Q & A With Dr. Bill Dorfman, Celeb Dentist/Author of the NY Times Best-Seller 'Billion Dollar Smile':

How does one become a celebrity dentist?
Dr. Dorfman: I just started off as a regular dentist, you know, doing what I love to do. And being in Los Angeles, in Century City, obviously it's kind of the capital of the entertainment industry. All the talent agencies in town were in Century City and they started sending me a lot of celebrity patients and other high-profile patients. You work on them, people hear about them and it just sort of grew, and grew, and grew.
What five things should people weigh most heavily when selecting a cosmetic dentist?
Dr. Dorfman:

1. Referrals From a Person You Trust

The first thing and always the best thing is if you have a really good friend that refers you to that office ... Because you know firsthand that person had a great experience and if they're even so daring [as] to show you their before-and-after pictures, that's a great thing.

2. The Dentist's Education & Credentials

Look at the dentist's education -- their post-graduate education. For instance, I'm a Fellow in the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Pretty much anybody can become a member, but it's really hard to become an accredited member. You have to pass a series of tests and what not. To take it even one step further and become a Fellow is even harder. The nice thing about that is that you basically know going to that dentist that they've done a lot of advanced training and they achieved a certain level of excellence in cosmetic dentistry.

3. Meet the Dentist

If you're going to spend $20K, $30K, $40K or $50K on your mouth, I wouldn't necessarily just walk into one office. I would go to a few different dentists and see how you feel there. See how the dentist communicates with you; what their ideas for your treatment plan are. It would be really disturbing to me as a patient if I went to two or three different dentists and all of them had completely different treatment plans. You'd hope you'd go in and get three people who all concur on the same treatment, and then it's just a matter of whose personality you like the most.

4. Be Skeptical of Things You Read Online

I would caution people to be a bit skeptical of the things they read online. Because it has become a forum for some really crazy people, we call them haters. It's almost like they have nothing good in their life so they just want to spew horrible things about everybody. I've read things about dentists that I know are amazing, great dentists, and people write the most ridiculous junk about them. So I would really take online reviews with a real grain of salt, because sometimes they're just so not reputable.

5. Observe the Dentist's Environment

When you go to the office, look around. Is it clean? Do they have modern equipment? Talk to the employees. See how happy they are in their job. People don't stay and work in a bad environment with a bad dentist. They don't, they'll leave. One of the first things I always ask is, "How long have you been working here?"... I have employees that have been working here 30 years with me. The combined age of my hygiene department is 184 ... and there are only three women.
It seems the words sedation and "sleep dentistry" are more commonly marketed by dentists these days...
Dr. Dorfman: Make sure that your doctor is really trained well. There are courses that [they] need to take. I'm doing a big segment on sedation dentistry on the CBS show 'The Doctors' in light of this young man who died last week getting his wisdom teeth extracted.

One of the things that the general public doesn't understand is that oral surgeons are the only doctors who actually do their own anesthesia and surgery at the same time. If I'm really focused on my patient's extraction, and it's a difficult extraction, how can you focus on their breathing and all that? My recommendation with sedation and dentistry is really make sure that if you do have any medical complications ... that you have anesthesiologist and a dentist. I wouldn't just have one person do both.
Do you think there's an epidemic of up-selling happening right now in the field of dentistry?
Dr. Dorfman: I wouldn't call it up-selling. I think as a dental professional, you should sit down with your patient and discuss all the things that can be done to improve their oral health. At that point, let the patient decide what they do and don't want to do. I actually down-sell a lot of my patients. I actually have patients come in and say "I want porcelain veneers on all my teeth." I'm like, "You're crazy. There's nothing wrong with your teeth. If you want them lighter, let's just bleach them. If you don't like these four, let's just do veneers on these four." ... I'm not going to do porcelain veneers on 28 teeth just because a patient asks for it. And patients, a lot of times, are shocked that I actually offer them less treatment than they came in for.
What's the #1 fallacy with regards to oral hygiene?
Dr. Dorfman: I think the #1 fallacy is that people think that if they brush their teeth that they don't have to floss ... The problem is that unless you floss your teeth, you're leaving all the bacteria in between your teeth. So it's only like you're brushing one side, the top and the other side ... but there are two sides of your teeth that you're not cleaning at all. I literally will have patients come in here and have like 20 cavities and [say], "I don't understand, I brush my teeth all the time" ... And I'm like, "Do you floss?" And they're like ... "Umm. No."
Tell us about the innovations you've brought to the field of dentistry specifically.
Dr. Dorfman: (smiling) There's so many...
Pick one or two of your favorites...
Dr. Dorfman: The first one was in whitening. When whitening first came on the market in 1987 or '88, it was just barbaric. It wasn't comfortable, the gels were disgusting tasting. There was a lot of sensitivity. My business partners and I formed Discus Dental and we basically revolutionized teeth whitening. We made it flavored; we made it comfortable; we packaged it like a cosmetic and made it easy-to-use with easy-to-use directions. There were two huge whitening companies on the market when we started Discus Dental and both discouraged us ... a year or two later, we owned the market.
What's the difference between working on Usher's mouth versus, say, Britney Spears?
Dr. Dorfman: People will often ask me 'Do you treat celebrities the same as you would treat other people?' I would say, yes, we treat everybody the same. But there's a lot more pressure on you when you're working on celebrities because usually they've got very short time-frames where they need to get things done. And there's a lot of pressure on you when somebody makes their career based on their appearance and you're responsible for their appearance. Not to say that there aren't some women in Beverly Hills that aren't obsessed with their appearance, but it's a lot of pressure. If any one of these people lost their front tooth, they wouldn't work.
Is there a celebrity cautionary tale or a funny instance you could talk to?
Dr. Dorfman: Anytime Ozzy Osbourne comes in, it's just funny. I'll just say that. By the way, one of the sweetest, kindest guys in the world.
What dental advent has inspired the greatest uptick in business in the last five years?
Dr. Dorfman: I would say probably implants. Implants are becoming a bigger, bigger, bigger part of our business. When I was in dental school, implants were so crude, you couldn't even depend on them. You lost a tooth and there were all these different ways to replace it. But now, under the right circumstances, we can pretty much replace anything with an implant. The other one is ... whitening. Everyone always wants whiter teeth. It's such an easy thing to do and there's kind of no reason not to do it.
What kind of cosmetic dentistry procedures are not typically covered by insurance -- but should be?
Dr. Dorfman: Let's address dental insurance in general. It's literally a joke. Think of this, when I started practicing dentistry in 1985, Delta Dental paid $1,500 a year. Today, in 2013, Delta Dental pays $1,500 a year. Think about that? So in 1985, $1,500 a year would probably get you three crowns, that's not bad. Today, it barely pays for half a crown. It's a joke ... They should bring their coverage up to what our economy dictates and it should at least cover like two cleanings a year and probably a few fillings and a crown. At least.
What key dental breakthroughs do you see happening in the next five years? What's on the cusp?
Dr. Dorfman: There are lots of things that are happening. X-ray technology. We're able to take pictures using a lot less radiation, so the exposure level is much lower. We also have devices that we can use that limit where the radiation goes. Usually when we shoot something, the radiation spreads out. Now we have cones that we can put on our X-ray heads that actually make it so the only radiation goes right where the picture is, it's called Tru-Align.

We also have advances in crowns where you can have your crowns made right in the dental office while you're waiting ... That technology is better. I don't do it because it still takes a few hours and for me, it's faster to pop on a temporary and have the patient come back. When the crown is made in the lab, it is still a little bit nicer.
What would be your advice to dentists looking to become better experts in the field and potentially have reality show careers?
Dr. Dorfman: To become more adept at what you do, it's continuing education. I take a lot of continuing ed classes all the time. I mean think about this: 95% of what I do on a day-to-day basis as a practicing dentist is something I learned after dental school. All the materials have changed. All the procedures have changed. I mean, porcelain veneers? They didn't even exist when I was in dental school. If I kept practicing the same kind of dentistry that I learned in dental school, I'd be such a dinosaur.

If a dentist wants to become more visible, there are so many ways to do that today. Facebook, Twitter, tons of cable shows. Work with a publicist. There are lots more things you can do to gain more visibility in the profession.
And finally, what's the #1 extreme makeover that people come in and request from you?
Dr. Dorfman: It's usually involving porcelain veneers and crowns. It's people whose smiles are damaged or deteriorated. They just don't feel good about their smile and their appearance. So we just give them a smile that they like.
Dr. Bill Dorfman Dr. Bill Dorfman, DDS, is recognized as one of America's leading cosmetic dentists. He is the author of two books including the NY Times best-seller, 'Billion Dollar Smile'. His company, Discus Dental, Inc., is one of the world's leading manufacturers and distributors of teeth-whitening, oral hygiene and aesthetic dental products.

Find a dentist or cosmetic dentist nearby.