At Philadelphia’s Gilbert Dental Care P.C., Dr. Steven J. Gilbert and his staff approach patient treatment as a group effort
by Leigh Stuart

For Steven J. Gilbert, D.M.D., happiness has always been paramount. In fact, the pursuit of happiness is the primary reason he decided at a young age to choose dentistry as his vocation, rather than the family business of clothing manufacturing. To this day, his warmth and genuineness are evident to each patient of Gilbert Dental, the Philadelphia-based general dentistry practice he founded.

Dr. Gilbert has a particular passion for preventive, cosmetic, restorative and periodontal dentistry. Of course, Gilbert Dental is much more than one man; here, treatment is a team effort.

“The key to my office, because we’re one of the most successful solo practices in Philadelphia, is my team,” says Dr. Gilbert, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. “They’ve been with me a long time.

“I have a dedicated, talented, fantastic team,” he continues. “Whereas most dental practices work at trying to impress patients, I work to try to impress my team. I want them to have confidence at what they do and I want them to feel we offer the best services.”

Explaining his business philosophy, Dr. Gilbert cites the book “The Customer Comes Second,” whose authors he has had the pleasure of having as patients. While excellent patient care is always at the top of the list of important measures, so is keeping his team happy and educated so they are not only able but also excited to provide the best possible care for each patient.

And all patients do benefit from the know-how of this stellar, seasoned team of 12 (including Dr. Gilbert). The longevity of tenure among his staff speaks volumes; many of his employees have worked with Dr. Gilbert for more than two decades. Caren Martin, an expanded function dental auxiliary, is one such team member. Martin has been working with Dr. Gilbert for more than 25 years, doing reversible procedures including restorative and artistic work—what she calls the “arts and crafts” side of dentistry. She is well versed in placing bondings and temporary veneers, but moreover, she excels at “giving people back beautiful smiles.”

Martin, who earned her two-year EFDA degree from Jenkintown’s Manor College, says she chose her field because she always wanted to help people. With Dr. Gilbert’s office, she gets to do just that, not only by helping patients achieve brighter, whiter smiles but by helping her coworkers be more successful as well. “I feel what sets our office apart are the people—the staff,” Martin says. “We all genuinely care about the patient, and that really makes a difference. I feel really happy that I’ve been here almost 26 years.”

Mari Nieminen, a registered dental hygienist with Dr. Gilbert’s office, agrees that cooperation is at the heart of the practice’s success. “We have great teamwork here,” says Nieminen, adding that the team has worked so well together and for such a long period of time that often one can know what the other is thinking without even speaking a word.

“The people here, we all really love what we do,” adds Martin. “We really love the patients, and we all work together really well. It really does feel great to change people’s lives.”

Of Dr. Gilbert, who she describes as “the best boss ever,” Martin says he “really utilizes all of our talents. … He’s so good about getting us the best materials possible to better care for our patients.”

Dr. Gilbert also excels when it comes to continuing education, says Martin, noting the team has been sent for advanced training to destinations in Arizona, Nevada and Texas. “Whatever new technology he’s thinking about bringing into the office, he makes sure we’re thoroughly trained in it,” she says.

Nieminen would agree that the continuing education she’s received while working for Gilbert Dental has been top notch. Nieminen, who has been employed by Dr. Gilbert for 20 of the 22 years she has been practicing, says, “[Dr. Gilbert] is so much for continuing education that we all improve ourselves and learn all the time.”

Nieminen notes the office also puts a focus on the oral systemic connection, or the connection between the health of the mouth and the health of the whole body.

“We have an emphasis on preventative dentistry and aesthetic dentistry basically because that’s what our patients want,” Dr. Gilbert says.

The office is also geared toward periodontal health, Nieminen says, noting patient education is also paramount. The office strives to impart to patients that “the head is not separate from the rest of the body; it’s all connected,” she says, adding that poor oral health can lead to complications that have been linked to issues such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

In an effort to keep the mouth as healthy as possible, Dr. Gilbert and his team take steps such as plaque sampling. Patients’ samples are examined under a microscope for levels and amounts of bacteria. Additionally, patients undergo measures such as digital X-rays, periodontal probing and gum pocket measurements, all of which can be used to determine a patient’s susceptibility to periodontal disease. Such tests also enable the practice to form the most accurate treatment plan possible.

Nieminen notes that “every single patient is screened for oral cancer” via a technology called OralID. This specialized light tool uses fluorescence to screen for abnormalities that one might not be able to perceive otherwise.

Another cutting-edge tool is called an air-abrasion machine. With this tool—a “mini-sandblaster” of sorts, explains Martin—patients can have decay removed from their teeth in a minimally invasive manner and without anesthetic. Gilbert Dental also utilizes CariVu, a compact, noninvasive, radiation-free machine that uses near-infrared light to illuminate the inside of the tooth so that cracks and caries (also known as cavities) not visible to the naked eye can be detected.

“We are cutting edge,” Dr. Gilbert states, adding that his tools include lasers and scanning devices that can usually take the place of traditional impressions known for their use of an unappetizing glop material. “Any technology that I feel will benefit my patients or make treating my patients easier or more efficient for my team and me, that’s something that I’ll invest in.”

Dr. Gilbert’s greatest investment, though, is in his team.

“[Dr. Gilbert] values every single individual that works here,” Nieminen says. “He’s not just a boss; he’s also like a friend.”

“Dr. Gilbert loves what he does so much,” Martin adds. “He really cares about the patients and his staff. He’s probably one of the most generous, nice guys you’ll ever meet, honestly. … He’s made me who I am today; that’s the biggest thing I can say. I’m so lucky I’ve been here for 26 years. He’s taught me so much.”

Gilbert Dental Care P.C.
1500 Market Street
Suite 41CC, Lower Lobby
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Photograph by Jeff Anderson