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Wellbody Expert: Dr. Ron Inge of Delta Dental
In honor of February as National Children’s Dental Health Month, we sat down with Dr. Ron Inge, Vice President and Dental Director of Delta Dental of Washington, to learn more about oral health. Before joining Delta Dental of Washington, Dr. Inge had more than 15 years of private practice experience as a family dentist in San Jose, California. He has been working with Delta Dental for eight years and currently resides in Fall City, Washington, about 25 miles east of Seattle.
Professor Wellbody: What motivated you to have a career in dentistry?
Dr. Inge: When I was in high school in California, I was an athlete. As a sophomore I began getting recruited by colleges. Each recruiter would ask me, “What do you want to study when you come to our university?” I always knew I wanted to go into the health field in one way or another. My mother was a nurse, but I knew I didn’t want to deal with life and death issues. So I had to take a step back and look at the individuals in my life. One of my mother’s associates was married to a dentist, and I was able to get a view into his career, his practice, how he provided for people, how he took care of others and provided for his family. So I started telling people at an early age I wanted to go to dental school. I was only 16 years old, so luckily I had the ability to visit dental schools at an early age. It turned out to be something I was very passionate about.
PW: How would you say your role at Delta Dental of Washington impacts patients?
Dr. Inge: At my core, I’m a general dentist. I see my position as an expansion of being a general dentist. When I was in my own practice, I affected people’s health with my own two hands. In my seat here, I affect people’s health by the benefits I put into our plan designs, the policies I put into place that determine what we cover and don’t cover, and the oversight which my department provides. Essentially, what I do is an expansion on what I did as a solo practitioner. I have greater contact with more patients and a greater impact on the health of a greater number of people.
PW: Do you ever miss the dental chair?
Dr. Inge: On occasion, but what I miss most are the patients. As a family dentist I treated the entire family, children through grandparents. I enjoyed the diversity and the variety of services and the people I saw in my practice. I haven’t had my dental office in 17 years, but I’ll still get a call from a former patient asking about service recommendations.
PW: Why would you say dental care is so important?
Dr. Inge: The mouth can be the window to a person’s overall health. If we’re not taking advantage of that, then we are doing a disservice to every individual. When it came to my practice, we were focused on getting people healthier and educating them on what the importance of oral health could do for them. And more and more of my patients became what we call “dental converts.” They left our office more aware of their conditions and what they could do to maintain their oral health. And that’s an incredible thing.
PW: What do you think is the biggest misconception about oral health?
Dr. Inge: That it doesn’t matter; that is the biggest misconception. The public primarily views their oral health based upon their ability to smile. It’s this idea that your mouth is optional—that’s the biggest misconception.
PW: If you could only give people one tip about taking care of their oral health, what would it be?
Dr. Inge: Brush your teeth every day. If you do that you’re miles ahead.
PW: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Dr. Inge: I’m still a recovering athlete, so I play basketball whenever possible and I run outside every day. I do miss California sometimes. I went to UCLA for dental school and Stanford for undergrad. My favorite thing about living in the Pacific Northwest is the outdoors. I love the trees, I love the greenery, I love getting out of the congestion of the city and I really appreciate the solitude I have on the Eastside.