Dr. David Little discusses implantology, bootmaking, and the technologies that lead to a successful practice
What can you tell us about your background?
I was born, raised and have many family ties in San Antonio. I graduated from the University of Texas Health Science Center Dental School in San Antonio in 1984. Since then, I have been in private practice for 28 years, and I am still an adjunct clinical professor for the Department of Restorative Dentistry. Something you might not know about me is that in 1970, I pitched and played shortstop in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Is your practice limited to implants?
At my office, Professionals in Dentistry, we are a general practice with multi-specialty support and perform all phases of dentistry with a focus on implant and restorative dentistry.
How did you decide to focus on implantology?
One of the biggest reasons that I have focused on implant dentistry, is that I have seen the dramatic results that can change patients’ lives. By placing artificial roots, we are practicing “addition dentistry” instead of “subtraction dentistry.” Edentulous patients can become dental cripples. Implants allow them to be able to eat what they want instead of only what they can. I have seen the dramatic difference in the quality of life of my implant patients. That’s what implant dentistry is all about.
How long have you been practicing, and what systems do you use?
I have been in dentistry for 28 years. I realized how long that actually is when I was lecturing to freshman dental students this year. I told them that I had once sat where they are sitting, and I told them that they are getting into a great profession, and then, during a break, they went and saw my picture on the wall. When they returned, they told me that when I had graduated in 1984, they weren’t even born yet. Yes, it’s been a long time.
In my office, an oral surgeon and periodontist and myself all place implants, so we have several different systems, but I prefer the Ankylos® system from Dentsply Tulsa Dental Specialties.
Professionally, what are you most proud of?
I am proud of my highly trained, committed, caring team. It takes a lot to put together a team of professionals. We spend more awake hours with our team than we do with our families. It’s important for everyone to be on the same page with the same vision, and I am proud that we have a really cohesive network. It’s also rewarding to help in the development of new technology. I test a lot of new products and new materials, and I always say, “Show me the clinical data.” Then, I ask, “Is it going to be better for my patients, and is it easier to deliver their care?” It’s a challenge to implement new technology into existing systems. That’s why a cohesive team is so important. I am proud to be able to serve people and make a difference in their overall health, function, and appearance.
What is unique about your practice?
My office is in an area just outside of San Antonio called China Grove. The Doobie Brothers made the town famous with a song called China Grove. My office is built around a lake, and all of the treatment rooms look out onto the water so it’s very relaxing for the patient. Every specialty in dentistry rotates through my office one day a week. One-half of the office is mine, and one-half is a completely equipped specialty wing with a fully equipped surgery suite and orthodontic bay with digital x-ray, CBCT scanner, lasers, and lab support. We literally can do everything under one roof even though we are all in separate practices. It works great for patient care.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Achieving balance is the biggest challenge. Balancing the time for family, the practice, and educating can be tricky.
What would you have become if you had not become a dentist?
My family is 4th generation custom bootmakers, and my great grandfather started the business, Little’s Boot Company, that will be 100 years old in 2014. I made my way through college and dental school selling custom boots on commission. My dad told me that I had to learn how to make a pair of boots. The workers laughed at me. But knowing how the boots were made helped me in sales, even though I wasn’t very good at it. My dad jokes, “My son wanted to be in the family business, but just didn’t have the hands for it.” My sister and my brother are running the company now, and my 80-year-old dad still goes in to work.
What is the future of implants and dentistry?
Because implants make a difference in patients’ lives, I think the future is bright for implant dentistry, and I’m excited about it! Baby boomers are in their 50’s, and most are not going to put up with partials and dentures like our parents and grandparents did. They will be able to seek out care and afford it. Technology like CBCT, surgical guides, and CAD/CAM milling will make it a more streamlined process and improve even more what we can do in implantology.
What are your top tips for a successful practice?
You have to be a leader and constantly open for implementing change. You also have to have good systems and strategies. One of the key elements is to continually train and update team members, so that everyone is on the same page.
What advice would you give to aspiring implantologists?
Always treatment plan what you would do on yourself. Don’t make value judgments. Don’t biopsy their wallets. Create value, do the right thing for the right reason, and continue to learn and take a lot of CE. Utilize relationships and mentors that help you reach your goals.
What are your hobbies, and what do you do in your spare time?
I love spending time with my family—my children, Zachary, 19 and Morgan, 21 are both in college. I enjoy spending time with my wife, Lee Ann. We’re empty nesters now. She’s a dental hygienist, and her knowledge has been a contributing part of helping me grow. My wife has been with me for 27 years and has believed in the vision of my dream for the dental practice. I also am an avid golfer and a big sports fan, especially for the San Antonio Spurs basketball team.
Favorites List1. Wife, Family2. Little’s Boot Co.3. Dedicated office team4. Custom boots, especially the ones with the implant and the tooth on them 5. Ankylos® (Dentsply Tulsa Dental Specialties)6. SynCone® implant supported, implant-retained overdenture abutments.7. Planning software, surgical guides, and CAD-CAM (Materialise and ISUS)8. CBCT and digital radiography (Carestream)9. Soft tissue lasers –CO2 laser by Deka and diode laser by AMD10. NuCalm™—non-narcotic sedation technique by Solace11. Freedom loupes (Orascoptic)—no cables and loops with light.12. GOLF! And San Antonio Spurs
David Little, DDS, is a graduate of theUniversity of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Dental School. He maintains a multidisciplinary, state-of-the-art dental practice in San Antonio, Texas where he dedicates himself to developing and refining his knowledge skills—as well as those of his colleagues and peers—through extensive continuing education and product research.As a clinical researcher focusing on implants, restorative materials, and technology, Dr. Little develops predictable procedures for successful functional and esthetic outcomes. His passion for helping others drives him to share this expertise in emerging restorative techniques and materials through various workshops, clinical seminars, and peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Little also serves as a professional dental consultant, sharing his theories and techniques for team motivation, for which he has earned worldwide acclaim.As a result of his vision, leadership, and professional commitment, Dr. Little is highly regarded throughout the dental profession. He is an accomplished national and international speaker and professor and has been a featured lecturer and hands-on course instructor at the American Dental Association annual scientific session, the Yankee Dental Congress, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry annual scientific session, the Chicago Midwinter Meeting, the Greater New York Dental Meeting, and other dental society meetings. Dr. Little has been featured on the cover of Dental Economics, Dentistry Today, and The Progressive Dentist. His articles have appeared in Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, Inside Dentistry, Dentistry Today, Practice Procedures & Aesthetic Dentistry, and the Journal of Dentistry, among others.
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