Many Reasons to Smile
At Upper Dublin Family Dentistry, the team takes a personal approach to delivering positive results for patients of many dental needs
by Pete Croatto

When people think of going to the dentist, they often conjure images of trays brimming with shiny instruments, or the sensation of metal scraping away plaque, or the unnerving whir of the drill. At the same time, they tend to remember the life-changing results that can come from receiving high-quality treatment at the hands of a skilled professional.

Sometimes, however, patients forget about the person behind the mask, the man or woman who is using the utmost concentration and thoroughness to perfect their smiles. Yet getting to know the people behind those masks is essential, according to Yuval Azulay, D.M.D., of Upper Dublin Family Dentistry (UDFD), which has two offices in Montgomery County.

A graduate of Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry, Dr. Azulay founded the practice in 2003, and it has grown to offers services far beyond checking for cavities or identifying evidence of gum disease in the course of a routine check-up. The doctors in the practices can fill nearly every dental need, ranging from dental implants and complex full-mouth reconstruction to endodontics and adult orthodontics. 

Although much of the practice’s success can be traced back to its nurturing staff and the scope of the procedures offered, UDFD’s story cannot be told without first detailing Dr. Azulay’s journey. The abridged version goes something like this: He left his native Israel to attend college in California. Dental school followed, taking him east, toward Philadelphia. After graduation, he founded UDFD. The first doctor that came to join Dr. Azulay in the practice was Roni Nissan, D.M.D., a full-time endodontics professor who taught Dr. Azulay at Temple.

The practice has continued to grow in the years since. It added a second location as well as three more cosmetic dentists and a periodontist, Georges Bandelac, D.D.S., who is also on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine.

Even though dentistry has provided a rewarding career for Dr. Azulay, his first priority remains his family. He has been married for more than 23 years, and together he and his wife have two children—Yoni, 14, and Tamar, 12. “Watching them grow, helping with homework, going to their games and practices are much more important than working every night and weekends,” Dr. Azulay says. “I know that once they graduate, I will have enough quality time to work hard.” In addition, because his family and his wife’s family live far away, they find themselves traveling often to visit them. 

Although family comes first, Dr. Azulay knows he is skilled in his craft, and he also likes working in “a very creative field,” he says. “Since we are a multispecialty practice where most of our doctors are also faculty at Temple or Penn, we have the ability to create a very high level of dentistry to handle very complicated cases. You have a lot of satisfaction when someone is laughing and smiling again.”

This personal touch has become a signature for the practice.

Min-Young (Vicky) Choi, D.M.D., was a student of Dr. Azulay’s at Temple and has since become one of his UDFD colleagues. She counts her childhood visits to the dentist among her happiest memories. Not only were those visits a guaranteed way to spend time with her busy father, but she also benefited from having an exceptionally caring dentist, someone she describes as a gentle and comforting soul who could deliver a shot of local anesthetic without young Vicky ever even noticing.

“I want to give my patients the same kind of experience,” she says. “I did not realize how many people do not like to go to the dentist because of their previous traumatizing experience. I don’t want them to be afraid of dentists any longer after seeing me.”

Away from the office, Dr. Choi enjoys the versatility that comes from living in Philadelphia. She loves the city’s restaurants and enjoys hiking in Fairmount Park. Although she treasures her time away from the office, she believes one off-hours pursuit in particular—painting—has made her a better dentist.

“Great dentists need to understand how the human body works, and they also need to pay close attention to detail since we work on a millimeter scale,” she says. “Painting portraits helps me practice observation skills and express details of people’s face, body, expressions and emotions. I also took sculpture classes, and I believe this has improved my dexterity and my hand-eye coordination. Depending on what dental treatment you need, the design of how the tooth gets prepared should be different. I prepare the tooth very thoroughly because I pay attention to details and have great manual dexterity.”

Meanwhile, Grant McSurdy, D.M.D., joined UDFD as a full-time colleague this month. He is a graduate of Penn, as well as a longtime resident of the Philadelphia area. (He’s also a diehard Eagles fan.) What appealed to him most about the practice was its relaxed atmosphere. Throughout his young career, Dr. McSurdy has seen some instances where dentists have micromanaged their practices, but at UDFD, he feels he can be himself and enjoy the social aspects of the job.

“There is a stigma around going to the dentist,” he says. “Nobody really wants to go to the dentist. When [patients] come to you, they’ve never met you before. I would say you basically have five minutes for that person to trust you implicitly, because what we do is very, very personal. Not only are you basically six inches from someone’s face, you’re literally in their mouth. You have to become someone’s friend, essentially, and you have to do that many times throughout the day. When you leave work you have to feel like, I made a lot of friends today, which is how I feel, and that’s how many patients tend to react to me, too.”

Dr. McSurdy and his colleagues realize patients in the Philadelphia area have many dentistry options. So what separates UDFD from its peers?

“Well, if everybody can do the work, then it’s all about who [the patients] like,” says Dr. McSurdy. “You’re in pain, you need to find someone who you can trust to get you out of pain, make you feel good about your smile if you don’t like something about it. You need to trust that they can do the work—and you need to like them.”

And that’s exactly why the doctors at UDFD welcome patients to get to know each member of the practice—not just so patients can better understand the results the doctors can deliver but also to create a lifelong bond that can help take the fear out of sitting in the dentist’s chair.

Upper Dublin Family Dentistry

3515 W. Moreland Road
Willow Grove, PA 19090 
7847 Old York Road      
Elkins Park, PA 19027     

Photograph by Jody Robinson