By David Ritholtz, DDS
I’m often amused by the reactions I get from people I meet socially after they find out that I'm a dentist. More often than not, they'll soon be recounting some unusual past dental experience, or they'll ask for my advice about a tooth that's been bothering them. Luckily, I love my profession and have been practicing dentistry for more than 25 years. I think that dentistry is unique because it’s likely that everyone at some point in life has visited a dentist, so almost everyone has a story to share. Some have very favorable experiences to tell, while others not so much. My practice at Premier Dental Associates of Lower Manhattan aims to comfort and relax patients by providing top-notch dental care in a soothing, spa-like setting ― all in the heart of Manhattan's financial district.My practice was greatly affected following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. My office is located just one block from the South Tower of the World Trade Center. I can still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing in the office at the moment of first impact. We were emergency evacuated that day and were forced to close the office for six weeks. The practice lost 11 patients who were among the lives that perished on 9/11. Before reopening, I had the office professionally cleaned and sanitized for my peace of mind as well as for my staff and my patients.The practice has changed significantly since then and as lower Manhattan bounced back, my office has thrived as well. I now have four general dentist associates ― Drs. David Galler, Caroline Quiong, Danielle Danzi Goodwin, and Lara O'Shaughnessy. There's also an endodontist, Dr. Justin Cohen; a periodontist, Dr. Neer Even Hen; and a pediatric dentist, Dr. Loan Mao. I believe each doctor truly reflects the character and quality of this practice. Dr. Galler is a renowned Invisalign speaker and provider, Dr. Quiong is meticulous in her approach to cosmetic dentistry, Dr. Danzi Goodwin restores crowns with finesse, and Dr. O'Shaughnessy excels in prosthodontics. As the practice grew, I wanted the atmosphere to reflect the caliber of the care and service that we offer our patients. And now, following the recent office renovations and expansion, I feel that my goal has truly been achieved.I wanted the office to reflect a spa-like atmosphere and I worked very closely with my designer Holly Brand of Holly Brand Interiors to achieve that result. As Holly remarked when she first saw our space, the office “needed a lot of love,” so she worked hard to achieve the calming, mellow feel we had in mind. From the intricate stone wall to the granite counters to the seaweed glass that adorns the waiting room, I hoped to elicit a relaxing change from the busy hustle and bustle of New York City. I also insisted on a patient checkout station where patients could touch up their makeup, admire their smiles, or grab a chilled bottle of water before they leave.
I feel great every time a patient compliments us on how lovely the office is. I had the staff help choose the artwork that decorates the walls and, in fact, each doctor and hygienist was given the liberty to handpick the art that hangs in their treatment room. I wanted dental visits to go beyond a clinical dental appointment and instead to invoke an oasis-like feel for patients. It was also designed to build a pleasing work environment for my staff as well ― because after all, teamwork and camaraderie are integral to any successful business.
So began an exciting endeavor. I'd been thinking about expanding for a while and when office space adjacent to my existing practice became available, everything seemed to fall into place. I worked with Ms. Brand for interior design and Henry Schein for equipment and the operatories. In the midst of all the planning and with the new lease signed, the economy began its freefall. With Wall Street reeling, I was doubling the size of my practice while everyone around me was downsizing.In all, construction took about five months to complete. Throughout this we kept the office open and running. We had to get creative with scheduling and at times felt like we were working on top of each other. But after 16 long weeks, phase one was complete and we were able to move into the new space. This consisted of the completely new and custom-designed waiting room, business office, check-in and checkout areas, a sterilization area, and six treatment rooms as well as an equipment room for the compressors. It took another four weeks to have seven additional operatories and the old space renovated for everything to be completely up and running. What once felt like a risky business endeavor during a national recession seemed to take on a new (and very promising) light once the new office space was open.Our practice now occupies more than 5,000 square feet on the 13th (yes, 13th) floor of a landmark building in lower Manhattan. We have sweeping views of the East River, historic Trinity Church, and Broadway's Canyon of Heroes, which comes in handy when New York City throws Yankee parades. My office was filmed for the local CBS news as we reveled and threw ticker tape from our windows for the 2009 World Series Champions parade.I am proud to see my vision come to fruition. I am a firm believer in the importance of first impressions and certainly have tried to emphasize that unspoken "wow factor" when it came to designing and decorating the waiting room. I wanted the space to impress both new and returning patients and to reinforce that when you step into this office, your care and comfort are our top priorities. From the recessed lighting to the natural stone wall with the illuminated seaweed glass displaying the practice logo, I wanted to make a statement. We tried to maximize the available seating while maintaining an esthetic, open look. A 48-inch wall-mounted LCD TV streams dental information, current news, stock updates, music videos, and movie previews. Soothing music from Andrea Bocelli, Michael Bublé, and Whitney Houston play throughout the office from our rotating iTunes playlist. We chose the carpet to reflect the color scheme of the office ― subtle mint green, beiges, and browns — that still wears well and holds up to traffic. Even the artwork reflects scenes from an Italian countryside, and as a coincidence I'm told mimic Zen visions on the universe. It was also important to me to have separate patient check-in/greeting and checkout/goodbye areas. The office went from seven treatment rooms to 13. Combined with the doctor’s offices, kitchen and lunchroom, business office, lab, and a second sterilization area, it more than doubled in size. All treatment rooms are equipped with Schick digital technology, and there’s a separate room for digital panoramic radiographs. The staff is trained on the use of intraoral and digital photography. The additional space is utilized for increased hygiene, Zoom whitenings, emergencies, sedation, and on days when the specialists are present, a "specialist wing" for the patients. Probably the most recent technological addition is the Biolase Waterlase. Each room is equipped to operate the dental laser, and we also have the soft tissue ezLase as well. Patients are excited about the technology, and I am impressed with their seemingly limitless applications. I myself haven't packed a cord for crown impressions since I started using the laser.
Obviously you need the talent to back up the show. My practice wouldn't be a success if it wasn't for the dentists and staff who make up this office. I am proud of these seasoned professionals who are as caring as they are skilled. I routinely encourage the doctors and staff to pursue continuing education when possible and have sent members of the office to conventions in Las Vegas and seminars in Chicago. Having a comprehensive practice is convenient for us because we can consult and refer all under one roof. Patients love the convenience of not having to travel all over the city for their dental treatment. We even have a cosmetics laboratory in the building next door.As we begin a new decade, I look forward to continued prosperity and growth. I'm considering purchasing the iCAT scanner for implant placement and treatment planning and am currently revamping our office Web site. This recent renovation and expansion was a very worthwhile endeavor, and the results are as pleasing as they were necessary. We underwent a major renovation and expansion during one of the worst economies this country has seen in years, and we're located just blocks from Manhattan's Wall Street. I believed in the vision I had for the practice, trusted the talent of my doctors and staff, invested in the office, and took a little on faith. I am now able to revel in the beauty of the relaxing atmosphere, utilize new technology and equipment, and continue to create many more positive and enjoyable experiences for all of my new and returning patients.
Dr. David Ritholtz graduated from Yeshiva College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology. He received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the New York University College of Dentistry. Dr. Ritholtz has been practicing general and cosmetic dentistry in lower Manhattan for the past 20 years. He is a member of the American Dental Association and the First District Dental Society of the State of New York. You may contact him by phone at (212) 587-0202.