So let’s say you are a sculptor in the 16th Century- yeah I know that’s a strange opening but go with me for a minute. Let’s say you are committed to creating the most exquisite sculptures possible and that you meet with the other sculptors in your town to exchange notes and techniques- although you suspect that that one artisan from the hamlet next door is feeding you bogus information on bronze work. You keep up on all the latest advances in metallurgy, stone cutting and anatomy of the human body…… you even subscribe to “Marble Monthly” just to see what the other craftsmen around the world are doing.

And let’s say you hear about this dude Michelangelo who works in Italy and has produced some of the most awe inspiring sculptures this side of the New World. You hear that he is now working on a huge statue of David which catches your attention because  you have always wanted your marble work to shine like the Gods. How far would you go to make your work the best?? Wouldn’t it make sense to buy a ticket on the next boat across the Atlantic so that you could study at the feet of the Master??

Well, this is exactly the situation that I found myself in recently. Dentistry is a multifaceted profession that can be as much about artistry and craftsmanship as it is about care giving and “fixing” broken teeth. In fact, I would suggest that the best dentists have transcended the “repairing teeth” paradigm to embrace the concept of restoring their patients’ teeth to their original shape and beauty- a calling that combines science, artistry, craftsmanship and a genuine understanding of tooth anatomy to be able to make teeth look like teeth (and not fake, over whitened, chicklet shaped “Hollywood” teeth). One medium to work in is tooth colored bonding material. In other words, if you were to break a front tooth, it would need to be rebuilt with a material that was of the same shade and shape as your other front teeth. This is no easy task since the dentist has to layer and  literally “sculpt” the bonding material to seamlessly blend with the other teeth.

Dr. Newton Fahl  (  is known world wide for his talents and knowledge base concerning tooth colored bonding. He lectures internationally on how to create the most natural looking, beautiful teeth using this amazing material. And it is not a simply a  matter of choosing the appropriate shade and sculpting.  Teeth are comprised of a number of shades as well as  various amounts of translucence and opacity that combine to reflect and refract light. Add to this, that the shape of a front tooth, it’s angles and texture is what gives it its natural appearance and you begin to get a glimpse into the complexity of sculpting teeth to achieve a very natural, aesthetic appearance. Dr. Fahl lectures extensively on the many factors that go into making teeth look like teeth. He practices his dentistry in a small town in Brazil and teaches week long courses in his office.

Now I have seen Dr. Fahl lecture at several meetings in this country but it was soon very apparent that, to really study at the “feet of the Master”, it would be necessary to travel to Brazil and actually sculpt teeth, applying thin layers of material in an effort to mimic nature, under his direct supervision. So last week, there I was in Curitiba, Brazil- no easy task since it takes a special Visa and 3 flights that spanned a dizzying 20 hours of travel.  But- what an experience!!! I have been a continuing education junkie for over 25 years but I can honestly say that this was the most impressive and valuable course I have ever had the privilege of taking. I returned to Baltimore refreshed and inspired to elevate the quality of my cosmetic dentistry  ever higher.

And here’s the beauty of constantly raising the bar through continuing education. Increasing my skills with cosmetic bonding also increases my skills with porcelain veneers; knowledge of color and tooth shape is imperative when creating a new smile with veneers just as it is with bonding.  And it also enhances my ability to communicate with the dental laboratories that make the veneers and crowns. Everyone working together to give the patient the dazzling, natural smile they have always dreamed of- that’s the goal, even  if it’s necessary to travel to Brazil to get closer to realizing that goal.

So ask your dentist next time you’re in the chair- “how far would you travel to be the best at what you do??”