Ask the Experts: Dr. David Finley
Dr. David Finley Excels at The Art of Dentistry
ARTICLE BY KAY STOTHART RECTOR AND PHOTO BY MARTIN G MEYERS
Dr. David Finley has been practicing dentistry in Monroe for almost three decades, creating smiles that are, for many of his patients, akin to fine art. Using his creative talents, Finley can transform not only his patients’ teeth, but also the way they feel about themselves and their appearance. He finds this part of his chosen profession to be one of the most gratifying. After thirty years in the field, he cannot imagine doing anything else.
Finley was ten years old, when his family moved to Louisiana from Oklahoma. His father was a mathematics professor and accepted a position at what is now the University of Louisiana at Monroe. His mother was a second grade teacher at Robinson Elementary School. After graduation from Neville High School, Finley attended Northeast Louisiana University, now ULM, where he played on the baseball team. While at Northeast, he read an article in Sports Illustrated magazine about the number of college baseball players that actually make it into the world of professional baseball. This article and discussions with his coach convinced him to look elsewhere for a career.
Although there are lots of educators in his family, Finley had an interest in the medical field. One of his uncles is a dentist, another uncle is a physician. As a child, he noticed that his dentist uncle was always able to attend family dinners and holiday gatherings, while the physician uncle was always absent, working and making rounds at the hospital. The discrepancy in lifestyle made an impression on Finley and influenced his decision to choose dentistry over medical school. He was accepted into dental school at Louisiana State University in New Orleans, completed that program and returned to Monroe after graduation to begin his practice.
Finley has always had an artistic flair and enjoyed working with his hands. He has found in dentistry an expressive outlet for both. “Dentistry allows you to create things that can’t be created in any other form or fashion,” notes Finley. “For me, it’s fun.” The growth of cosmetic dentistry has greatly expanded the opportunities for this type of artistic expression, an area in which Finley is exceptionally skilled.
Finley is an Accredited Fellow of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the highest level of status and achievement recognized by the AACD, granted only upon completion of extremely stringent requirements. Among this elite group, he was the 61st dentist to be awarded fellowship in the Academy. Finley is the only dentist in Monroe to have earned this distinction, and one of only two accredited fellows in the State of Louisiana.
Finley describes the strenuous process that a dentist must go through to achieve accreditation through the AACD. First, there is the educational component, with courses that the AACD requires each dentist to complete and pass. Peer review is the lengthy and arduous next step. As Finley explains, the AACD’s accreditation process can take years and involves submission of multiple cases for review by academy experts. A dentist seeking accreditation is allowed a five year period in which to submit work in very specific categories for approval. Each case type requires the candidate to demonstrate different skill sets and skill levels. Finley gives this example: “The absolute hardest restoration for any dentist to do is a single front tooth, because it is almost impossible to match. Internal color, external color, translucency and levels of opacity within the tooth must all be considered.” A case in which this particular restoration has been successfully completed is just one of the types that must be submitted for critique.
Finley completed the accreditation process within 18 months, becoming an Accredited Member of the AACD. From there, he went on to complete the more rigorous process necessary to achieve Fellowship status. Accredited members are allowed up to ten years to complete the fellowship process, which requires approval of fifty separate cases performed by the dentist. Finley was awarded a Fellowship, the highest honor conferred by the AACD. “It was really humbling,” he says, “because there are only 67 AACD fellows worldwide, and only about 40 of those are still in practice.”
Finley is also a Fellow of the American Academy of General Dentistry, an honor achieved by only six percent of practicing dentists in the United States. “Being a Fellow in the AGD involves a lot of years of continuing education in all aspects of dentistry, not just cosmetic dentistry,” Finley says. “I did the Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Fellowship primarily for me, because it is the hardest fellowship to get, and I wanted to prove that I could do it. I also did the Fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry for my patients.” By earning the AGD distinction, Finley insured that he achieved the highest level of skill and education possible for performing dental procedures, such as extractions, root canals and implants. “I want to be everything that my patients need me to be,” says Finley, “and provide them with the highest level of care available.”
“We have a great team,” Finley says of Bayou Dental Group. “Our staff is excellent. They love what we do, and they absolutely love our patients.” Finley says their goal at Bayou Dental is to treat people like family. “We are thorough, and we try to communicate well,” he says. “The worst thing I think that happens when a patient goes to a doctor or dentist’s office is that they walk out, and they’re not sure what happened, because nobody spent any time with them. We spend time with every new patient we have. I sit and talk with them, before we start working on them. Dentistry isn’t a teeth business as much as it is a relationship business.” Finley notes that he has patients whose parents and grandparents have also been patients, something he attributes to relationship building as much as skill and expertise.
“I never thought that in dentistry I would get hugs all the time from patients,” Finley says. “We also cry with patients sometimes.” He says that he sees lots of patients who are self-conscious and embarrassed to smile because of their teeth. Those patients are often overwhelmed with relief and gratitude, when they get their new smiles. Finley finds it satisfying to be able to use his skill and artistic talents to help someone feel better about themselves and the way they look.
As the leader of Bayou Dental Group, Finley has seen his practice grow exponentially in the past five or six years. In December of 2015, Bayou Dental moved out of the historic building in the Garden District that it occupied for 25 years into its new state-of-the-art facility on Tower Drive. Finley says he has always tried to take advantage of the latest technological advances. For example, Bayou Dental can perform CAT scans in the office, which helps to diagnosis and treat dental issues. “The CAT scan allows me to plan an implant case, and know exactly where the bone is and how tall and how dense that bone is.” He says that this is a vast improvement over traditional two-dimensional X-rays and allows for vastly superior patient care. Using new computer technology, Finley creates crowns in-office, eliminating the problem of ill-fitting temporary crowns and multiple visits.
Cosmetic dentistry has also drastically changed due to technology and other advancements. “We use materials now that actually look like teeth—they reflect and absorb light naturally like teeth. The colors match and look like teeth,” Finley says. He contrasts that with his early years in cosmetic dentistry, when the only materials available were very opaque and it was much more difficult to produce an aesthetically pleasing result.
Finley attributes much of the level of cosmetic skill that he has been able to accomplish to his association with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and the dentists that he has met through that organization. He says that he has always been amazed at the talent of the world-renowned dentists he has met through AACD. “At the first meetings I attended, I was blown away by the dentistry that I saw,” he recalls. “These dentists were on the forefront of new techniques and new materials, things that I had never heard of before attending these meetings. I learned so much from them.” He continues to collaborate with and learn from other members.
Finley is looking forward to passing on the knowledge that he has gained to a younger generation of dentists. He hopes to welcome several new dentists to Bayou Dental in the near future, expanding the practice to help more patients. “I don’t think I’ll ever retire, because I love what I do,” says Finley.