The Sky’s the Limit
For former U.S. Air Force captain F. Alan Dickerman, D.D.S., there’s no procedure he can’t handle
by Jeremy Fisher

When Alan Dickerman, D.D.S., served in the U.S. Air Force, he received better training than any top-ranking school or internship could give. Not only did he have the opportunity to work alongside some of the top names in dentistry but he got to do so working in a quality environment in a specialized dental facility. Dr. Dickerman held a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Temple University’s Dental School when he enlisted in the service, but the degree was just one early step in his lifelong journey to become the best at whatever he does.

Raised in a household of modest financial means in Philadelphia, Dr. Dickerman developed his diligent work ethic from his parents, who both worked full-time to support their family. He enlisted during the Vietnam War and was stationed at Ehrling Bergquist Hospital Clinic at Strategic Air Command Headquarters in Omaha, Neb. The base itself housed a number of high ranking personnel, including generals from all branches of the armed forces, 100 colonels and more than 1,000 lieutenant colonels. There, working with some of the brightest minds in the dental field, Dr. Dickerman served as an integral member of a team charged with treating members of the USAF’s highest ranks.

“It was the best two-year training a person could get,” Dr. Dickerman says. “I got to practice high-end quality dentistry alongside board-certified specialists—oral surgeons, periodontists, endodontists and prosthodontists.”

Though the pressure of ensuring that his patients—all important military officials—got the highest possible level of care was certainly a factor, Dr. Dickerman says the learning experience and assets at the disposal of him and his dental team proved invaluable.

“I had the best learning experience I could possibly have had,” Dr. Dickerman says. “There were very few restrictions on the type of dental care performed. It was the most ideal environment because we could provide almost any kind of dental treatment without regard to insurance costs or controls.”

After leaving the service to pursue a career in private practice, Dr. Dickerman kept up with this philosophy of striving to provide the best possible treatment for a patient, no matter what. “This is the reason I never aligned myself with any insurance company,” he explains. “I wanted to be able to do the dental treatment that was best for my patients. The patient, not the insurance company, is what is important, and I don’t want an insurance company to be able to tell me what kind of treatment I can give.”

His commitment to learning and offering the best possible array of treatments has also led Dr. Dickerman throughout his career to consistently build upon his knowledge base. Dr. Dickerman has completed more than 4,000 hours of postgraduate education in a variety of disciplines. Among the institutes he studied at was the prestigious Institute for Graduate Dentists in New York City. He spent two years traveling from Philadelphia to New York to add to his training in orthodontics, periodontics, endodontics and prosthodontics.

As early as 1972, he began performing dental implants, oral surgery and other specialized surgical procedures as a member of a hospital staff, a time when such procedures were performed only in hospitals. He did so because, as he says, he wanted to be able to understand and provide quality care in his own office and not “play the role of a traffic cop,” referring patients to different locations to be able to complete treatment.

This desire to excel drove Dr. Dickerman to pursue interests outside of dentistry, too. In the early 1980s he started attending architecture classes three nights a week at Drexel University.

“If I want to learn something, I’m going to attend classes and educate myself to do it the right way,” he says.

Dr. Dickerman blended his interests in architecture and dentistry in designing his office. He structured each of his treatment suites, down to the cabinetry, to complement his style of dentistry and provide a quality, soothing environment to patients.

“I bought this building and completely gutted it,” he explains. “I wanted light everywhere.” Dr. Dickerman accomplished exactly this, creating a space where every room or treatment suite has a natural light source. Dr. Dickerman designed the space with his patients in mind; this is evidenced everywhere, even in the placement of the windows, which are high up on the walls for the benefit of patients, who are most often reclined in a chair when in a treatment suite. The office has an abundance of natural light and live plants adorn the entire facility.

There are a number of additional parallels between architecture and dentistry, as Dr. Dickerman sees it. Both fields focus on structure, function and appearance—and, as Dr. Dickerman points out, with both pursuits the aim is to “design something that works,” as he says. “With the mouth, it is the same thing. If you design for appearance, you must also design for function.”

Dr. Dickerman’s office was constructed with function in mind as well. As someone who has been on the cutting edge of dentistry throughout his career, it is fitting that Dr. Dickerman remains at the forefront in terms of technology. “The office has been computerized since 1986, many years before the current trend. Lasers, scanners, digital X-ray and panoramic machines have been in use in my office since the early ’90s,” he says. “Patient education is also very important. The office is equipped in every operatory with educational materials including cameras, television, learning CDs for patients and an extensive library to explain dental treatment to my patients before the start of treatment. We also employ a holistic approach to dental care to complement the traditional type of treatment.”

In addition to his constant postgraduate educational pursuits, Dr. Dickerman is involved in a number of nonprofit organizations. Along with his wife, Judi, Dr. Dickerman supports organizations including the Ronald McDonald House, The Wistar Institute and Special Olympics.

When asked how he finds time for all of his obligations, Dr. Dickerman jokes, “I survive on four, five hours of sleep. I’m a type-A personality.”

He follows this with his honest answer: “I enjoy what I do, I love what I do. I love my family—I’ve been married 48 years, I have two very successful daughters and four wonderful grandchildren. … I guess you can see I have been very successful in both my personal and professional life.”

Bala Dental | Dr. F. Alan Dickerman
139 Montgomery Ave.
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

Photograph by Jody Robinson