The way Don Le, DDS, sees it, general practice dentists will find themselves placing dental implants—now mostly done by specialists—sooner or later.
He notes that the procedure has already gained widespread adoption among general dentists in Japan and Korea because of its high rate of success and relative affordability.
“For younger patients especially, implants tend to offer a more appealing option than bridges or dentures,” says Le, Assistant Professor in General Practice and Dental Public Health at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry. “Nobody wants to go on a date and have their significant other find out they have missing teeth.”
As a volunteer faculty member at the School of Dentistry for more than 13 years and a private practitioner, Le has seen firsthand the changing dental landscape. New methods and technological advances constantly reshape the profession, requiring students, clinicians, researchers, and educators to keep pace.
When it comes to implants, he sees that while many general practice students learn how to restore implants, few are taught to place them.
“When I was in school, implants were not part of curriculum because that was done by specialists,” he says. “But I believe general practitioners will be doing this a lot more in the future, so I want all of our students to have opportunities to learn and actually do it.”
In concert with the UTHealth Houston Many Faces. One Mission. fundraising campaign and its focus on training the next generation of health professionals, Le and his wife, Cindy, made a significant contribution to establish the Drs. Don and Cindy Le Professorship in Implant Dentistry at the School of Dentistry. The endowment will support education in implant dentistry by helping fund lectures and simulation training, innovative technology purchases, and professional development for faculty and staff.
“If we want to stay ahead of other schools, we have to continually update what we teach our students,” says Le. “They’re really hungry for information.”
This is the second endowment Le and Cindy have established at the School of Dentistry, reflecting their commitment to the school and deep affinity for the City of Houston. Although born in Vietnam, Le considers Houston his hometown. He attended Lamar High School and has practiced dentistry in the city for more than 20 years, growing a strong sense of community and a desire to give back.
He hopes his and Cindy’s gift will not only help students become familiar with implant dentistry, but also inspire others to start the journey of supporting their communities. It’s a cause he and his family have found greatly rewarding.
“We started out just thinking that we wanted to contribute somehow,” he says. “Now, giving has become a part of us.”