For many years securing an appointment with a Vineyard dentist as a new patient was almost as difficult as getting a ferry reservation for an August weekend. Now, however, a couple of new dentists have started practicing here, which should help fill a void, and possibly alleviate the need to travel off-Island for appointments.
Dr. Shahram Karimi opened Paradise Dental on State Road in Vineyard Haven just two months ago. For the past 15 years, he has had a dental office in Arizona, where he grew up. Now, he will split his time between his practice in Glendale and his office here — probably giving him the distinction of having the longest commute of any Islander. He says that he spends two weeks here and two weeks back in Arizona each month, but reassures potential patients that there is always someone in his office here booking appointments, and patients can see his hygienist for cleanings anytime.
This grueling schedule is not to be a permanent hardship. Dr. Karimi plans to move himself and his family once he gets his practice established here. “This is just a transition,” he notes. “I’m definitely working my way to making a permanent move because I can see a great future as far as my business and my personal life.” The bi-coastal dentist has a wife and two young children who are currently living in Arizona. He says that he hopes to have them join him for the summer and holidays until they can make the move.
The doctor, who attended Arizona State University as an undergrad and earned his dental degree at Tufts School of Dental Medicine in Boston, notes that he has been visiting the Vineyard for many years and has friends and family on the Island. He was prompted to make the move when he recognized a shortage of dentists here.
Advanced technology is what he believes will set him apart from other local practitioners. With a piece of equipment called a Cerec machine, the doctor can make crowns, fillings, and veneers in house. Both of his offices are fully digitalized, including x-rays, which cuts down on the radiation that patients are exposed to. Dr. Karimi says that, unlike other local dentists, he can do all types of extractions and root canals because of his extensive training.
Dr. Karimi believes that his experience with, and dedication to, the latest technology will help him build a practice here. For now, he says, “It’s a lot of commuting and a lot of hard work but sometimes you do what you have to do to reach your goals.”
Dr. Bruce Golden, the Vineyard’s only pediatric dentist, moved to the Vineyard from White Plains, N.Y., two years ago. After vacationing here for 38 years, Dr. Golden and his wife, Judy, decided to come here to retire. “I spent 39 years with my nose to the grindstone,” he says. However, the energetic and dedicated doctor was not able to step away from his life’s work completely. He agreed to work one day a week out of Dr. Herman’s office, serving young Island patients. The office is now open Monday nights and Dr. Golden will be available then as well as his usual Tuesdays.
He also volunteers one day a week at the dental clinic at the hospital, the only Island facility that accepts Mass Health. “I wanted to take care of children of low socio-economic status,” Dr. Golden says. “Twenty percent of the population has 80 percent of the dental disease.”
Pediatric dentists are a relatively rare breed. Dr. Golden notes that there are only about 4,000 in this country, as compared to around 150,000 other types of dentists. He chose to specialize in treating children after attending a lecture on pediatrics in dental school. He notes that after treating a particularly difficult older man, he was about ready to give up on dentistry, but the lecturer that same day motivated him to refocus on children. “He told us that the idea is to use the natural curiosity that kids have to teach them to be calm and accepting.”
In order to earn the trust of his young patients and to mitigate their fear, Dr. Golden uses puppets to demonstrate the procedures he will be using. On his own, he has outfitted a number of hand puppets with teeth and he walks his patients through the process and even allows the kids to try out dental instruments on the puppets.
“Kids always ask the same questions,” Dr. Golden says. “‘Is it going to hurt’? ‘Is it going to be scary?'” That fear can often make children unmanageable patients, but as he explains, “The fear is really of the unknown.” The puppet demonstrations have proved successful.
The dedicated doctor believes that he is making an impact on kids’ lives that extends beyond their healthcare. “There’s a lot that a pediatric dentist can offer families,” he says. “It’s a very special kind of care that focuses not only on improving dental health but also on taking an emotional growth step by learning to be accepting and calm dental patients. It helps give them the equipment to become adults.”
Dr. Golden also teaches a class in pediatric dentistry once a month at New York University and serves as the secretary-treasurer of the College of Diplomates of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry.
This demanding schedule is not exactly part of the original retirement plan, but Dr. Golden, as is evident by his work at the dental clinic, is happy to contribute where he can. “I’ve gotten a lot, so I need to give back.”
Amity Dental on Main Street in Vineyard Haven (formerly Dukes County Savings Bank) will open soon. Dr. Christopher Freyermuth, who currently practices in Plymouth, will treat patients.