Dental duo works together in art and science of teeth
Larry Smith paints a newly-sculpted porcelain crown. Working with more than a dozen colors on his palette, he uses shades from pink to blue to create the exact "white" of the patient's tooth sent by Dr. Katz. "White is a color. It's many colors," Smith said. Once this tooth is in the patient's mouth, you will not be able to tell it from the others. You can not say that about machine-made teeth." Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Larry Smith checks the fit of two porcelain crowns he has made for one of Dr. Katz's patients. Using fine grinders, he sands and shapes the crowns for a perfect bite. He will then glaze the crowns and deliver to Dr. Katz. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Larry Smith and Peter S. Katz don’t work for the same firm or even in the same office. But, they do have a unique business partnership that directly benefits their clients.
Smith is the owner and operator of Second Nature Dental Studio in Hancock. As a dental technician, Smith specializes in creating natural looking dental repairs such as crowns and bridges. Each year, he creates 500-600 pieces for various dentists throughout the region.
Katz is a dentist in Peterborough who specializes in restorative and cosmetic procedures. For 23 years he practiced in the Boston area; ten years ago he moved to Peterborough.
Both men have been in the dentistry field for just over 33 years. They have been working together for ten years.
“Smith is a very skilled technician. He restorations are predictable and precise,” Katz said.
Smith describes Katz as a scrutinizing dentist who cares deeply about his patients.
Neither Smith nor Katz have any employees, although Smith’s wife Teresa does deliver pieces for Second Nature Dental Studios. Both businesses are one-man shows.
And that, said Katz, is really the secret to their success.
At many dental labs, Katz said, a number of people work on a single piece - like an assembly line. This, both men agreed, leaves room for error.
“When I work with Larry,” Katz said, “I work with Larry.”
Katz said that this is especially useful when he works on “difficult” or “tricky” cases.
“When you have a direct line of communication, it really benefits the dentist and in turn the patient,” Katz said.
Katz said that finding a small shop where he can talk directly with the technician creating the crown or bridge is rare. “The trend these days is towards consolidating resources and having larger and larger labs.”
“Usually when I work with labs from a distance I don’t get to see patients,” Smith said. “But when I work with (Katz) I can discuss cases personally and even on some special occasions meet with clients.”
Smith said creating crowns and bridges that look real is both an art and science. “The better a crown fits the longer it will last.” A well fitting crown can last 20-30 years, while a poorly fitting piece may fall out within five-to-ten, he said.
When creating a stain for a tooth - Smith tries to match it precisely to a patients other teeth. Smith embraces new technologies and materials but often paints and glazes pieces by hand. “I use a palate for shading that has so many colors it looks like a painter,” he said.
One of the greatest compliments Smith receives is when people say they can not tell the real tooth from the artificial one.
To create the most natural look he can Smith spends time shaping and shading with Katz. Talking with patients and meeting together helps patients understand choice and procedures, said Katz.
Working with Smith in such a direct way feels “old-fashioned” in a positive way, said Katz. “When I meet with Larry to discuss a patient, or go to the diner, or walk around Peterborough I feel like I’m in a Norman Rockwell painting,” he said.