All in the Family
Brothers, fathers and sons, husbands and wives—when it comes to setting up and running a dental practice, family can often be the best way to go.
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Among the hundreds of Connecticut dentists who made our list of “Top Dentists” this year, there are some special pairings for whom “family” is far more than just a patient-friendly marketing tool. On the pages that follow, we visit dentists who are not only highly respected by the peers who voted for them, but who work with, live with or grew up with someone else who made the “Top Dentists” list. As they tell their stories, it’s clear they love and work hard at their chosen profession. It’s also easy to see how family ties can grow stronger in the office as well as at home. To see the full list of Top Dentists, Click Here.
Father & Son
MATTHEW & IRA LEE CANTNER
Periodontists, Old Saybrook
If Ira Lee Cantner, 64, and his son Matthew, 36, were ballet partners, they couldn’t have pulled off a smoother pas de deux than they have in their seven-year dental partnership. Both earned their DMDs from the University of Pennsylvania, where they gravitated toward their specialty after deciding that other fields of dentistry—prosthodontics, endodontics, oral surgery—weren’t for them. “And in general practice, I’ve known a lot of doctors who were good at everything, but expert in nothing,” says Lee. “Periodontics focuses on gums and bones, and the process of saving and restoring oral health.”
Adds Matt, “There’s a lot of creativity and artistry in this field: only one correct diagnosis, but many different treatment options. I like working with my father because we have very open conversations about treatment—often, heated exchanges with the patient in the room. They understand we’re trying to do our best for them.”
Those debates have been known to continue long into nonwork hours, though this happens less often since Matt got married last year. Both men are still relentlessly conscientious, even covering emergency nighttime and weekend cases on behalf of other dental practices. Says Lee, “My wife and I went to a cocktail party recently where each of us had four or five guests come up and say, ‘I had an appointment with your son the other day. I love him—he really treated me well.’ That felt much better than if they had said the same thing about me.”
DAVID & Jonny FeldmaN
Growing up, David, now 44, and his brother Jonny, 43, were competitive about everything. “I tell the parents of our patients, ‘Jonny and I used to beat the heck out of each other, and now we work together,’” David says. “It brings a smile to their faces because they’re going through the difficult years, when their kids don’t get along.”
Their relationship may now be more “synergistic,” to use his word, but it took a while to become so. Though he was always interested in dentistry, David took a two-year detour to work in the investment-banking industry on Wall Street at JR Capital. “It was at a time when markets were up and down; I didn’t love the instability of it,” he says. So he followed Jonny into the DMD degree program at the University of Connecticut and pursued his certification in orthodontics at SUNY Stony Brook, N.Y. (Jonny earned his MS in Orthodontics at the University of North Carolina.)
In the late ’90s, they both joined their father Barry’s Cheshire practice, opening a second office in Wallingford in 2000. Though they share all decisions, Jonny notes that “the business aspect of things” is David’s bailiwick. “That’s the part I don’t care too much about,” he says. Any leftover competitive urges are dampened by the fact that the two have arranged their schedules in both offices so that they work together only one day a week. “I think that keeps things fresh, conflict-free and fun,” says David.