The Philosopher Dentist 1

Why the Smreceks Love Their Work

Dr. Peter Smrecek, D.D.S., has been in practice in Southern California for 37 years. We caught up with him recently.

NBL: What has contributed to your success?

Dr. Smrecek: I’ve always tried to be the best at what I do. That’s one of the reasons I have always been committed to continuing education. In all the many years I’ve practiced, I have more than quadrupled the required 25 units per year needed to maintain a dental license. Also, I’m always reminded that one of the meanings of the word “doctor” is “teacher.” In that regard, I have always tried to help my patients understand the nature and causes of the problems that I need to treat.

NBL: After you graduated from Georgetown, how did you end up in California?

Dr. Smrecek: After three years in the Navy Dental Corp, two of which were spent in Orange County, I fell in love with the weather and having the ocean close by. I decided to look for an associateship to stay in California a while longer. And, though I don’t know how, I must have known that the love of my life, my future wife and business partner Val, was to be found here as well.

NBL: Did you find then that the West Coast was more advanced in dentistry than the East Coast?

Dr. Smrecek: While California has some of the finest dentistry done anywhere, it also has a lot of mediocre, if not poor, dentistry as well. In many ways, California has led the country in high volume­, herd-them-in and herd-them-out­, insurance-driven, union plan-driven and MediCal-driven dental practices. As it turns out, I was first hired at a high volume office. The satisfaction of doing your best was not in my control. I began to pursue a practice of my own on the side. I finally was able to purchase a practice that was failing in Newport Beach, and the hard work of turning it around began. It took almost five years and, by that time, I knew I wasn’t leaving California.

NBL: What effect did attending the L.M. Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, Florida, have on you?

Dr. Smrecek: The Pankey Institute made a big difference in my life, as a dentist and as a man. The Pankey experience helped me articulate feelings that I had, but couldn’t explain. For instance, that success and profit is not only measured in dollars. It helps you see your life in terms of balance in your professional life and your personal life as well.

I first attended the Institute in 1993 and after one week of in-depth immersion into quality dentistry and the Pankey philosophy, I was convinced that the like-minded professionals that I came in contact with could help me achieve the practice I had envisioned. The teaching was designed to improve my technical ability, my emotional intelligence, my ability to relate to people, and to articulate what I learned more effectively.

NBL: We understand you are a sailor?

Dr. Smrecek: I learned to sail here in California. Sailing is a relaxing, inspiring, refreshing, almost mystical pastime for me. There is something about moving across the water with only the sound of the wind and the water on the boat that “sharpens the saw” and allows me to be more effective and efficient when I return to work.

NBL: With all your years of practice, you must have seen many changes?

Dr. Smrecek: Dentistry has changed so much since 1977 that I can honestly say I do nothing in my practice that was taught in dental school. In a general sense, the biggest change is that today we understand more about the nature and causes of tooth decay and periodontal disease.

NBL: What do you think about the world of specialists?

Dr. Smrecek: My training at the Pankey Institute allowed me to improve my comfort level with comprehensive treatment, especially in the large rehabilitation or reconstruction treatment plans, which often involve multidisciplinary treatment. Often this treatment requires coordinated treatment with dental specialists. Oral surgeons can move and change the shape of the upper and lower jaw to correct growth irregularities. Orthodontists, with the help of implant anchorage, can move the teeth so they fit together after the jaws are properly aligned, instead of moving the teeth to hide the misalignment. Periodontists can change the gum architecture to create a better framework for the smile and reveal the enamel surfaces of the teeth that are sometimes covered with excess gum and bone. Plastic surgeons can use Botox to relieve an asymmetrical lip pull or limit a hyper mobile lip to create a pleasant smile. As a general restorative dentist, I must be aware of what the various specialists are capable of, as well as the problems/conditions of the patient, which makes them a candidate for these special services.

NBL: What is it about you and Val that makes your practice stand out?

Dr. Smrecek: Val and I have been working together for so long that I think she could answer patients’ questions almost verbatim the way I would. She’s like my clone. We both have a vested interest in the practice and have the same sense of pride. Another note on our success is found in the saying, “ If at first you don’t succeed, do it the way your wife told you to.”