Dennis Hartlieb

Exploring Prosthodontics and Mentorship with Dr. Gregg Kinzer

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How do you choose your specific focus within dentistry? What leads a dentist to choose to be a prosthodontist? 

In Part One of Dr. Dennis Hartlieb's interview with Dr. Gregg Kinzer, Dennis and Gregg discuss what led Gregg into dentistry despite being in a family of educators. Gregg talks about going to the University of Washington, and he shares how he transitioned from a focus on orthodontics to prosthodontics.

Gregg also shares about the mentorship he received from legends within the dental field while he was a grad student at the University of Washington and the way those opportunities shaped his career. Gregg talks about how to figure out if a partnership will work and what it was like becoming part of the Spear Institute. Don't miss this riveting conversation with Dr. Gregg Kinzer!

More about Dr. Gregg Kinzer

From the Spear Institute website:

"Dr. Greggory Kinzer is a native of Washington State. He grew up in Walla Walla, WA and attended the University of Washington for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees. He received his D.D.S. degree in 1995 and his M.S.D. and certificate in Prosthodontics in 1998.

"Dr. Kinzer is a gifted academician and clinician and is considered an expert in restorative and esthetic dentistry around the world. His interdisciplinary approach to dentistry is founded in both empirical research and clinical experience. His unique ability to impart complex clinical processes in a logical, systematic and clear methodology differentiates him from other prosthodontists.

"For his entire career, Dr. Kinzer has been committed to furthering the art and science of dental education. He is highly recognized lecturer both nationally and internationally and continues to serve as an Affiliate Assistant Professor in the department of Graduate Prosthodontics at the University of Washington. In addition, he is the Director of Curriculum and Campus Education at Spear Education in Scottsdale, AZ., where he also resides as full time faculty."
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Read the Full Interview Below

Dennis 0:03  
Hello, Dental Online Trainers! Dr. Dennis Hartlieb, back with you today for another Sharecast. I'm really excited to spend the time with you today as I get to know a guy that I've just known seen so many times, kind of know, but never really had a chance to really talk to. But a guy I admire so much for his incredible dentistry and his dedication to dentistry.

Today I get to speak with Dr. Gregg Kinzer. For those of you who don't know Gregg, he's a prosthodontist from the University of Washington. He practices in Seattle. And he actually took over for Dr. Frank Spear in his practice. And Gregg got to practice a bit with with Frank, and we talk a little bit about that. Greg is the Director of Curriculum and campus education at Spear Education. He is a Co-Founder of Aesthetics By Design Dental Laboratory with Dr. Bob Winter, and he continues his private practice in the city of Seattle. During part one of my interview, Gregg shares with us how he found his way into dentistry and what led him away from orthodontics. Thank God! No, just kidding. And into prosthodontics instead! Yeah, fantastic!

Gregg talks about his family's background with education and teaching and how it impacted him as a young person and in his career, and especially as he's sort of taken over this higher level Rolex, the Spear Center. We really get to talk a lot about mentorship and working with experts to improve and better our dental skills. So kick back, and relax... Unless you're driving! Then pay attention the road. But enjoy this first part of our interview with Dr. Gregg Kinzer. 

Dennis 1:38  
Hello, Dental Online Trainers! Dr. Dennis Hartlieb with you with a another Sharecast episode. Today, I have the great fortune of hanging out with a doctor named Dr. Gregg Kinzer. If you don't know Gregg Kinzer, time to climb out from underneath your rock! Gregg is... he's pretty big at the Spear Institute. I think we'll talk about that. But he's got a pretty significant role there. And Gregg is doing some just tremendous dentistry that if you haven't seen his stuff, yeah, need to see it because he's doing some super cool stuff. I'm going to tell you a little bit about Gregg, and then I'll bring him on in. So Greg, you grew up in the state of Washington. You're a Husky, right? You went to UW undergrad? I brought my... I brought my Michigan mug just for this. Sorry for the whooping we gave you this this fall! 

Gregg 2:28  
We've had some issues!

Dennis 2:29  
I'm sorry.... Sorry for your season that you're having. So if you're a football fan, I'll try not to keep bringing that up.

Gregg 2:36  
We're moving in my direction. By firing the coach!

Dennis 2:40  
Yeah, well, you know, you had to start somewhere! So there you go. You got your DDS degree in '95, and then you got your Prosth certificate in '98. What is, I think, really gonna be interesting to talk about is Gregg took over Frank Spear's practice in Seattle. And then he's been on board of the Spear Institute... for how long, Greg? How long have you been part of that?

Gregg 3:02  
Since I came into practice. So it was it was Seattle Institute, back in, you know, '95, '98... it was Seattle Institute. And then it went to Spear Education in 2008. So it was just a name change and a move of location. So I've been kind of with him ever since I came into practice, which was '98.

Dennis 3:24  
All right. Well, we'll talk more about stuff, but you're members of all the significant organizations. I've gotten to see Gregg through the American Academy of Restorative Dentistry. But he's part of multiple, multiple organizations that are all pretty, super high caliber stuff. He's got lots of accolades. So if you want to learn more about how cool Gregg is, and all his accolades, you're just going to have to google him, and you'll see plenty of stuff. Besides that, Gregg is married to Jill, and they have six kids between them. And so that's a shitload of family members. So God bless you! 

Gregg 4:00  
The Brady Bunch! 

Dennis 4:01  
Yeah, right! So we'll talk about that too, because I think all of us in dentistry who are trying to do dentistry at a higher level, or a more significant level, we're all challenged with this balancing between having a practice, having a family, and trying to manage all that stuff. So we definitely want to talk about that. So, Gregg, thank you for joining us. I'm so excited to have you here with us today.

Youth Experiences Leading into Dentistry as a Career

Gregg 4:25  
Hey, Dennis, thanks for having me! I'm actually excited to be here and excited to spend a little time and chat with you a little bit. So thank you.

Dennis 4:32  
Perfect. So Gregg, I always start out... What's interesting to me, is where people started in dentistry! So, tell me... Where did you grow up in Washington? In what area?

Gregg 4:45  
I grew up in Walla Walla, Washington. Have you heard of that?

Dennis 4:49  
Yeah, that's what is... Is Washington State in Walla Walla? WSU?

Gregg 4:54  
Yes. No, no. So, Whitman College is in Walla Walla; WSU is in Pullman.

Dennis 4:58  
Okay, got it. Yeah. So what's Walla Walla like as a kid?

Gregg 5:03  
As a kid? It's agricultural town. It's small. It's 25,000 people. Hard to get into trouble. I mean, you can but you've got to work at it. And so it was, you know, lots of sports. Just a quiet kind of a... quiet, quiet farming town is what it kind of is. It's changed now. It's better now.

Dennis 5:24  
What in what way is it better?

Gregg 5:26  
It's wine... If you're a wine connoisseur, Walla Walla is the big area for... I would say, the best wines coming out of Washington, the grapes are all in Walla Walla. So that's really known... It's a destination spot now. It's got great little hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants; it's a really kind of a neat place to go and visit now. But that wasn't the case when I was there. When I was there, it was all about onions. Walla Walla sweet onions, that was the big... That was our big ticket.

Dennis 5:54  
That's... I actually recall that now. So, if we want to go to Walla Walla, can we count on you as our tour guide?

Gregg 5:59  
Absolutely! My parents are there and they would be more than happy to show you around. And they're kind of well versed in the whole wine piece. So yeah, you got built in hosts.

Dennis 6:08  
Fantastic. So what did your folks do? Like how would you... Why were you guys in Walla Walla?

Gregg 6:14  
My dad grew up in Walla Walla, and he's lived there his entire life, and he was in education. He was a teacher and then evolved into a middle school principal. That's where he spent his career.

Dennis 6:26  
What did he teach?

Gregg 6:27  
He was an English teacher. And then he was a, you know, coach, in various accolades of sports. So... English, though.

Dennis 6:37  
And do you have siblings? Are there more Kinzers?

Gregg 6:39  
I have an older sister. Yeah, an older sister, who's also an education, and then a younger brother. So I'm the middle child.

Dennis 6:46  
Middle child! So, there are middle child attributes. So... 

Gregg 6:49  
For sure! 

Dennis 6:50  
Right? Yeah? Tell me how you're like a middle child. And how are you not like a middle child?

Gregg 6:55  
I think I'm like a middle child in that the middle child is overlooked if you read all of the reports on middle children. You're not the first; you're not the last. And so you end up having to try to push to areas to get yourself noticed. That's the typical middle child... that you try to overachieve, so at least you get some response. So yeah, that's that would be me.

Dennis 7:21  
All right. Fair enough. I wondered because I don't know you very well, Gregg. I know you from a distance; I've sort of been a stalker, to be quite honest. I'm a pretty shy guy. You know, I'm good when I can have a cocktail with me, and I can sit and talk to people! But I'm not the person to come up and just introduce myself and say, "Hey, you know, I'm an admirer!" So this is my format for doing that! So...

Gregg 7:43  
Yeah, I'll tell you what! I am that I am exactly the same as you. I am. Oh, I... when I was, you know, in high school and had to do a presentation for class, it was like the most fear I could ever imagine. Talking, you know, talking in front of people, and even just... I was like, the wallflower at a party. I'd be just the guy in the corner. So yeah, you and I maybe are very similar in that regard.

Dennis 8:07  
Yeah, I'm the youngest of the kids. But I found my way of not getting into trouble was just to stay away from the action because my brothers were complete pain in the asses to my parents. So I was just like, I do not want any attention. Because if this is getting attention, I don't want it! 

Gregg 8:23  
That's great. 
When I was in high school and had to do a presentation for class, it was like the most fear I could ever imagine. 
Dr. Gregg Kinzer
Dennis 8:24  
So I hid from attention. I want to read something to you. And this is from, I believe, a former employee of yours, and I got this off the line. "Dr. Kinzer is an absolutely incredible prosthodontist. He's approachable, down to earth, kind, compassionate and detailed. Dr. Kinzer was an incredible employer, and I really enjoyed the time I spent working with him directly. He's dedicated to excellence and to the success and happiness of all his patients. His commitment to excellence is evident in all he does. Dr. Kinzer is incredibly hardworking, accommodating, and authentic. What are those words mean to you when you hear that?

Gregg 8:58  
Wow, I'm... I don't know who wrote that! I've never heard, I've never read that. But it's very, it's very sweet. I hope that that's all true. I hope that that holds true. Because I've always held myself at that level. Interpersonal, practice, patients, staff. So yeah, it's very... It's very, very nicely written.

Dennis 9:26  
There's a book by Lee Lacocca called Where Are All the Leaders... Where Have All the Leaders Gone. And I've got to tell you in the dental community, that people that I get to meet and chat with... There's plenty of them here! So, obviously, one of the more challenging things than being a dentist is being a strong leader also. And this speaks volumes. So it was... it was kind of neat reading that. I hope you enjoyed that because it's always nice to hear nice things.

Gregg 9:48  
I had not heard that before. So thank you.

Dennis 9:51  
It was from Stacey. 

Gregg 9:52  
Oh, wow. 

Dennis 9:54  
AKA Jill Kinzer. No, just kidding! 

Gregg 9:59  
She should have been embellished if it was Jill.

Dennis 10:02  
Actually, I think it says Dr. Jeffrey Rouse is the one who wrote that. 

Gregg 10:06  
There you go!

Dennis 10:09  
Alright, so tell me... So you're a kid in Walla Walla. You're playing a lot of sports. Your dad was a coach. You were... You're a good student, I presume, because your dad is in academics. Was your mom... was she a homemaker? Was she a teacher? What did she do?

Gregg 10:24  
Yes to both. She was a preschool, preschool / kindergarten teacher, but then when, you know, when they started having kids, she became a homemaker. And then when we got back into school, and she had her days, she would go back and teach again. So I kind of come from, from a large family of educators. Because my mother is an identical twin. And her identical twin was a teacher. And my aunt's husband, although he just passed away, was a principal. So now, we have two twins that are teachers marrying two gentlemen that were educators and became principals. So like, the similarities in our families are really quite comical, because most of their... You know, my cousins are teachers as well. My sister is a teacher; my brother got his degree in education, but never really went into it. So, I was kind of surrounded by educators in my childhood, and then even into my adult life. Yeah.

Dennis 11:23  
I was going to ask this later on, but just to stay on the subject, then... So how much influence did you have with how you teach from watching or being around your parents as teachers and stuff? Did that influence you much?

Gregg 11:34  
Well, I'll tell you what... It's interesting because I did not even think about going into teaching. I... my brother, you know, and my sister went to the same school as my parents. So like, everybody kind of follows a similar path; you're influenced by people that come before you. And for whatever reason, I did not want to be in that. I didn't go to the same school; I went to the University of Washington. And I didn't go into education; I went into dentistry. So I... I kind of was the black sheep in that regard. And it wasn't until I got into graduate school, where you have to put together, you know, lectures, and you have to become an educator -- that's part of it; that's a class -- that I started to now recollect that, hey, I come from a lineage of people that actually did this. And so all of a sudden, I wasn't the black sheep anymore, I was... Maybe I was brought back in!

Dennis 12:26  
They let you in for Thanksgiving dinner!

Gregg 12:27  
They let me back in; they actually let me sleep in the house! But what's really interesting, Dennis, is my parents.... You know, when we started doing things at Spear Education. It's quite a phenomenal place down there. And I would say, "I'm going down there, and I'm teaching a class." And you can imagine that in their mind, a class would be a classroom that they're used to teaching when they were working.

And so, there was a winter I said, "Why don't you guys come down? You know, the weather's really terrible where you are. Come to Arizona, and we can hang out, and you can come to the center, and you can actually see me teach a class." And they're like, "Oh, this is fantastic!" And they got down there, and all of a sudden, their vision was completely changed, because now it's a 300 person auditorium, and there's their son, down presenting. And so it was... it was an eye opening experience.

But this then allowed my father to comment on my speaking style, right? Being an English teacher, and teaching, you know, speech and these types of things... He, I was expecting him to say, "Well, you know, you used the word "um" X amount of times, and you stumbled and you..." But he was very complimentary on on my style, and my choice of words, and then using, you know, words correctly, further versus farther, that type of idea. So he's like, yeah... He was... it was very nice to see his appreciation for what I've done, even though that wasn't kind of my initial goal to be an educator.

Dennis 14:08  
Were you stressed with your parents in the audience? Were you sort of in the back of your mind thinking, watch my watch my vernacular, make sure that I'm using the proper wordage!

Gregg 14:19  
Not at all! In fact, this is a funny story. This kind of goes back, maybe imprinting on why I became a dentist. Okay, so I'm going to tell you a story. And I actually told this story in front of the entire auditorium with my parents there. Okay, so the story is I'm a little kid, and I'm probably, let's say seven years old. Right? So I have, you know, deciduous teeth in... Actually I wouldn't be... I was probably below seven. And we had a big oak tree with a homemade wooden swing like a disc with a with a rope, right? So it got boring to swing on it, but then it became more fun to throw it at each other. So I think my brother and I are out there, and I got hit in the mouth with it, right? And one of my deciduous teeth turned dark. So, now my father, who has no ties with dentistry whatsoever, sees a dark tooth and he says, "Oh, that needs to come out." So he decides he's going to pull it out. Okay?

Dennis 15:29  
How hard can that be? This is not neuroscience!

Gregg 15:32  
It's not ready to come out. So, you know, we know how hard it is to pull a tooth out. It's like an art form to pull a tooth out that's not ready to come out. So he goes to the garage and gets like, you know, his newest pair of pliers. But seriously, from the garage, a set of pliers. And he comes back, and he has me on the couch. And I I kind of probably disassociated from it. But I have a vision from above that I'm lying back; he's got his pliers. He's got his... I think at one point, he might have had his knee on my chest, right?

But once he started, he couldn't stop. Like you couldn't say, Well, I'm going to tap out now. And he got it out. Right? So, you know, years later, I became a dentist. And maybe, just maybe that was the influence. But I told that story in front of the entire audience that my dad pulled the tooth, and people at the break, were going up to him saying, "That didn't really happen!" Like that didn't happen. And my dad had to go, "Yeah, actually, I actually did that."

Dennis 16:40  
Now have you served your father back, like doing dentistry on him without any anesthetics? Just to give him a taste of his own magic.

Gregg 16:46  
I haven't. But you know what, he gave me the set of pliers. Within the last five years, he gave me the set of pliers, and I keep them in my on my lab bench because they are... They aren't like the regular pliers you keep in your garage. They're like small. And so I actually use them to like, hold on to things. So I actually use the tool that maybe got me into dentistry on weekly basis.

Dennis 17:08  
Is that good for grabbing the children's ears when they're not paying attention? So you can grab them? 

Gregg 17:12  
Exactly. I just show it to them. 

Dennis 17:14  
The Parenting Tool! 

Gregg 17:17  
School of hard knocks! That's right! 

Formative Childhood Experience Leads to Interest in Dentistry

Listen in as Dr. Kinzer shares a story from his childhood that he believes might have led to his decision to become a dentist.
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Dennis 17:19  
That's right. All right. So getting back... You're growing up in Walla Walla, you're, you're this kid, your parents are in education. How old were you when you figured out you were going to be a dentist? Or was that something that happened much longer or later?

Gregg 17:33  
It... I didn't know going into college. First year of college I didn't know. But what I went back to is on my little half block... My next door neighbor was a dentist. His name was Jim Parrish. And he had really small children that we kind of befriended. But we also... I befriended him. And I would go into his office because he was just a super nice, compassionate man. And I would just kind of watch what he did. And I'm like, that's pretty cool. And then halfway down the block was another dentist.

And on the end of the block was an orthodontist. And I took care of this lawn for the orthodontist, and this guy was doing well. And he had like a little stream through his yard, and he had horses. And like this guy... And I said, "What does he do? What's that guy do? He's an orthodontist?" So first year of college, didn't... You know, I took business classes, and it didn't speak to me. And I thought, you know, dentistry! In fact, I wanted to go into be an orthodontist. That was my freshman year of college, I don't know what I'm going to do. By the end, I'm like, I've got to do something... Dentistry because I was influenced heavily by my neighbor, and these other people. But my whole goal was to be an orthodontist. That was my whole impetus to go into dentistry.

Dennis 18:52  
And then when you saw that they actually don't do anything, that you said, "I don't really want to that!" No...

Gregg 18:57  
Actually, once I... I even thought about it in grad school. I thought about finishing prosth and going back and doing ortho. Yeah.

Dennis 19:07  
Well, so walk me through. So UW undergrad... So Seattle, UW Seattle? 

Gregg 19:11  

Dennis 19:12  
So you're a Husky? 

Gregg 19:13  
Yep. True husky. 

Experiencing Dental School at the University of Washington 

Dennis 19:14  
So when you were an undergrad, you sort of set your sights early on going to dental school, which I had the same experience at Michigan. And I gotta tell you, I found it much. I was I was fortunate and relieved that I knew what I wanted to do, because I knew a bunch of people who didn't know why they were in college. And I saw that it's they suffered from that because they didn't have direction for me. It was easy. I said, I want to be a dentist. These are the grades I got to get these are the classes I got to take. Yep. And it was I was grateful for that. Did you feel the same way?

Gregg 19:47  
I totally agree. I think that you have to... it's a lot of work to push yourself to do something. So to have that insight of here's what I want to do. The goals are set. Now it's just get it done. Without having those goals, I think it would be tough. You're just going through the motions.

Dennis 20:03  
It would be for me; I'm just a goal centric person. So if I don't have that set up in front of me, it's hard for me to sort of go through day by day if I don't have that out. So... When you... what was it like going to dental school the first day? What do you remember?

Gregg 20:17  
You know what? I remember. Since I went to dental school at the UW as well. In fact, I did all my 11 years of training at the University of Washington. The first day of dental school, one of my... one of my undergraduate fraternity brothers, in my class was in my dental school class. He's an oral surgeon now. So we went from undergrad into dental school and you know, we're really close friends. And now there's all these other people, and we just kind of did our own thing.

So I kind of disassociated from everybody else. And what was interesting for me, in fact the entire first quarter, is, since I went to undergrad there, a lot of your first quarter of dental school is your basic sciences, right? You're doing your histo and your biochem. Well, I just took all those classes from the exact same people that are teaching them. So, some of them because of my grade that I had in their class just said, "Okay, you don't have to take it." And other ones made me take a test. So my first quarter of dental school I had six credits. I took two classes. I took gross anatomy, and I took dental ethics.

Dennis 21:27  
Wow. How was that dental ethics course? It took a lot of time, did it?

Gregg 21:31  
It was fantastic. Yeah, so it was a rude awakening going into the winter... the winter quarter. But man, I had so much fun the first quarter of dental school because it was like, I was still back in the frat with less to do! It was just... I was having a great time.

Dennis 21:48  
Did you go after three years or four years for dental school? 

Gregg 21:50  
Four years. 

Dennis 21:51  
You did four years? Yeah, I did Michigan undergrad, I did Michigan dental school. And I didn't have the same experience. Once I got into dental school, we had completely different professors for all our courses and stuff. So I just got my ass kicked by different people this time. So the first time around, so a whole new experience. But it was what fascinated me... and maybe you had the same experience going to, you know, a major college and then having the dental school there.

I was... I was shocked by like, how many students, other classmates, were coming from, like, really small schools. And they're super bright people. And, you know, like Saginaw Valley, Central Michigan, and all sorts of crazy schools... Case Western. And I'm like, I... Because I was sort of bred in Michigan, and then also it was like my first exposure to people being like beyond my little, little cultural wheel there. I don't know. Did you have that? That same experience?

Gregg 22:45  
Yeah. It's... The diversity of the the incoming class was amazing. You know, males, females, from all over the country, in big schools, small schools, different experiences. Were... You know, was an engineer, and then came back to dental school. So I was like, blown away that here's me, in my own little world, focusing on this one thing, and other people have... You know, they have families, and they have children, and they have previous professions. I'm like, what have I been doing? I haven't done any of those things. So it was an eye opening experience, when you start to have people that want to do what you want to do. But they've already had a whole complete life of other things that you haven't even done yet. So, it makes you feel... 

Dennis 23:28  
I felt the same way! 
It's a lot of work to push yourself to do something. So to have that insight of here's what I want to do... The goals are set. Now it's just get it done. Without having those goals, I think it would be tough. You're just going through the motions.
Gregg 23:29  
It put... it made me like take a step back and go, "Really? What have I been doing in this first part of my life?"

Dennis 23:37  
Yeah, I was, I was amazed by the number of people who were married and had kids and how they were sort of managing all that. Look, I was just... I was just trying to worry about myself and I couldn't even imagine worried about little kids and having a spouse and manage all that! I couldn't even hold a girlfriend for crying out loud I was so self-absorbed.

Gregg 23:54  
It's amazing! Yeah, right! I could barely just control my own life. I couldn't imagine having that other piece!

Dennis 24:01  
Yeah, so kudos all you out there who have these relationships and these families and God bless you. I was far too immature to be able to balance all that stuff. Still to today! But that's a whole other story. So tell me about dental school. How was it for you? Was it... once you started getting into it, was it...? Did you just sort of rock and roll? Was it streamlined?

Gregg 24:24  
Yeah, I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed the clinical aspect. When we got through the didactic stuff, I really enjoyed the clinical piece, and even even the didactic pieces that revolved around clinical like materials and things. I really enjoyed that. And again, it was, to me it was a lot of work, because I had my sights set on going into ortho, and from what I understood, it's fairly competitive. So you need to have, you know, great marks in all of your classes, and you need to be up at the top of your class.

And so, luckily for me, the roommate, you know, the buddy of mine who was in undergrad with me, had the same drive. He wanted to go into oral surgery. So, he and I motivated each other to, you know, we would... We lived off campus. We'd drive back, eat dinner, and then we'd come back to study at the library until the library closed. And that was like every night! And we didn't want to go, but one of us would force the other to go, and all of a sudden we just kind of had our routine. So the the book learning part of it took a lot of our time and energy, but then the clinic I thought was fun.

And I hate to say it, but I played more golf ever, in this third and fourth year of dental school, because I just kind of rifled through my requirements, got bigger requirements, like they gave me cooler things to do. But it was like I had a friend who was into golf and he goes, "Oh, my patient canceled!" And I said, "Hold on, I'm going to cancel mine! Let's go golf!" So we played a lot of golf during those two years, last two years.

Gregg 25:22  
What do you attribute that to? Sort of your natural, I don't know, ability? Natural instinct for dentistry?

Gregg 26:11  
I honestly think I have... I have decent hands. And I think that my hands were developed early. So I told you my father was an educator, but in the summers, right, they don't have... they don't have school. So he had always been painter, a house painter... indoor, outdoor, new construction. And so my brother and I automatically are his worker bees.

And we... that was our summer job. And I was always the Cut Man. So I was always the fine detail cutting around the windowsills, those types of things. So that was... And I did it, I did it really well. And I was fairly quick at it. So that motor hand eye coordination piece was always something that was easy for me. And I think dentistry is is also a lot of hand eye coordination and artisticness. And so for me, that's like... that's the stuff I love. And I think I love it. Maybe I love it, because I've always excelled at it. So, you like the things that you're you're good at, and you enjoy the things that you're not, so...

Dennis 27:10  
Oh, it's interesting. So, you know, how you develop those skills early on... And I was just talking to somebody and they were talking about how we are from age zero to six is going to sort of set the tone for us in many ways for the rest of our lives. But you think about skills like that, that you pick up, and you just get better and better and better. And then how that transfers into something that you would not even think would be, you know, related to it. Maybe that's why you were interested going into dentistry, knowing how much you enjoy doing that stuff.

Gregg 27:37  
Yeah. And I used to... I used to love to draw. Back in like in grade school and even middle school, I used to love to draw. And then I quit. I don't draw anymore. Not at all. And I quit because I couldn't ever make it perfect. It wasn't ever good enough. There was always something that I wanted to change. And I'm like... I was killing myself because it wasn't good. It wasn't good enough for me, even though to look and go, "Oh, that's fantastic!" I was like, "Nope."

And so the artistic outlet I think dentistry provides for us. People don't understand that... It's not just -- you're not a mechanical dentist, you're also an artistic eye, and being able to create things. And so I think dentistry for me was a really good fit in those two regards, the artistic piece and the science piece, and the precision. Those are all things that really speak to me.

Dennis 28:27  
Do you remember your first patient that you treated in dental school?

Gregg 28:31  
I remember... I do. I'm surprised I got through it! It just took me forever. It was a DO amalgam. And I would love to go back and look at it, you know, today! 

Dennis 28:44  
Really? Would you really?

Gregg 28:45  
I would! It's... you know, you don't know where you are until you go back and see where you've come from. And so... 

Dennis 28:51  
That is very true. 

Gregg 28:52  
It's one of the things that I thought was interesting about, let's say, our graduate program at the University of Washington Prosth is as part of your entry level interview, you have to do diagnostic waxing. That was... that was part of the process. You had to wax a three unit bridge, a central, and like a molar. And it's timed. So you have x amount of time to wax these things. And then what they did, unbeknownst to us, but what they did is they kept them.

And I used to do lab work, right? That's how I kind of helped put myself through dental school by doing lab work for dentists on the outside, and even doing some for some of the students in my class. So I thought I got this, right? And I thought I crushed this wax up! When you get ready to graduate, they show you your initial waxing. Because part of the challenge as a grad student is you never think you're learning anything. Because you're always surrounded by people who are... who know more than you.

So you're surrounded by your upperclassmen and you're like, "Oh my God, I don't know that! I feel like I'm just struggling. I don't know anything." When you see that old wax up, and you go, Holy crap, that was awful. And you see where you've gone, it's like, it's... it really makes you feel good because you can actually now see the fruits of your labor and what you know you can do now versus what you thought was amazing then.

Dennis 30:21  
Yeah, that's incredible. That's a great... I have a, I have a resident with me through the AACD. And I had him do some wax ups right in the beginning, using composite and stuff. We're finishing up his program. It would be fun to pull those out and compare it to where he was. Yeah.

Gregg 30:38  
It's impressive. It's an impressive change, a before and after kind of idea.
You're not a mechanical dentist, you're also an artistic eye, and being able to create things. And so I think dentistry for me was a really good fit in those two regards, the artistic piece and the science piece, and the precision. Those are all things that really speak to me.

The Transition from Orthodontics to Prosthodontics

Dennis 30:42  
Yeah, that's great. So when did you make the pivot from going... wanting to go into ortho, and then going into prosth? What was that about?

Gregg 30:50  
Yeah, there was a prosthodontist named Tim Butson. And when I was in my third, fourth year, you know, I kind of got through a lot of my requirements. So I was given some larger cases, right? Like here... give him this; this is a little more complex.

And then they assigned me this prosthodontist as my instructor, so he would just kind of sit with me. And he... he was a military guy, and he would just sit there in the assistant's chair, and just tell me like stories from his military days, which were mostly, like hilarious or inappropriate, like, and then he would say, I mean, this is great, you should do prosth, and I'd go, "I'm going ortho." But he would... he kept throwing it in like, "Your skills, you should do prosth! You would do great in prosth!"

And as I looked into how many students in my class were applying to ortho, and, you know, perio, and all the other disciplines, nobody was doing prosth! And I did enjoy what I was doing. And I really enjoyed the immediate gratification. I mean, you can make great changes in ortho, but it takes you, you know, 18 months. We can make changes -- you and I can make a change on a patient in one appointment that will have them in tears, because it's a before and after. So, I actually did listen to him, and looked into it, and I decided to go prosth because of his influence.

Dennis 32:17  
And you just happened to be at like the world caliber prosth program place. And, you know, and how fortunate was that!

Gregg 32:25  
That was... I mean, it was fortunate. It was also maybe the reason why a lot of students don't go to prosth is because you could... At the University of Washington, when I was there, at five o'clock, you'd look across the way to the ortho clinics... lights are off, doors are closed, nobody's around. 

Dennis 32:43  

Gregg 32:44  
It never mattered what time you were at the school, it could be midnight, and there was always the light on in the prosth lab, and always students in there working. And you go, Hmm... Club Ortho, or Prosth? 

Dennis 32:57  

Gregg 32:58  
But you're right. It was... It was a remarkable program. And I'm so fortunate to be at the school and to be accepted into it because it has churned out some amazing clinicians and amazing educators. I mean, that place is really... Back in the day... And it's getting back to its former stature with Van Ramos as the director, but it went through a hay day for a while there was like... Person after person... It was the way the program was designed. But it was also who was selecting the people to come in! You know, Ralph Yuodelis and John Townsend and these people had an a knack for picking people that they saw some potential in from all around the world that would go on to do amazing things to help the profession of dentistry. So, I mean, hats off to those guys for designing the program and finding those students.

Dennis 33:50  
How many classmates would you have in your prosth program?

Gregg 33:53  
There was just one other classmate and I! There were just two of us.

Dennis 33:57  
Oh, is that right? Who was your classmate? 

Gregg 33:58  
His name was Michael Yeh. And Michael Yeh came from Taiwan. And Yeh Yu was his real name, but Michael Yeh was his chosen American name. And he'd already done a prosth program in Taiwan! So here I am now... I look, and I have one classmate! Because normally it's, you know, three to possibly four. And all of a sudden, this guy's already done a prosth program! I'm like, "Hh my god, like what? What have I gotten myself into?"

Dennis 34:28  
Right! No doubt!

Gregg 34:29  
So, yeah, but it's hard... It's hard when there's only two of you. I'll tell you. All your lit reviews... You will get called out!

Dennis 34:40  
Right! You can't hide behind anyone!

Gregg 34:42  
You can't! No, you have got to read. You've got to do all the work. You can't say, "I'm going to play the odds here!" There's three people... I'm not going to, you know... You read these articles, and I'll read these articles, and we'll just we'll make it organic in our conversations. Nope, you're reading them all! So...

Dennis 34:56  
How much more work from undergrad to your prosth program? 100% more work? 200% more work?

Gregg 35:05  
It was more work. But it was completely different. It was a ton of lab work, which I love. So that was fun for me, and you're sitting around listening to music, and you're talking dentistry all day long to people who have the same passion. I mean, that was... that's amazing to me. And then it's just a ton of reading, which was also a different one. So it was a different workload. It was really heavy but heavy in a completely different way. So yeah, 100% change in pace. 

Dennis 35:37  
And that was through your program. Correct? 

Gregg 35:39  
Correct. Correct. 

Dennis 35:41  
When you are... when you're finishing up your program... Well, were you practicing dentistry at the same time? Because some people sort of moonlight a little bit.
It was a remarkable program. And I'm so fortunate to be at the school and to be accepted into it because it has churned out some amazing clinicians and amazing educators. 
Gregg 35:48  
No, in our program, I don't remember anybody moonlighting. We did moonlighting, but as technicians. We would do provisionals and diagnostic waxing, and we would do... We would do things like that. And I remember one one time, I got to... So, we had a lot of our outside education from John and Frank. And...

Dennis 35:49  
And for those who are listening, that's... You may have heard of John Kois, and Frank Spear, these are a couple of names in dentistry, if you haven't heard of them, you're really in big trouble, but continue on.

Gregg 36:21  
Yeah, so they were, you know, Vince Colkich Sr. and Dave and like all of these people in the Northwest that have really influenced all of us... They were our out of house faculty. And I remember one time, John... He would pick grad students that would come down, and he would be prepping a full mouth. And you know, you know that the more teeth you prep, you actually spend maybe more time making temps. So he would bring in a grad student to do his provisionals, he will give you... he would give you the shell and it would be realigned. And then you would actually do all of the finishing, polishing, you know, to get the margins, get it back to him to try them. So that was kind of fun to be able to work under somebody like, you know, like John. It was like a real special experience.

Dennis 37:09  
I can't imagine! How do I get someone to come in and make my provisionals from me, Greg? Where do I go? 

Gregg 37:13  
Yeah, fantastic, right! 

Dennis 37:15  
Oh, God, would that be? Would that be a blessing or what?

Gregg 37:18  
I love provisionals! I want somebody to come in and pack cord for me and give anesthetic. That's the thing I want.

Dennis 37:23  
I like that, too. You know, I like making provisionals. I'm so damn tired after working the case that that's my problem. I'm too old to make provisionals now! I'm tired! I need a nap. I need a nap after prep! I got to figure that out. I don't know. So when you're... when you're getting close to graduation, or where were you... When you're like, Okay, now I've got to go, like, do this for a living? How did you come around on that?

Gregg 37:53  
So Seattle, Washington, which is where University of Washington, you know, all the programs are, is very saturated with prosthodontists. When I was in my grad program, I was the only American student, right? It's a very... it was a heavily international program. But a lot of people that had gone through the program, like they go, "Oh, Seattle, it's great! I've been here this long! It's great, and I'm going to stay!" So the market in Seattle for prosthodontist is very high. And so I'm like, "Well, why would I stay in Seattle?" It doesn't make sense. So I grew up in the Northwest.

And I thought, you know, Portland, is similar to Seattle, and they don't have a prosth program in Oregon. And they, you know... The only one in the Northwest is up in Seattle. So I was going to leave the city, just because it didn't make sense to stay. And it was in my third year. And I had no plans, right. But that was just my mindset. And in my last year, I had come down from one of our seminars.

And there was a note on my lab bench that said, Dr. Spear called; can you call him back? Which, for me, was interesting, because although he was a faculty, out of house faculty, I wasn't the guy that would bust his balls to come lecture to us, right? There was somebody else that would call him and say, you know, can you come lecture to us? Can we come to your office, right? Just to pester them... But that wasn't me. So to have a message there was like, you know, what do I do? What does he want?

Dennis 39:27  
Yeah, I'm in trouble!

Gregg 39:28  
So, I called back to the office, and I said, you know, Is he there? And he wasn't there. He was out teaching somewhere. And I said, "Do you know what this is in regards to?" And they said, "I don't really know. But I know that he got off the phone with an endodontist, and then went and asked for your information." And so the endodontist he was on the phone with is a guy that I knew very well when he was in school.

And so I immediately picked up the phone and said, Hey... his name was Ted Pilot. I said, "Ted, you just were speaking with Frank." I said, "What are you guys talking about? And did my name come up?" And he's like, yeah, he goes that he was... He's looking for somebody and he was interested in bringing you into the practice, but he was under the impression that you were leaving, that you weren't staying. And he says, "What I said was I'm sure that if you spoke with him, he might stay!" And so that was... That's why he called. He wanted to know if I might be interested in practicing with him. And I mean, talk about your head exploding! Here's the guy that is revered in the grad program. And now he has singled me out to come in and practice alongside him. I'm like, are you kidding me? 

Dennis 40:46  
Right! Pinch me!

Gregg 40:47  
What do I got to do? But it was it was... it was probably a three month process before we made it work, before we decided that it was a good fit. Because he had been through a couple of other associates that didn't work out. Right? You know, he and Kois didn't work out. So he... You know how hard it is! Rouse was my associate! That didn't work out. But that makes sense, right?

Dennis 41:12  
Yeah. Yes, I can... I could barely stand to do a Sharecast with him. Yeah, I couldn't get off soon enough!
He wanted to know if I might be interested in practicing with him. And I mean, talk about your head exploding! Here's the guy that is revered in the grad program. And now he has singled me out to come in and practice alongside him. I'm like, are you kidding me? 
Dr. Gregg Kinzer
Gregg 41:20  
So he wanted to make sure it worked. And so I would go in there, and I would be in their staff meetings. And I took... Bob Winter was in the practice at the same time. So I would take their call. And I kind of did... They used to... We used to in the practice, have a clinical psychologist come in and run the staff meetings. 

Dennis 41:41  
Who was that? I Remember this. 

Gregg 41:44  
Brian DeRoche. 

Dennis 41:46  
Yeah. Brian DeRoche. Yeah.

Gregg 41:47  
And so Brian would come in. And, you know, there was personality profiling. So you knew how everybody in the practice kind of functioned. And you knew what their strengths were and where they struggled. And it made the team better. And it was amazing, it did. But what it really also did was it pulled all the underlying emotional bullshit, is in an office, and it brought it to the surface and cleaned it up. So that wasn't dragging anything down. It was really kind of forward thinking to have that type of a design.

But I came in and did those. And it was three months into it before we said, you know, it's got to be mutually beneficial for both of us because he wanted to focus on teaching, and I needed a place to practice. But I also wanted to focus on learning from this individual, and so it had to be a win win. And we wanted to make sure that we all did our due diligence that if we were going to do it, it's going to work.

And, you know, here we are 20 some years later. And I think Frank and I had one time, that was a misunderstanding, where we got into a little bit of a debate. And it was... like you said, it was a scheduling conflict, that I was supposed to be teaching a class with him. And I was booked to be teaching something on the outside, something on my own. And it was because it was an added class. And when they added this class in, and they didn't check with my schedule. So, once we understood where the problem came from, then it was like, okay, but otherwise, it's been a fantastic relationship.

Making Sure a Partnership Will Work

Dr. Kinzer talks about the process of working with Dr. Frank Spear and his team to ensure that joining the practice would be a good fit for everyone. 
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Mentorship and Partnership with Frank Spear

Dennis 43:27  
I've got a question. And I'll tell you a story. Question: when you're in your prosth program, sometimes when there's like homegrown talent or homegrown institutions, people don't recognize the their value and brilliance. So you got Frank and John that are, you know, are right there... Frank in Seattle, John and Tacoma. But in your prosth, like as an undergrad dental student, did you guys know who John Kois or Frank Spear were, or only when you got into the prosth program?

Gregg 43:58  
Only when we got into prosth, did we know who these icons in the area were. Right? Vince Cokich, Ward Somali, Frank, John... It was... I don't know. They didn't shield us from them. But that enough other things to focus on for us as a dental student that these those people never on the radar. I think that's changed now. I think that in dental school, they're exposing their students to more information, not just maybe what they contain in the school, but broader than that. Because I know with Spear Education, we have a huge online component. And we're now in quite a number of dental schools to provide our content for their students. So... But back in the day, no, I didn't have any idea who these individuals were.

Dennis 44:47  
So I've got to tell you a couple stories. So first one. I saw Frank for the first time, and it was probably 93 at the Chicago midwinter meeting. And I went with my dental partner at the time, Monika Zebert, who was this wonderful dentist, a classmate of mine from Michigan. We both moved to Chicago. And we had both on residencies, and we scratched a couple nickels together, and we bought this really tiny practice on the west side of Chicago. We go to the midwinter meeting, and it was the first time I had ever seen dentistry look like teeth. And Frank did this presentation, and it blew me away. I mean, I'm like... I was just stunned!

I can tell you exactly where I was sitting in the auditorium. I was floored, I'm like, "Oh, my God, this is beautiful. This isn't... this isn't dentistry! He's recreated teeth!" Right?" And so we walk out into the hallway outside the auditorium afterwards. And I look at Monica, and I say, "That's what I want to do!" And Monica looks at me, and she says, "I'm applying to med school!" Because her uncle and her brother are prosthodontists, and she knew what was going to take to be able to do that type of dentistry.

And I was completely, completely naive. I had no clue. I'd been out for four or five years. And I'm just like, Ah, you just... you know, you just learn to do some good dentistry. Find a good lab. And sure enough, she took the MCATs, and she went off down to Duke, and she became a physician internist. And here I am, you know, still trying to be able to make you know, dentistry look like teeth. 

Gregg 46:16  
That's a great story. 

Dennis 46:17  
Yeah, true story. So that was my biggest influence in dentistry was seeing Frank. And then my second story was I... So I became obsessed with Frank, and with Bob Winter. Bob presented the following year, and both of them had gotten the Gordon Christiansen Award. And Bob Winter had been at Marquette Dental School, where I have a lot of friends and colleagues. And, in fact, Monica's brother, who was a prosthodontist, said, "Hey, Bob Winter's coming to the midwinter! You've got to check him out!" So I got in there, there was like room for like 40 people in this little room. And Bob blew us away with single central crowns. This is back in '94, when they were still PFM's and all that stuff, and some early ceramic stuff.

But nonetheless, I said I've got to go out and see Frank. So I took every penny I didn't have, put it on my credit card, and I went to a friend's first course out in his out in his new office. And we sat in the consultation room around the oval table. Frank had his little carousel projector screen thing where... that drops in... And Bob was trying in some veneers when we were there.

And it was one of the most important two days of my life. Just being in that environment, and just being that close to Frank, and the information he was sharing, and seeing Bob as he was working, and seeing the dedication... It was so... It was transformative to me as a young dentist to be able to, you know, to take that course. And I'll never forget it. It was... it's, you know, it's so, so fundamental to the way that I practice, and the way that I think, and everything along the way.

Working with Icons within the Dental Profession

Gregg 48:00  
It's it's interesting, you know, as a grad student, I didn't know these people. But as a grad student, I did. They came in, and they gave us information. And I'll tell you one of the things... So I have a very similar story about Frank's influence. And so it was serendipitous that I got the offer to come in to work with him.

He used to do a course called The Practice of Excellence. And it was the way he's designed his practice, and how he treats patients. And it's like the entire process from how you bring the patient in and how your staff functions. And it was like, I was in grad school, and I'm taking like, notes like crazy, going, "Yes! That's what I... I want to have my practice just like that." Everything resonated with me, I'm like, "That's the only way to do it!"

So then years later, around a year later, when I get the opportunity, it was already kind of set up because I I loved the way he was practicing, the way the practice was designed. And I'd taken lab courses from Bob as a grad student. We would go... he would have technicians... And these guys were so generous -- Frank, John, Bob -- they were so generous in that if they taught a course, where they had paying dentists come in, and they had a vacancy in the seats, they would invite the grad students no charge. 

Dennis 49:17  
Oh, that's awesome. 

Gregg 49:18  
And so I remember taking a course with a bunch of technicians taught by Bob on how to layer ceramic and porcelain margins and all of those things. So, you know, to be able to work alongside both of those guys, and to continue to do it today has been pretty, pretty phenomenal.

Dennis 49:38  
No doubt! I saw the two millimeter vertical cut back on the anterior of your PFM, right?

Gregg 49:42  
Exactly. Yeah. So you don't get those shadows.

Dennis 49:45  
I don't know... Some days that there have been a lab technician. I used to take lab courses from my lab technician in Chicago area. He'd bring in Bob Winter and Don Cornell and European lab technicians, and I'd just sit there, and I'd just... I never put any in anyone's mouth, but I just learned the layering techniques. And it's been invaluable for me when I was talking to my technicians and understanding what they need and why they need the space and where they need the space and why the margin has got to be the way it is and stuff.

Gregg 50:15  
It's... I think... I know there's a lot of dental schools where you do no technical work. And as you get into, you know, more CAD CAM dentistry, it's not... it's not as important. But I agree with you in that the benefit, being a clinician, the benefit of knowing the other side, and knowing how it works is... It's so beneficial! I can be a better clinician, because I know the other side, and I can communicate with my technician at a different level, because I've done the work. So it's... it carries over to being a clinician if you know how that side of it lives. And I still think you need... you need to know how the digital work flow happens. And you need to know the shortcomings of it, again, to be a better clinician. So it's probably still true today that you need that other side; you need the knowledge at least.

Dennis 51:06  
I just think there's... I think understanding analog makes you a better digital dentist. And I think today understanding digital makes you a better analog dentist. I think there's... I think both are so critical to be successful. If you're you know, if you want to... I don't know. I don't even know if you have to do high end; I just think it's all it's all interwoven. But I know, for me, my... Any digital stuff I do is better because I understand analog, how it's going to work.

So... But that's, you know, for the young dentists, I think it's a super challenge because you know, everything's been pushed towards digital. But without the... without the analog experience... You know, you can have a perfect case planned, you bring it in digitally, and all of the sudden you put it in the mouth, and all of the sudden, it's not looking like what you thought it would look like, and now you've got to pick up your handpiece and start changing things. And that's going to be a challenge, I think, for some of them. 

Gregg 51:53  
At the end of the day, we're still analog dentists, because I still have to work on the patient and put something in the patient's mouth. So I still have to have that skill set of the analog world. And you're right, whether you do it in the digital workflow, or you do it in the analog workflow, you'd still... At the end of the day, you're going to have to... It's rare that I ever get it back where it just goes in and I go, "There you go. Perfect!"

Dennis 52:18  
I have not had that day yet. There's always gonna be some touch ups. And, you know... When I was young, though, I wouldn't do those touch ups, and I didn't see it. But now as I've learned, and I see it, then I see where I've got to make those adjustments. But as a young dentist, I just... I'm like, Good enough! If it looked good to my lab guy, it's good enough for me!"

Gregg 52:38  
That concept of you only see what you know is huge. But it affects... it affects your work. It affects your treatment planning... that I only know what I've been taught, and I only see what I know, which means that my window is closed unless I start to learn things at a different level.

Studying with Legends: Why Mentorship Matters

Dr. Kinzer talks about how little he knew at first about the amazing professionals connected to the University of Washington and how inspiring it was to study with them.
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Dennis 52:54  
Well, I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Dr. Gregg Kinzer. I hope you don't mind that we geeked out a little bit, and started talking about laboratory work, and all that type of stuff. But I really enjoyed my conversation with Gregg, so I hope you enjoyed it as well.

Now, you know, don't forget that DOT has so many other great learning opportunities from our Wine and Unwind... These are our monthly webinars where we engage in real time with our viewers as we bring in leaders throughout the dental industry. We take your questions and just learn from the best how to make our dentistry and our dental practices better.

We also have our monthly coffee and donut Study Club mentoring sessions, which I just hosted this morning. And we spent about an hour and a half sort of reviewing some treatment plans and talking about cases and some other things that we do in our daily dental practices.

We also have our live virtual workshop where we cover everything from treating the worn dentition, which we're going to be doing this March, March 22, so at the end of March that'll be coming up... to full bonded veneers, to prepping teeth for porcelain veneers, so many topics that we cover in these live virtual workshops that you just don't want to miss.

Of course we have our blogs and we have our endless selection of hands on, pre-recorded technique courses to improve the quality of the dentistry for you and your patients.

And also in 2022, Dr. Jim McKee, who is an expert on TMJ, he's going to be giving us some courses, and those will be dropping into our DOT website soon. So if you enjoy this Sharecast, please share it with your friends and your colleagues. And until next time, I'm Dr. Dennis Hartlieb. Yours for better dentistry.

Dennis Hartlieb, DDS, AAACD

DOT Founder

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