Proactive Practice
Dr. James Vito encourages patients to take control of their dental health by addressing concerns before they become a larger problem
by Phil Gianficaro

Like a roadway sign screaming “Bridge Out Ahead,” there exist dental signs that should never be ignored: bleeding gums, constant bad breath, a metallic taste in the mouth and unexplained chipping, breaking or shifting of teeth among them.

What these conditions are likely signaling is a more complex problem such as moderate to severe bone loss. Ignoring the signs could lead to disaster, both medically and financially.

“People need to be aware that these signs could indicate a more complicated and severe condition with their dental health,” says James A. Vito, D.M.D. Dr. Vito has been providing comprehensive, advanced restorative and cosmetic dentistry, as well as implant surgery and restorative procedures in Philadelphia and on the Main Line since 2001. “Sometimes when things don’t hurt in the patient’s mouth, they don’t think they have a serious problem. Sometimes they recognize things that aren’t the same as before but attribute these issues incorrectly to old age. I see that a lot.

“But these signs are telling them something,” he continues. “Dental disease is like a silent killer of teeth. Ignoring the problems does not make them go away; it makes them more complex and more expensive. When patients see these signs, they need to be proactive. These signs are like the tip of the iceberg for a much bigger and costlier problem.”

Dr. Vito is a well-recognized periodontist (one who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal, or gum, disease) and prosthodontist (one who specializes in the replacement of missing teeth and the restoration of natural teeth). During his 26 years in practice, he’s witnessed extreme damage to teeth and gums as a result of patients ignoring the warning signs.

“If your gums bleed spontaneously or bleed after you brush, or if you have consistent bad breath or find yourself chewing mints more often to mask your bad breath, those are signs you cannot ignore,” Dr. Vito says. “As I said, these signs are telling the patient something isn’t right.”

Dr. Vito ranks among the more skilled and expert practitioners in his field. He is certified in periodontics and periodontal prosthesis/fixed prosthodontics from the prestigious periodontal-prosthesis program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, the only program of its kind worldwide.

Dr. Vito is also the only dentist on the Main Line with two board certifications, three fellowships and a master’s in implant prosthodontics. He serves as a clinical professor of periodontics and implant dentistry at Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry, and is on the teaching faculty of the world-renowned Misch International Implant Institute.

Dr. Vito received his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. While serving a one-year hospital residency at the Albert Einstein Medical Center, Philadelphia, he was awarded the prestigious Dr. Benjamin Lebby Award for outstanding performance as a dental resident.

Molly Tetens of Media is among those who have benefited from Dr. Vito’s skill and care. After struggling with dental problems for years, and having experienced significant bone loss, the 77-year-old sought out Dr. Vito in 2011. Over eight months, he extracted all of her teeth and fitted her with upper and lower implants that have left her smiling with satisfaction.

“I’m so delighted with the work Dr. Vito did for me,” Tetens says. “My smile looks great. He has an incredible way of inspiring confidence, as does everyone in his practice. They make you feel welcome, like visiting their home.

“After surgery, he gave me his cell phone number and said to call him if I needed anything. His integrity is impeccable.”

When 69-year-old Warrington resident Jarvis Handley, developed gum disease early last year, he made the call that changed his life.

“I was looking for a permanent solution to my dental problems,” Handley says. “Dr. Vito gave me the reassurance and outcome I was looking for.” Dr. Vito fitted Handley with upper implants, saved seven of his teeth on his lower jaw and fitted him with a bridge.

“I would recommend Dr. Vito to anyone,” Handley continues. “He is fantastic.”

As Dr. Vito has experienced throughout his career, the greatest impediment to improved dental health often times boils down to money. But putting off a problem could ultimately prove more costly he warns.

“If people continue to ignore the problem, it will get worse and become more costly in the end,” he says. “Delaying treatment because people don’t want to pay now will eventually end up costing more and involve more time and procedures. When people wait, they eventually end up looking at having advanced restorative dentistry or implants to resolve the problem.

Another factor Dr. Vito has experienced in delayed dental care is dentists focusing their work only on what a patient’s dental insurance will cover.

“Some dentists sit there and tell patients, ‘You have these specific problems,’” he says. “Then the patient will say that if insurance covers it, fix it. If it doesn’t they are not interested in fixing it and the dentist does not pursue the issue any further. When I see these patients they say if they knew that by not pursuing these issues earlier it would result in more costly dental treatment they would have addressed it sooner. Patients need to take a more proactive role in their dental health.

“And patients need to understand that dental insurance will not help them to any great degree for major dental work," he continues. "It’s an adjunct and is not designed to provide any sort of measurable reimbursement or care.”

In 1960, the maximum dental benefit from dental insurance was $1,000, according to Dr. Vito. The benefit has not changed since.

“For 63 years, the benefit has not increased. Yet patients are accepting of that. If they delay treatment, there isn’t enough of a benefit in the insurance to help them. That’s why they need to address problems early. I ask new patients a question when deliberating about moving forward: Do you want to deal with your dental issues when it can be resolved in a more simple and economical way or wait till it becomes such a crisis that it takes more time, more procedures and more money?”

High-end dentistry is not cheap, according to Dr. Vito, “especially when implants are involved.”

“Patients have a tough time justifying spending the cost of a new car for their mouth, but if they wait or delay treatment these patients have few other viable options,” he says. “These are the patients I see. Our office, because of our skill set is their last chance to have teeth that are healthy, cosmetic and functional.

“We as health care providers must tell patients that we’re treating you, not your dental insurance,” he continues. “We must tell them that if they leave, they’re not going to get better. I equate it with someone diagnosed with cancer. No one then says if insurance doesn’t cover it don’t fix it. They tell the doctor to take care of them. Dental problems, just like other medical problems, need to be addressed before they advance.”
James A. Vito, D.M.D.
523 E. Lancaster Ave.
Wayne, PA 19087
Office: 610-971-2590