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The adage “fix it and forget it” has no place in Dr Wonseok Jang’s scope of practice as a periodontal or gum health specialist. That is why he jumps in his car every Friday after spending weekdays as an assistant professor and researcher in the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine and heads for Newtown to see new patients at the offices of Newtown Smile Dentistry at 34 Church Hill Road.
In a recent interview with The Newtown Bee, Jang said he could work at a lot of practices closer to his New Jersey home, but chose to align with his former dental school colleague and Newtown Smile owner Sean Lee, DDS, because the two share a unique holistic patient care philosophy. And it does not hurt that Lee has invested in some of the most advanced periodontal technology available, which is now available for Jang to provide his local patients state-of-the-art periodontal treatments.
“Periodontal disease is really under diagnosed,” Jang explained. “Based on various studies, US consensus is that 40 to 60 percent of the population has some degree of gum or periodontal disease. I’m seeing a lot of patients with it.”
Jang said periodontal disease can be seriously neglected, but it is not usually the patient’s fault because there is no pain involved — similar to coronary artery disease.
“You don’t feel that until you have a heart attack,” he said. “With chronic periodontal disease, you don’t have pain from inflammation until you have an abscess.”
And an untreated abscess can in rare situations be fatal, but Jang’s patients are sometimes unwilling to discuss treatment of gum issues until they are feeling painful effects. So he works hard to ensure every patient he sees, both in the Rutgers clinic where he spends four days a week doing hands-on instruction with students, and on the weekends at Newtown Smile Dentistry.
In order to treat gum disease, Jang may utilize some of the advanced laser equipment available to his patients at the Church Hill Road practice, if they qualify.
“Historically, treating periodontal disease involves conventional surgery using a scalpel. It works and we’ve seen great results and that’s how I was trained originally,” Jang said. “But now we have this specialized laser that emits a specific wavelength output that targets the kind of bacteria that causes gum disease. So it is more efficient at eliminating it.”
While conventional surgery is more traditional and well-researched, those whose conditions qualify for the laser treatment find the treatment is equally or more effective.
“I think there are patients who are a better fit for laser and patients who are better off with conventional surgery,” Jang said. “Laser is less invasive, so there will be less post-op sensitivity and less recession afterwards — and generally there are less post-op complications with laser. And I don’t know of any other offices in the area that have this type of laser available.”
Jang, like Lee and his other Newtown Smile colleague Brad Pinkos, DMD, is big on prevention as well as providing hands-on problem solving — and it does not stop with the treatment of a specific ailment that might bring individuals to the Newtown practice.
“Dr Lee and I have the same philosophy, we believe in providing a comprehensive exam and comprehensive care. Not just patchwork — treating what is ailing the patient. We don’t do that because everything is connected,” Jang said. “I do my own exams and I’m obligated to discuss all the findings, and then give that patient the total care they need. If the patient doesn’t want it, that’s fine, but I’m going to make them aware of everything I find and how we can treat everything we find that is wrong.”
Dental School Colleagues
Jang said that philosophy, along with their shared heritage being born and raised until adolescence in South Korea, was something both he and Lee shared as aspiring students at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.
“I’ve known him for a long time, and I have always respected his hard work ethic, and his passion for dentistry,” Lee said. “I still remember the late night studies at the library and at the clinical lab we had frequently throughout the years at Michigan.”
Having known him for so long and so close, Lee had a lengthy opportunity to get to know how much Jang loves being a dentist and how much time and work he has dedicated to the field.
“I knew I wanted to be a doctor or a scientist since I was a child,” Jang added.
“We share the same ethnic backgrounds, and the same philosophies. So when we work together, we strive for perfection. Clinically acceptable is not what I aim for, that’s why I like working for Newtown Smile. Other places I tried to work just address specific patient issues, but I don’t believe in that kind of patient care,” Jang said.
“That is another reason why we chose to engage in advanced residency programs after graduating from dental school,” Lee said. “We went to different schools for our residency training and I would have never thought that we would cross paths again, especially in the field of dentistry.”
Jang went on to complete is advanced residency training at Rutgers in Periodontics while Lee completed his residency Tuft’s in Advanced Education in General Dentistry.
“During the early onset of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, I got in touch with Dr Jang and I found that he had decided to work as a full-time assistant professor at Rutgers University,” Lee recalled. “I was very excited for him and the for the school. But I was more excited when we talked about working together and collaborating with each other by putting together the best knowledge between us and planning the best care possible for patients at Newtown.”
Lee said knowing that patients in his Newtown office can receive such high quality of specialty periodontal care was an exciting prospect whose time has come.
“Since then, I had invested in a lot of advanced equipment and high quality materials that Dr Jang can use to provide advanced periodontal therapies,” Lee said. “We have finally accomplished the goal of putting our minds together to provide the highest quality of care for patients. Dr. Jang is thrilled and is driving all the way from New Jersey to meet patients in Newtown.”
At the Newtown practice, Jang may be the periodontal expert, but he still considers his colleague Lee as “the quarterback” on their treatment team, so the two frequently work together when providing each patient the well-rounded diagnoses and treatments they may require.
“When it comes to surgery, my job is easier than Dr Lee’s because Dr Lee is doing everything,” Jang said. When planning for procedures like dental implants, “He is the one doing all my preplanning, and I am providing my hands-on expertise here in the same clinic,” Jang said, “where other practices may send patients out for periodontal work, so with us treating in the same office, there are no communication gaps.”
Jang also has already found an opportunity to meet and treat a couple of Pinkos’ patients as well.
Since Jang also loves his role as an assistant professor and lecturer at Rutgers, as well as his research work, he is currently limiting his time at the Newtown practice to Fridays and Saturdays.
“I want to accomplish a lot more,” he said. “I just did a paper for my master’s thesis on the laser equipment I am using here. I also have some added academic goals to accomplish. But maybe eventually I will begin transitioning more to private practice. I love Newtown and working with Dr Lee.”
For a consultation with Drs Lee, Pinkos, or Jang, call Newtown Smile Dentistry at 203-426-3310 or check out the practice website at https://www.newtownsmile.com .
Editor John Voket can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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