Mentoring from an oral-implantology legend fueled Dr. Kurt Kline’s 30-year progression into a true “maverick of the healing arts.”

THE TWINKLE IN MY EYE for a career in dentistry intensified in the fall of 1983 when my father expressed frustration about a patient who had advanced atrophy of the mandible and was unable to wear his denture. An undergrad at the time, I had reviewed an article about a dental-implant procedure that Dr. Leonard I. Linkow had performed. My dad sent the patient to Dr. Linkow, and when he returned months later, he kneeled in front of my dad and thanked him profusely for the referral. This experience led me down the path of oral implantology.

Not long after graduate school, at an [American Academy of Implant Dentistry] meeting, I attended a symposium. I wanted to learn from one panelist in particular—world-class implant dentist Carl Misch—and I told him so. Weeks later I began my lifelong journey being mentored by him.

In the late 1980s and early ’90s, implant dentistry was for specialists. But I found a way. Starting a “ground zero” practice was economically difficult, but it proved to be philosophically correct. Many felt my practicing implant dentistry in a small town wasn’t going to work. Again, I found a way.

My newly built office and training facility represents the evolution of my 30-year passion for implant dentistry. In Italy, 63 percent of general dentists surgically place implants. In Spain, 42 percent. In the U.S., only 17 percent do. This disparity drives me to create similar passion for general dentists to get involved.

I built the new space in response to a patient survey. After many years of house-practice locations, they deserved a state-of-the-art medical facility. I also needed space for a training facility to give attending general dentists a sense of pride and seriousness.

My father practiced for 50 years and was a master of dental prosthetics. He watched cautiously as I charted my career through implant dentistry, never really engaging. Close to retirement, though, he ran into dental trouble. He came to me for a solution; I performed advanced implant treatment. He was elated: “You have earned your way, son. I’m proud of what you’ve done.”

Thirty years ago, my first implant patient, an orthopedic surgeon, believed in my abilities. He traveled to me for a full-mouth rehabilitation with implants under hands-off supervision by Dr. Misch. That patient, who is now in his late nineties, recently came to my office for a hygiene appointment. He said, “You have given me many more years of life through your implant treatment and care. You are a true maverick of the healing arts.” It was an incredible compliment.

Dr. Kurt W. Kline, 60, lives and practices in Plattsburgh, New York. He is a fellow of the Misch International Implant Institute and a fellow and diplomate of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists.