What can you tell us about your background?
I grew up in a small town where my dad, Dr. Johnny Capes, was a general dentist. What I remember best about that was spending time in his office and seeing him making people better. The other was the fact that my dad seemed to know everyone around town. I think that was what made me want to be in the health field. I went to college with the plan to go to medical school.
Then, as fate would have it, I had my wisdom teeth removed by my dad’s friend, who was an oral surgeon, after my first year at college. I thought how cool was that experience? I ended up spending a lot of time with him in the summer, and that is when I knew I wanted to be an oral surgeon. So after spending time at the University of Georgia, I headed down to Augusta for dental school at the Medical College of Georgia. Upon completing dental school, I attended Case Western Reserve University where I received not only my specialty training in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, but also my medical degree. So I guess in a roundabout way, I did go to medical school. When I finished my training, my wife and I knew we wanted to head back home to my Georgia roots. My goal was to find a place that would be similar to the experience I had seen with my father. We were very blessed to end up in southeast Georgia where I have been in solo practice for the last 16 years.
Is your practice limited to implants?
When I finished my residency and started my practice, I wanted to maintain a full-scope oral surgery practice. Over the past 16 years, it has developed into removal of teeth, pathology, facial trauma, and reconstruction. The bulk of what we do surrounds the aspect of placing implants.
Why did you decide to focus on implantology?
I had a very unique training at Case Western. We were fortunate to be involved in some large implant studies at that time. I was able to place a lot of implants and learn from some of the pioneers in the implant field at that time. I was at the beginning of what would be the future of dentistry. I saw the impact implants could have for our patients and I wanted to be a part of that.
Who inspired you?
This is a tough question. I have been blessed that in many chapters of my life, there were key individuals who are responsible for where I am today. I certainly believe my dad influenced me tremendously to go in the direction of dentistry. I was fortunate to do dental implant research for 3 years while in dental school. Dr. David Steflick, who is no longer with us, was a man who showed me passion, and the knowledge I gained from him and our research was amazing. I knew more about titanium and osseous integration in dental school than most do today.
The reason for my unique experience at Case Western belonged to a pioneer in implant dentistry, Dr. Charles Babbush. He imparted a wealth of information and experience that had such an impact on me. But again, it was his passion for making a difference that influenced me the most.
As the saying goes, “Find something in life that you’re passionate about, and do that!” I am blessed that this is what I do every day!
Lastly, I would have never made it through the process and be where I am today if not for one person, my wife. People have no idea what it takes to survive 9 years of training. There were many times I wanted to give up. But she was always there by my side coming to the hospital, bringing me dinner, bringing our daughter so I could see her for 15 minutes. She is the strongest person I know. I am no one without her.
How long have you been in practice, and what systems do you use?
I have been in practice coming up on 16 years. It is amazing how time flies by. During that time and in training, I have worked with most all implant systems. Since 2006, I have been using Implant Direct. It is an extraordinary company! In 2006, I made a trip to Las Vegas with a single purpose — to meet Dr. Gerald Niznick. After meeting with him, and looking at his systems and vision, I knew I was partnering with a company that was going to be a huge influence on the future of implant dentistry. And now 8 years later, I was right. But at the end of the day, the most important part of any implant system is the patient. The results we are able to give our patients using Implant Direct are why I use their system.
What training have you undertaken?
Great question. For after all my training, you would say “I got it!” But a wiser man would admit not nearly enough to succeed! So when I started my practice, I committed myself to continuing to learn and teach. As a specialist, I knew that if I didn’t understand the restorative process, I was useless for my referrals. So I focused on the restorative aspects of implants. I also completed the process of becoming a Diplomate in the American Board of Implantology. For me it is very simple — learning never stops; you just have to go get it.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your practice?
As I said earlier, I am blessed that I get to wake up every morning and do what I love. But without a doubt, the most satisfying and humble aspect of my practice is the blessing of people who come to me and put their trust in me to help them. Without that, we do nothing.
Professionally, what are you most proud of?
Discovering a practice culture that is different from anything out there. As a specialist, I didn’t want to miss out on building relationships with both our patients and our referrals. We have developed a system that in simple terms allows us to do business with our friends. I am proud of what my staff has developed as a part of this. The culmination of this is that I now have a program specifically for oral surgeons to share what I have discovered. That is cool!
What do you think is unique about your practice?
The simple answer is everything! In discussing this discovery with other specialists, it has become very clear that what we do is very unique. How we see that, is in what our patients (friends) tell us and in the letters we get from them. “This is the most unique doctor’s experience I have ever had.” “What a refreshing experience.” I guess just to sum it up, it is the whole experience. And at our office, we are not just about doing procedures; we are about taking care of people.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Wow! I always tell my staff don’t let obstacles stop you; see them as opportunities. The reality was when I started in 1998, implants were still not part of regular dentistry. So when I opened, I was working with referring dentists who had very little experience. Placing an implant has no value if it can’t be restored. But this really became the greatest opportunity. We all partnered together and I created a path of mutual learning that has worked very well. I am fortunate to work with so many talented dentists who provide amazing results for our patients.
What would you have become if you hadn’t become a dentist?
That is easy. I would be a chef and own my own restaurant. This seems odd, but really both businesses are very similar. They are all about creating an experience! But don’t look for Doc’s Grill anytime soon!
What is the future of implants and dentistry?
I always tell my patients I don’t have that crystal ball to tell the future. I have always been taught that He provides us with a lamp at our feet to show the path.
Implants have revolutionized dentistry as we know it today. What we can provide for our patients is truly incredible! But what we must always remember and explain to our patients is that implants are not teeth. The future of implants really will be related to how we can better restore them and creating long-term success. We are just now beginning to see what can happen with implants over time; the future is how we react to it. I still believe that the team approach is the best long-term environment for our patients. It allows each team member to manage issues as they arise. Implants will be the future of dentistry as we know it.
The field of dentistry is a wonderful profession. We must remember the opportunity we are given every day to change someone’s life. How important is a person’s smile? It is extremely important! I think dentistry needs to take a hard look at who is in charge of patient care. We should never let corporate policies or insurance companies dictate how we take care of our patients. As the number of solo/partner dental practices is decreasing, it will be interesting to see how dentistry is delivered in the future.
What are your top tips for maintaining a successful practice?
I hate to repeat myself, but first of all, it is all about passion! If you aren’t looking for CE opportunities and participating in study clubs and local societies, are you passionate about what you are doing? We all go through peaks and valleys; just find ways to re-energize yourself.
Be engaged with your practice. When I say practice, I mean your staff and anyone you work with to deliver care for your patients. I think way too many clinicians just show up. Your staff is your family, whether you like it or not. Start every day with a morning huddle. The single most important thing we can do is to start every day on the same page.
Be humble. People come to us with pain or issues. We were not put here to judge. They put their trust in us; we should never take that for granted.
What advice would you give a budding implantologist?
First, you must define what that means. Implant dentistry is not recognized as a separate field or specialty of dentistry. So it is each individual’s responsibility and ethical obligation to determine what services related to implants he/she will provide. I think we must always remember to do no harm. Our patients are not for us to experiment on. They deserve our very best every time. We all must continue to seek training that allows us to provide care for our patients. The best advice is to partner with a mentor that can guide them. Don’t go at it alone; there are plenty of people whom you can partner with that would love to help.
Lastly, the rule I live by for all my patients, and it is what I tell them, “We can plan for life or we can plan for failure!” Don’t let patients dictate the care you provide for them.
What are your hobbies, and what do you do in your spare time?
We all need downtime where no one is calling you doctor! I really enjoy just being outside whether golfing, working in the yard, or fishing. It is also nice to read and do non-dental stuff. I enjoy traveling with my wife Wendy, friends, and family. Recently, I have taken an interest in wines, which is so interesting. I recently went to Napa, which I highly recommend. Lastly, I am getting the opportunity to teach and share what I have learned.