Q&A with M. Ilhan Uzel, DMD, DSc, Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology at Mercer Center for Implants and Periodontics at Princeton

 Interview by Taylor Smith | Photos courtesy of Mercer Center for Implants & Periodontics

Where is your practice located, and what attracted you to Princeton?

Mercer Center for Implants and Periodontics at Princeton is located at 601 Ewing Street, Suite B-15. My specialty is periodontics. The central location of Princeton makes it a natural hub for business, health care, and entertainment. In addition, the presence of world-renowned Princeton University and international companies enhances Princeton’s aura. Nevertheless, I had long noticed the need for a clinician with my background in Princeton area; a board-certified periodontist, academician, and scientist who can provide the best available care to his patients with a gentle touch.

As a scientist, published author, former professor, and board-certified periodontist, what makes your perspective unique among other New Jersey-area physicians?

I have been involved in all aspects of dentistry: as a scientist on bone, connective tissue, and cancer cells; an author of scientific articles and book chapters; a teacher for 11 years to many successful dentists for periodontal and implant surgical treatment; and as a clinician for 25 years who has performed more than 10,000 procedures. Periodontics and implant dentistry involve technically-demanding procedures. However, completing a procedure may not always guarantee an outcome. Hence, a periodontist and implant dentist must have a deep understanding of biological events that occur after the completion of each procedure. That is how a patient can be functionally and esthetically satisfied and not need additional treatment for a long-term good result. My unique background, in combination with the technology available in my practice, gives me the full scope for the diagnosis and creation of predictable treatment plans with lifelong and comfortable results.   

Mercer Center for Implants and Periodontics at Princeton uses the latest machinery in X-ray technology. Please describe the use, benefits, and applications of this technology when it comes to patient healing and experience.

In our practice, we use the latest technologies that perfect our clinical precision. Thus, the patient’s experience is significantly improved with minimized discomfort and maximized good results. One of those is a 3-D dental cone beam computed tomography (CBCT). This advanced imaging machine allows us to virtually evaluate three-dimensional images of our patients’ teeth, soft tissues, nerve pathways, and bones. Thus, our diagnostic ability is significantly enhanced. In addition, the radiation exposure is low with our advanced CBCT machine. Another one is a digital dental scanner that generates digital impressions. This also represents cutting-edge technology that allows dentists to create a virtual, computer-generated replica of the hard and soft tissues in the mouth. The digital technology captures a clear and highly accurate impression in minutes, without the need for the traditional impression materials that some patients find inconvenient and messy. Thus, we provide a direct service to our referring dentist and patients. One other technology is a Piezo machine, which allows me to perform procedures for maxillary sinus augmentation, place dental implants, extract teeth at difficult positions, perform bone graft procedures, and perform a procedure to reduce orthodontic treatment time. All of these not only increase our patients’ experience and satisfaction, but also help with the predictability of lifelong results.

You conduct gingival (gum) grafts, bone grafts, dental implants, and surgical and non-surgical procedures to treat periodontitis/gum disease. What should someone do if they are concerned about the health of their gums?

Periodontal/gum disease is a chronic condition that is caused by certain kinds of bacteria/plaque that live in the mouth. Periodontitis is the more advanced form. The prevalence of periodontal disease, according to findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is 50 percent among Americans aged 30 or older. This is approximately 64.7 million Americans. Since it is a chronic condition it occurs over a longer time, and patients who have periodontitis may not always feel discomfort. Smokers have periodontitis frequently, and it is directly associated with diabetes and may be contributory to heart disease. Periodontitis may also be associated with bleeding gums and/or bad breath. People who are concerned about their gums should take action before final symptoms like pain or swelling occur. A good way of doing this is by getting routine dental checkups done with their general dentists. Typically, general dentists refer their patients for periodontal treatment to a periodontist, ideally to a board-certified one. Meanwhile, patients can take the initiative themselves and simply contact us at Mercer Center for Implants and Periodontics at Princeton to get a periodontal/gum evaluation if they have bleeding gums, bad breath, missing teeth, and gum recessions.

You state that you are available 24 hours a day to your patients in need. What does caring, gentle, and thorough patient care and treatment mean to you?

We take pride in providing the highest-level quality clinical work at our practice. It requires a team effort to make it happen, and involves a careful approach before, during, and after each procedure we perform. Understanding that most treatments we propose to our patients are new to them, we are always available for our patients to answer their questions and concerns. We always communicate with our referring dentists at every step, and, if necessary, we make sure that medical aspects of our treatment are well covered with our patients’ physicians. We aim to reduce stress levels for our patients prior to our clinical work and make every effort to create a comfortable environment in our office. In addition, the combination of my precise and prudent clinical work and the advanced technology and materials I use reduces trauma significantly. Thus, that helps with minimal discomfort during the healing period. However, like any medical science, individual variations among patients may affect healing and/or discomfort levels. For that reason, each patient I treat should and can contact me directly anytime. As necessary, we make sure that our patients receive follow up until the point when they feel comfortable and completely healed.  Personally, I put myself in my patients’ shoes and treat everybody the best way possible before, during, and after a procedure or — as one of my beloved patients once said — as I would treat my loved ones.