Justin Zalatan is a doctor of dental surgery. His practice, Zalatan Dental/Modern Dentist, is located at 2607 Genesee St., Utica. Recently, contributing writer David L. Podos interviewed Zalatan regarding his profession.
By David L. Podos
Q.: How many years have you been practicing dentistry?
A.: I have been in practice since 2004.
Q.: Your father, John Zalatan DDS, recently retired. How influential was your dad in your decision in becoming a dentist?
A.: He was fairly influential but he never forced me into going to dental school. Actually, I never really wanted to be a dentist at first. I wanted to be an engineer or architect.
But eventually that changed. I saw my dad had a good business and he was his own boss. In the medical profession, we often don’t have that. Dentistry is unique in that you can set up your own hours. You don’t have to be part of these massive medical groups like many physicians have done to function.
Dentistry as it turned out was a really good choice for me.
Q.: What is your specialty?
A.: As a generalist, I don’t have a specialty, so that gives me the opportunity to do a little bit of everything. We also have a tremendous amount of technology at our disposal here in the office that makes that possible.
For instance, I like working on patients that have sleep apnea, so I treat those patients of mine who have it. In fact, I myself have sleep apnea and have an extensive amount of training in that area.
We also do facial aesthetics such as Botox treatments and have a large following for that as well.
Q.: It seems that dentistry is going through a significant renaissance — everything from new procedures to offering patients totally new services that were unavailable just a few years go. What do you see as the most significant changes in dentistry with the advancement of science and medicine, and how have these changes impacted your patients?
A.: Quality of care has dramatically improved, which directly affects quality patient care. We’ve seen advancements from dental materials being more bio-friendly, to a shift to composite fillings, to bio-active resins. This way, we are reducing as much as we possibly can any toxic elements. Even when we do root canals, the materials used are bio-friendly.
Of course, technology has changed medical care so much. We have the use of computers and three-dimensional printing to aid us in creating crowns, for example. In addition to that, we have high-resolution digital sensors that assist in diagnostics and three-dimensional CT scans, all of which are available here at Zalatan Dentistry.
That three-dimensional CT scan, by the way, is great when I am treating a patient for sleep apnea. I can see by the scan how big your airway is. You might come in for a routine root canal, and after we take a scan, are able to see that the airway is constricted.
Q.: Many people have a fear of going to the dentist. How do you and your staff work with patients that are very anxious?
A.: I am sedation certified, so I am licensed to administer conscious sedation. If you came in with a high level of anxiety, I could sedate you, but I would rather try to work with the patient to overcome their fear.
Actually, I seldom use sedation; perhaps one patient a month. We have an excellent staff and they know how to work with each patient. Demeanor is very important as well as tone of voice and body language; it all sends a signal, so we do our best to create a calm environment.
We establish a human connection. I want to make sure you are comfortable. We also do free consultations so the patient has a chance to come in and meet us, and that reduces anxiety.
Q.: Where do you see dentistry five to 10 years from now?
A.: Bio-friendly materials that we use now will advance further. There are things the industry is working on, and electrical charges over the teeth to re-mineralize them to bring an unhealthy tooth back to its original healthy state will be commonplace.
The use of stem cells to actually grow teeth will continue to develop and progress toward becoming a reality.
Q.: Finally, what would you like people to know about your practice?
A.: We are one of the most technologically advanced dental practices in the area. We use all of our resources to treat our patients to the best of our ability. We plan for only what the patient needs and never overdo treatment.
Birth date: 1978
Current residence: Utica
Education: Bachelor of Science degree, physical and biological anthropology, SUNY Albany (1996-1999); Doctor of Dental Surgery, SUNY Buffalo-School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (2000-2004); Advanced General Dentistry, Nova Southeastern University (2004)
Hobbies: Skiing, scuba diving, mountain biking, and building things