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October 2013
Service with a Smile
By Barbara Fagan

     “Service with a smile” has been a core precept of American businesses since the beginning of the last century. Research shows that smiling correlates positively with attractiveness and likability between humans. In fact, smiling correlates with greater trust, increased financial earnings, and enhanced interpersonal cooperation.

     A smile conveys respect, patience, empathy, hospitality and compassion. For example, when an employee smiles at a stressed customer, and exhibits excellent listening skills, most of the time, there is a report of total satisfaction.

     Research also reports that people receive more help when they smile. Even the smile of a stranger produces more “Good Samaritan” effects on the receiver. Neuroscience research shows that a smile enhances others’ memory retrieval of the person’s name.

     “Smiling is how we build trust in business and rapport in relationships. The ability to smile with confidence is foundational to self esteem,” maintains Dr. Christian Yaste, and is ultimately what led he and Dr. Joseph Hufanda to create the Ballantyne Center for Dentistry in 2001.

     “Everything starts with a smile,” contributes Hufanda, who says he knew in high school that he wanted to be a dentist. Both his parents were in the medical field, but he had a creative streak. He figured cosmetic dentistry would allow him to be in the medical field and be creative and artistic.

     “I have an avid interest in fine arts, music and painting. I firmly believe my art helps me with the artistic side of dentistry,” he says.

     Yaste, whose friendship with Hufanda dates back to middle school, had a more abrupt realization. While in dental school at the University of Michigan, Yaste had a bicycle accident on black ice which cracked off his front teeth. The care he received gave him back his smile, but left him disillusioned with “old school” dentistry and its lack of empathy.

     “If dentistry meant pain, I wanted out. I did stay the course, but committed to offer patients a totally different experience—one that’s friendly and comfortable. I want them to feel cared for and cared about and I want them to get the smile they have always wanted,” affirms Yaste.

     Both Yaste and Hufanda finished their graduate studies at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, but Hufanda trained at the Upper Peninsula Rural Health Services while Yaste began a two-year residency in Oral Medicine here at Carolinas Medical Center.

     It didn’t take long for Yaste to convince Hufanda to join him in Charlotte and the two spent three years working at a general dentistry group practice in town.

     “We were seeing a lot of adults—baby boomers—whose needs weren’t being met through general dentistry,” describes Yaste. “We decided we really wanted to focus on that niche market sector.”

     So the two set up their own practice in Ballantyne to provide expert care using the latest techniques in cosmetic and restorative dentistry in a spa-like setting with a focus on health, wellness and beauty all under one roof.

     “At the Ballantyne Center for Dentistry, we’ve helped thousands of patients achieve the smile of their dreams…affordably, quickly and comfortably,” smiles Hufanda.


Focus on Adult Needs

     Ballantyne Center for Dentistry has become a destination for patients with cosmetic or restorative needs. The doctors’ expertise draws patients from both Carolinas and other parts of the country.

     “Many baby boomers finally have the time to focus on themselves,” says Yaste. “They want a comfortable, relaxing environment where they can improve their smiles for social or career reasons. We’ve noticed a lot of men coming in saying they’ve got to keep up with the 30-year-olds who look like G.I. Joe in their office.”

     With a full array of offerings including veneers, bonding, tooth whitening and the speed of CEREC technology (which can allow the custom crafting and fitting of ceramic restorations in one visit), the Center has options to fit varying needs.

     Their Six Month Smile system allows adults with a good bite but crooked or gapped teeth to unobtrusively correct their smile without the time or expense of traditional orthodontics geared toward children.

     “I smile a lot more than I used to,” attests patient Colin Pinkney after improving his smile at Ballantyne Center for Dentistry. “It feels good to smile. I think the world of Dr. Yaste and the whole dental family here at Ballantyne Center. Every nurse, every assistant, every person in this office is just incredible and I love coming here...They truly do work miracles.”

     Tooth loss is also a major problem for adults. “The denture adhesive market is a billion dollar industry,” explains Hufanda. “Dental implants can replace one tooth, several teeth or provide anchor teeth to help with denture slippage.

     “For someone who has had full dentures and who worried that their dentures might come out while they ate or that they might not be able to chew something, implants can be a life changer. Patients can go out and eat again. They can eat salad; they can have a steak.

     “And the treatment has improved. In some cases, we can get done in three months what used to take a year. Now we can remove a tooth and put in the implant in the same day in one surgery.”

     While some of the tooth loss the doctors treated was due to trauma, they also found an appreciable amount caused merely by a lack of dental care, and “diagnosed” that a fear of going to the dentist was probably an underlying cause.


Nothing to Fear

     That revelation led Yaste and Hufanda to focus on dental anxiety and resulted in them expanding their practice to include sedation dentistry. Anxiety was a problem that Yaste understood well.

     “I admit I am somewhat of a dental phobic, ever since my bicycle accident,” Yaste confesses. “I can empathize with my patients that are afraid of the dentist. When patients know I feel the same way, it helps them get through it. Sedation dentistry allows people to get the dental care they need or want without the fear and pain they’ve experienced in the past.”

     Both Hufanda and Yaste are certified in oral sedation by DOCS (Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation). The protocol they follow involves an oral sedative that puts patients in a calm, relaxed but conscious state where they feel no anxiety or pain. Some patients are so relaxed they drift off to sleep.

     A patient will need a ride to and from the office but beside the obvious benefits, sedation dentistry can allow doctors to condense treatment that might take three to four visits into one.

     The use of drill-free laser dentistry can also ease patients’ dental anxiety. With this technology, lasers remove decay and prepare teeth for fillings, root canals and gum surgery. All a patient feels is a light flow of water over the teeth and a soft clicking instead of the pressure and fear-triggering sound of drilling.

     Treating people with dental anxiety has become such a specialty for Ballantyne Center for Dentistry that other local dentists refer their patients with dental phobia to the practice for treatment.

     “We want to help these folks,” Yaste emphasizes. “We have a solution. We even offer a patient their first sedation for free so they can see what it’s like to be able to go to the dentist without fear.”

    “When I was a kid, dentistry hurt. It just came with the territory,” says WBT morning radio personality and patient John Hancock. “I spent most of my adult life avoiding the dentist because of my dental phobia. I heard about Dr. Yaste and Dr. Hufanda. I heard that they were miles ahead in both the art and the science and that it didn’t have to hurt.

    “I was amazed at the care I got from Dr. Yaste, Dr. Hufanda and their staff. They took my overwhelming dental problems and fixed everything without pain!”

     “We’re constantly looking for ways to improve the experience of our patients,” adds Hufanda. “We want to stay in the forefront of technology to find what benefits our patients and at the same time, helps our practice to grow.”

     Interestingly, that state-of-the-art compulsion has pushed the doctors into another related area—treating people with chronic headaches and migraines.


Solving Your Headache Pain

     Every day, dentists encounter patients who chew, grind, tear, and work their head and neck muscles as strenuously as athletes. The significant forces generated by clenching, grinding, and bruxing put the mouth and masticatory system under constant stress.

     Such stress and improper dental forces associated with the muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments contribute to a number of symptoms, including chronic headaches and migraines. Other symptoms include temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), excessive tooth wear and/or breakage, tinnitus, clicking and popping of the jaw (TMJ sounds or vibrations), and discomfort or pain in the head, neck, face, or jaw.

     “Symptoms can also often be caused by macro trauma, like biking or automobile accidents, or micro trauma, such as from wisdom tooth removal or orthodontia,” suggests Yaste.

     “Sports medicine technologies, such as low-level laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, and microcurrent nerve stimulation, have been used successfully for years to improve athletes’ recovery from musculoskeletal and force-related injuries,” explains Yaste, “and now such innovative approaches to treatment are being applied in dentistry.”

     Drs. Yaste and Hufanda have embraced a patented pain relief technology called TruDenta to provide relief from headaches and migraines for their patients, branding themselves Charlotte Headache Doctors.

     “TruDenta is a state-of-the-art system for the diagnosis, treatment, and management of functional, dynamic force imbalances within the mouth. Utilizing a combination of sports medicine rehabilitation and advanced dentistry technologies cleared by the FDA, it can produce lasting relief and dental foundation rehabilitation for our patients,” describes Hufanda.

     “This is a way to successfully and predictably treat migraine, headache, TMJ and other conditions like tinnitus,” enthusiastically explains Yaste. “It revolutionizes how headaches are treated; this system allows us to treat the problem without medications.”

     “Several treatment protocols are available,” continues Yaste. “We might use cold laser or orthotics or we might re-map a damaged neural pathway. It depends upon the diagnosis. The correct protocol is determined by the diagnosis and the system uses comprehensive and objective screening tools to get an accurate diagnosis.

     “Treatment can take from two to 12 weeks and it has a very high success rate. I started treating patients a year and a half ago and currently we’re treating about four or five headache patients a week. But the whole practice has grown. In 2012, we had our best year ever. We’ve gotten so busy, we’ve had to bring in a new doctor.”


Staffing Up to Meet Needs

     Dr. Teresa Mercado has recently joined the Ballantyne Center for Dentistry team after 16 years’ running her own practice in California. Mercado has experience in general, cosmetic and sedation dentistry and she, like Yaste and Hufanda, is trained and certified in the TruDenta system.

     “By bringing on Dr. Mercado,” Yaste explains, “we can care for more people. We can handle our growth and still give our patients the same high level of care they’ve come to expect.”

     “Dr. Mercado rounds out our team,” Hufanda adds. ”She also brings a woman’s perspective to our practice.”

     Ballantyne Center for Dentistry’s growth has also led the doctors to add 1,000 square feet to their second floor office suite in the Ballantyne Commons East Shopping Center and expand business hours for patient convenience.

     They’ve also added a significant new technology: a CT (computerized tomography) scanner.

     “From a diagnostic standpoint, it’s invaluable,” says Yaste. “It allows us to view a person’s entire head and face in three dimensions. We can find things we never saw on an X-ray. I now have more information available to me before I do a procedure, like where a nerve is or how much bone there is in a particular area.”

     The CT scan was especially beneficial in the case of a recent patient. “A gentleman came into the practice for a dental implant and the CT scan we did revealed a golf ball-sized tumor on his upper jaw next to the sinus,” Yaste describes. “He had the tumor removed and luckily it was benign, but it was growing quickly and was potentially disfiguring. He could have lost his front teeth and part of his jaw. This tumor didn’t show up in a traditional x-ray.”

     Both Yaste and Hufanda attribute the success and growth of their practice to many factors: keeping their eye on the trends in care and the business of dentistry, their relationships with mentors and influential industry leaders, and their eagerness to learn new techniques and procedures and implement them.

     “We are incredibly teachable,” jokes Yaste.

     They also list their ability to do most procedures, including root canals and other oral surgeries in-house, as a major differentiator for their practice. “We focus on the whole mouth,” explains Yaste. “We rarely need to refer a patient. We do almost everything here.”

     They also work with patients to maximize their insurance benefits and have relationships with several financing companies to assist patients in obtaining needed or wanted dental care.

     “Patients’ objections to dental care are fear, time and money,” says Yaste. “We’ve found ways to help patients with all three. There’s a book we keep in the waiting room filled with grateful letters that patients have written to us.”

     “Gratitude like that is very rewarding to us,” says Hufanda. “It’s our passion and our nature to help as many people as we can. There are so many people out there hurting. They’re in pain, whether psychologically from an unattractive smile or whether from debilitating headaches. Our goal is to help those people. We truly give service with a smile.”


 Photo by Fenix Foto

Barbara Fagan is a Greater Charlotte Biz freelance writer.
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