“Peace starts with a smile.” — Mother Teresa
That simple yet profound quote is featured on the web site for Izu & Bergmann Dental Associates, Inc. and when you visit their offices at the corner of Highway 111 and Panorama Drive in Palm Desert, it is peace that you feel — not usually the emotion one equates with a visit to the dentist.
The smiles of the staff immediately put you at ease, and the smiles are genuine (and yes, gleaming). Having worked together for years and some for decades, they refer to themselves as one “big dental family.” As you walk to your treatment room, you notice Zen touches to the tasteful decor, and as you sit back in the dental chair you’re rewarded with a soothing desert vista from a panoramic window. You may be offered an iPod to hear comforting music during even routine treatments. There’s even nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) if your dental anxiety is particularly acute.
“It’s quite common for patients to be fearful when entering a dental office,” says Dr. Carolyn Izu, the practice’s general dentist. “These fears are often tied to traumatic dental experiences, especially during childhood or early in life. We can relate because many of us have been there.”
Dr. Izu’s warm smile and calming disposition make it clear she isn’t just repeating marketing jargon, but she’s truly speaking from the heart. “For me, some of my greatest successes have been to transform people who are extremely fearful of dentists and dentistry and create wonderful, trusting patients. These patients present as dental cripples, so to speak, with painful mouths of broken-down, decayed teeth. Sometimes they have suffered some kind of abuse in the dental office. I gain their trust and relieve their pain in a comfortable and nonthreatening environment.”
She gains this trust by taking the time to treat the whole patient. “I listen carefully and try to find a treatment that is truly best for that person. I am also very honest and don’t push patients to have unnecessary treatment — which, unfortunately, can happen in the dental community. I do meticulous work, and most new patients tell me they have never had such a thorough exam by a dentist.”
You don’t have to take her word for it — the sincere testimonials of her patients speak volumes. “I never felt that I was at the dentist,” wrote one. “It was always a pleasure to be sitting in a dentist chair with wonderful music and the gentle touch of caring hands and warm smiles. There is no way I can thank you for the incredible workmanship and superior skillfulness you performed on the restoration of my teeth.”
Dr. Izu remembers one patient when the practice first opened. “She was one of my extremely dental-phobic patients. But after she completed her treatment with us, she actually trained to become my dental assistant! Now that was a transformation.”
A self-described “local-girl-made-good,” Dr. Izu is an Indio native who graduated from Indio High School. Her excellence in academics, sports, theater, and music helped her get into the prestigious Stanford University, where she earned a degree in Human Biology. After Stanford, she received her Doctor of Dental Medicine degree at the Ivy League school, University of Pennsylvania. It was there she met Rainer Bergmann, who was one of only two students chosen annually for the dual specialty degrees in Periodontics (tissue and bone surrounding teeth) and Prosthodontics (restoration and replacement of teeth) — a groundbreaking specialty program the university is famous for.
The couple soon married and moved to Berlin, where Dr. Izu worked as a civilian dentist for the U.S. Army while acquiring fluency in German at the Goethe Institute. Meanwhile, Dr. Bergmann, who had earned his doctorate at the Free University Berlin with magna cum laude honors, worked in private practice.
“It was a dream realized, learning to speak and write another language,” says Dr. Izu. “Of course, my other dream realized was getting married to such a talented person.”
In 1985, the couple opened their state-of-the-art-dental facility in Palm Desert, and to this day, Dr. Bergmann remains the only dentist in the Coachella Valley who is a member of the Pacific Coast Society for Prosthodontics, the prestigious Academy of Prosthodontics, and the elite American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry (limited to only 100 of the world’s top dentists). In addition, his peers included his name on the list of best dentists in the nation.
Although Dr. Bergmann is a true expert in dental implant work, his philosophy is to “save teeth rather than replace, when possible.” When replacement is necessary, he has perfected methods to take patients from oral surgery to a full complement of provisional teeth in one day. This means people with failing dentitions will not have to go without teeth!
“For patients who need full-mouth implant reconstruction, I have developed techniques to preserve the patient’s bone,” he explains. “Though it makes the procedure harder for the dentist, the patient wins. The resulting confident smile makes this truly a life-changing event.”
Dr. Bergmann remembers dining at a restaurant with his mother, when they overheard a woman telling her friends that three dentists confirmed her remaining teeth had to be pulled within the next few days. “My mother went over and told them that her son was a dentist and to consult with me. Almost 20 years later, the woman’s teeth are still there. It is the greatest feeling when you can help someone like that.”
Dr. Bergmann credits the saving of many patients’ “hopeless” teeth to the microscopes he’s been utilizing for the past 15 years. “Our eyes are the weak link. Our hands are capable of fine motor skills that can only develop through the use of magnification. This raises the level of precision of everyday dentistry. Our office is unique — maybe worldwide — because we have one of the most sophisticated, fully motorized neurosurgical microscopes that we bought from a retiring brain surgeon. Only hospitals have microscopes like this.”
With a microscope and a highly-trained assistant for “four-handed dentistry,” Dr. Bergmann can perform procedures sitting upright with balanced posture, without eye strain. The result is the ability to see and remove tooth decay, thus reducing the need for root canals. With microscopes, a patient’s existing restorations can be carefully repaired, rather than removed and replaced.
“Technology like this truly benefits the patient, not only by saving them money, but by saving their teeth. It shows how much the dentist cares about delivering treatment that far exceeds the standard of care.”
But at the end of the day, the greatest technology can’t replace the expertise of a human being.
“I love the arts, and dentistry in my opinion is as much an art as music, sculpting, or painting — paired with science,” says Dr. Bergmann, a pianist who performs regularly for the Steinway Society, an organization that brings music education to Coachella Valley youth. “It takes practice to accomplish perfection and the driving force behind all this is the love and passion for what you do. It takes a lifetime of dedication and teaching to become a master in your field.”
Izu & Bergmann Dental Associates Inc.
74303 Hwy. 111, Ste. 2A, Palm Desert, CA 92260