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DePalma Dental celebrates decade in Berlin

(Aug. 20, 2015) Ten years ago DePalma Dental opened in Berlin with a staff of four, and just two chairs in a small office building.
Today, Drs. Michael and Erin DePalma operate a large general dentistry practice with facilities and a staff that can see three times as many patients.
The husband-and-wife team both attended University of Maryland School of Dentistry before beginning the search to find what would become the long-term home for both their business and their young family.
“We were living in Pennsylvania at the time and knew we wanted to be in Maryland. We were looking at the D.C. metropolitan area, and it just wasn’t appealing to us,” Erin said. “I had vacationed here with my family, growing up in the suburbs of D.C., and we would come every year, but I was not familiar with the Berlin area at all.”
Michael performed a little reconnaissance in the region, according to Erin, and almost immediate fell in love with Berlin. The small town feel and the much-lauded school system were appealing to the couple, along with the proximity to a certain ocean.
“I come from a small town and this is a small town with a beach, so you can’t go wrong,” Michael said.
While Berlin itself has changed significantly during the last decade, DePalma Dental has undergone a similar transformation.
“We started with two dental chairs, Mike, me, one assistant and his sister working at the front desk,” Erin said. “We recruited her from Pennsylvania and she moved out and was our one-and-only up front for a while.”
“Now we have two front desks (soon to be three), two assistants (soon to be three) and two hygienists, so things have definitely changed,” Michael said. “We have six chairs and we’ve almost doubled the space that we had, and we’ve increased the technology that we have quite a bit in those 10 years.”
State-of-the-art technology was the goal of the office from the beginning, both agreed, but the evolution of the profession itself during the last decade has allowed some startling improvements as well. Digital x-rays, for instance, offer 80 percent less radiation for patients.
The office also now uses a digital microscope in order to gauge the exact amount of bacteria patients have underneath their gums.
“That helps us treat our patients better,” Michael said. “If somebody has bad bacteria, we treat them one way. If somebody doesn’t, we treat them another way. It’s a very helpful tool for gum disease.”
“It allows us to really target the disease-causing bacteria in an individualized treatment for that patient in a nonsurgical way,” Erin added.
The office also uses a CEREC dental crown machine to scan patients and create custom crowns, as well as mini-implants for dentures, all in one visit.
“Not that many people on the Eastern Shore have that kind of machine,” Michael said. “We’re very proud of the technology that we have and what were able to bring. A lot of patients unfortunately think they still have to drive back to Baltimore and D.C. to get the newest technology, but that’s not the case.”
The DePalmas also frequently travel across the country, from Arizona to Utah to upstate New York, in order to keep up with the latest tech and procedures.
“One thing about dentistry, which is really exciting or fun in the field, is that it’s always changing,” Erin said. “There’s always something new to learn that makes treatment easier for patients, and more effective, and it’s always something we strived for in our office – to learn about the new technology, and bring it here in Berlin.”
“Things are changing so fast,” Michael said. “What was considered correct treatment 10, 20 years ago, they now realize that’s not the way it was supposed to be done. It lets them know they’re getting the highest quality care available today, and as things change we will be too.”
Michael sees the office leading the way in implant technology during the next 10 years
“It’s such a great process and it has so many great benefits for the patients in terms of chewing and smiling and functioning on a day-to-day basis. The microscope technology that helps us treat periodontal disease also helps prevent them from needing expensive surgeries.”
Erin, meanwhile, has been taking “tons of courses” on cosmetic enhancements to anterior teeth.
“I enjoy improving smiles that way,” she said. “When we started this office 10 years ago we took the latest and greatest technology, brought it in here, and then we’ve just kept updating it.”
DePalma Dental is located at 500 Franklin Avenue in Berlin.