafts integrate faster, to complete cases quicker. In today’s world we never rush the healing ... but faster would be better. I will tell a patient that implants are a wonderful treatment for replacing teeth, but there are some patients that don’t want to wait for the time that it could sometimes take to finish a case. “I want it now” is how a lot of people live their lives.
I’m in an implant study group in central New Jersey run by a wonderful oral surgeon, Dr. Marten Ladman, and with a group of restorative dentists who keep on the cutting edge of implant research. I am always keeping my ears open for breakthroughs for faster treatment. I think it will still be many years down the road for the treatment time to get significantly shorter.
You’re a bit of a CE nut, and you’re always trying to take courses from a diverse range of topics. Which area or topic have you learned the most about?
I’ve learned the most about implants and digital dentistry. I’m in a progressive continuing education group called Forum for Advanced Dental Studies that meets once a month and covers a range of topics. In addition, a number of us will travel to implant conferences around the country a few times per year to bring the most updated information to our patients.
What are some of the most welcome technological advancements you’ve seen as a dentist?
I love my ScanX phosphor plate X-ray system. Being able to expand and show a patient an X-ray on a 20-inch screen instead of the old small X-rays is such a helping hand. (This shows my age!)
I love the way dentistry has become digitized. We’re able to show a virtual wax-up from any angle on a computer to review with the patient. Awesome! The fit of crowns these days is much better than in the 1980s and ’90s.
With the new zirconia crowns, we don’t have to be concerned about porcelain chipping or fracturing. Our practice seems to have many patients with moderate to severe bruxism, and zirconia lets me sleep at night when I place them in my patients.
What’s your favorite patient story to tell?
A little background to this story: We encourage patients to take care of the work that we have done for them by always keeping on track with their recall appointments. We are quite successful in getting a lot of our patients to understand and appreciate the importance of maintenance. They “get it.” Nonetheless, it is a frustration of ours that we have some patients who don’t keep up with their recall visits and, inevitably, pay the price. (Some just won’t listen!)
Well, one elderly female patient was coming for her recall but fell in the parking lot. Skinned knees and bleeding quite a bit, she stated, “I want my cleaning today with Joanna! You have told me how important it is, and I believe you, Dr. Jerry!” She was in pretty bad shape, so ironically, I had to talk her into rescheduling and going to urgent care to get treated. It would be awesome if every patient was like that.
What gives you the most professional satisfaction?
Treating fear cases. On occasion, we will have new patients who are extremely fearful of dentistry, saying they think we’ll never be able to treat them. Vickie or Debbie will take the new patient information, then advise me of his or her strong fear. When scheduling, we know to leave extra time for these patients; when they come through the front door, they’re greeted warmly, and with understanding of their anxiety. They’re gently escorted into the clinical area, where Leila and I work hand in hand to determine what they’re most fearful of. With time and kindness, we’re always successful in helping patients start to undergo treatment. I can look back on fearful patients who first came in 20 years ago and are swimming through all different kinds of treatment now. This is less frequent but highly satisfying.
Sailing is one of your passions. How did you get into it?
Tell us about your boat and your best day on the water.
My dad, Harvey, learned to sail while he was growing up in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and he taught me how to sail when I was a teenager. Vickie learned to sail when she vacationed in Maine as a child. While we were growing the practice and more involved in our hometown community, we didn’t get to sail much, but about 15 years ago we purchased a small summer home on the Barnegat Bay and said, “We’re back!”
We have a 31-foot Hunter sailboat, and a 26-foot Striper for going fast and for fishing. Whether I’m racing on my sailboat with some of my buddies or Vickie and I are sailing down to our favorite anchoring hole near the Barnegat Bay lighthouse, there’s nothing like being on the water for relaxation and getting away from it all.
What are your other passions?
We love spending time with our family. We have two children, Ryan and Annie, and their families, who live within an hour of our home, and one beautiful granddaughter, Adeline. Everyone has activities in their lives, which we try to enjoy with them as much as possible. When they come to our house, it involves games, boating, fishing, crabbing and just spending time together. Soon, the whole family will be going to Croatia together to sail around the Adriatic for a week on a 44-foot catamaran. This has been a dream for a long time and we are all very excited to spend the week together.