Learn About PDM’s Unique Approach to Restorative Dentistry

We recently had the chance to interview Dr. David Hershkowitz, Penn Dental Medicine’s newest restorative dental care provider. Dr. Hershkowitz is board certified and NYS-licensed in general anesthesia and parenteral sedation. Below, you’ll find the details about how Dr. Herkowitz came to practice general dentistry, why he loves being at Penn Dental Medicine, and what brings patients to seek restorative care. 

1. Can you tell us a little about your background?

Headshot of Dr. HershkowitzI would describe myself as a family man, first and foremost. I’ve been married to my beautiful wife Cindy for thirty-three years. I have three grown children, Alan, Julie, and Nicole, who continue to amaze me to this day. And I’m from New York.

Professionally, I went to college and graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a bachelor’s of science in health science. That’s also where I got my certificate in anesthesia as an Anesthesia Assistant (Certified Anesthesia Assistant Program). The certification gave me a level equivalent to a CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Assistant) in 14 different states. 

I spent the last 18 months of my undergraduate career in a hospital doing different types of anesthesia training with medical doctors and residents. Then I went on to the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, which is where I decided to combine my dental degree with my training in anesthesia. I went into an anesthesia residency program at the Hospital of Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia back in 1986. 

I combined my anesthesia training with general dentistry in my private practice for 27 years. During this time I was wanting to teach young doctors, so I became a part-time faculty member at the State University of Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine. I covered their clinic and helped the students see patients. Eventually I was asked to run the fourth year predoctoral dental clinical program, which I did for about eight years. I also acted as the Director of Urgent Care, which is also known as emergency services.

Before I left Stony Brook, I was made Director of Anesthesia to help bring the institution into compliance to train residents in the certification program. In 2008, I went to NYU as the Associate Chairman of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care. My responsibilities included predoctoral, clinical education, and the management of the faculty in the department. I did that for a number of years while maintaining my private practice, until I sold it about four years ago.

This October, I became Associate Professor of Clinical Dentistry and Chief of the Division of Restorative Dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. 

2. What motivated you to pursue dentistry and, in particular, your specialty?

For me it became quite simple once I was working in anesthesia at Case Western Reserve University. Not many people in the world are able to relieve someone’s physical pain and restore their confidence at the same time. 

When you see a person walk into the room with a beautiful, big smile, it just brightens up the place! I realized that I wanted to help people attain a smile that emanates confidence and alleviates discomfort. My anesthesia training combined with general dentistry allowed me to do both, which is why I decided to go into general dentistry.

3. For readers who might not be familiar with general dentistry, what makes this different from other dental specialties?

General dentistry refers to both management and the procedures we perform to keep patients’ mouths healthy and functional. General dentistry includes preventive measures to ensure oral health as well as restorative care — implants, crowns, fillings, etc. 

Restorative care is aimed at improving the overall function and appearance of one’s smile and can lead to cosmetic dentistry procedures when desired.

4. How have you seen your specialty change since you began practicing general dentistry?

The field has changed, as most things have in medical and dental care since I entered the field. It used to be that any kind of decay was treated by picking up the drill to intervene surgically. Over the years, we stopped doing that. Now we have minimally-invasive dentistry. Cariology and cariogenesis have come to the forefront of dentistry treatment. We use remineralization techniques; we know how to use dental implants to replace missing teeth instead of placing fixed bridges. 

Cosmetic dentistry has blossomed. There are so many ways to enhance people’s smiles and instill confidence. And now, digital dentistry. You can scan the mouth to make a prosthesis; you can use a 3-D printer to fabricate what the patient needs right in the office rather than taking old-fashioned impressions.

Digital dentistry is changing the entire way we practice and is becoming a standard of care. Now you can just scan the mouth. An hour and a half later, you place the prosthesis and it’s all done. 

 5. What is the favorite part of your work?

For me it’s not the procedures; my favorite part is the relationships I form with my patients. You can start out treating one person and then years later you’re treating their children. 

I stayed in general dentistry for that family atmosphere. When you get to know patients over a quarter of a century, you become a part of their lives. So when they come in for treatment, you discuss the kids’ birthdays, the ball game, etc. It’s a real privilege when another human being allows you to take care of them. Only a handful of people in the world get to do this. 

With our student dentists at Penn, the work is all about helping them to become doctors. I don’t just mean professionals who work in the mouth. I’m talking about holistic doctors who have empathy and confidence, and possess that special something that the public wants them to have. When our student dentists become doctors, we hope that the way they treat and care for patients will affect the entire profession. 

6. What originally brought you to Penn Dental?

The University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine is one of only three Ivy league dental schools in the country. That’s out of a total of 66 accredited schools in the United States and Canada. 

It’s a chance to be a part of a team of faculty, staff, and students who believe that taking care of our patients with clinical excellence begins with an excellent clinical education. Serving as a faculty member at Penn is a way to have an impact on the entire dental profession and make a difference in the community and even the world.

7. What makes Penn Dental unique?

Our dean is a widely recognized leader and researcher. We attract the brightest minds in faculty and students alike. Because of this, Penn Dental Medicine is a leader in patient care and dental education right now.

8. How would potential patients know they need to seek out general dental treatment?

You know that saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? It couldn’t be truer. You shouldn’t wait until something goes wrong. Everyone should seek out dental care and visit their dentist for preventive purposes. 

When there’s a problem you’re unhappy and you know something’s wrong, so you go to seek out treatment. But prevention is really the key. You shouldn’t wait. It’s like going to your physician to get a physical each year, or getting the vaccine for the flu. By going to the dentist on a regular basis, you can prevent the disease process from starting.  

The Dalai Lama once said that happiness is the highest form of health. And you’re happy when you’re not sick. Hence, prevention.

9. What is something fun about you that your patients might not know?

You wouldn’t know it now, but back as a teen I used to study martial arts. I took a form of karate that kept me in shape and helped me gain confidence. I actually won a national championship in fighting form when I was 14 years old. I went to a tournament and won four out of five matches and was a national champion in the union division. I still have the trophy to this day!

10. What final advice or words of wisdom would you offer to readers?

I’m very excited about being here. Every day I wake up happy to go to work. I’d like to encourage people to come visit us at PDM. You will surely find (as I have) that our staff is friendly and eager to help you. 

Our students strive to deliver the best patient care, all of which is overseen by the most prestigious doctors in the world. There’s no better place to seek oral health care advice, maintenance, and treatment. You shouldn’t have to wait until something goes wrong. You should come before that can happen. 

Restorative Dental Care at Penn Dental Medicine 

If you’re seeking superior quality dentistry at affordable prices, then look no further than Penn Dental Medicine. We offer general dentistry services that range from preventive to restorative care.

All procedures are performed by student dentists who are overseen by our experienced faculty members, such as Dr. Hershkowitz. If it’s been awhile since you’ve come in for your annual dental visit, we invite you to make an appointment by calling 215-898-8965. You can also learn more about the affordability of our comprehensive care by downloading our eBook on the subject!

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