By STEVEN NALLEY
Family dentist Blake Balzli likes to reward bravery.
While Balzli loves working with children, he said, the ones who come to his office don’t necessarily get one of his coupons for ice cream or yogurt every time they visit.
“Those are for patients that have a particular procedure done, like a filling or an extraction,” Balzli said. “If something took a lot of bravery or courage, we like to reward them. We feel like most of them enjoy coming here anyway.”
Readers of Starkville Daily News voted Blake Balzli “Best Dentist” in the 2011 Best of Starkville Awards. He said the key to his success has been to care for each patient on an individual basis, and he learned the importance of this personal touch when he himself was still young.
Balzli said his journey as a dentist began with help from his own dentist in his home town of Meridian, Hank Singley. Balzli said Singley was not only a dentist, but a friend.
“The more I spoke with him about it and realized you could have a long-term relationship with your patients - instead of seeing them one time, you could see them multiple times over several years - that became something that appealed to me,” Balzli said.
Singley was also able to spend more time with his family as a dentist than Balzli’s own father could as a doctor, he said. His father still works long and unusual hours to this day, Balzli said, and he knew early on that he wanted more time with his own family than his father had. He said he still grew up with great respect for his father.
“As far as being successful, I think a lot of that was instilled from my dad, because he treated individuals, no matter who they were, like a person, with respect and kindness,” Balzli said. “I felt like he was a wonderful father and great man. I think he instilled in me how to treat people.”
When Balzli had the opportunity to shadow Singley, he said, he learned important lessons about the day-to-day operations of a dentist’s office. He said he also learned more about such dental restorations as crowns, fillings and dentures than he ever had as a patient.
“I’ve been fortunate to have never had any major dental problems,” Balzli said. “I really got to know dentistry more from shadowing him, because from a patient’s perspective, I didn’t really have much experience other than getting my teeth cleaned.”
Balzli said Singley still practices in Meridian, and the two still keep up with each other.
“I still actually call him with questions or concerns I have on various aspects of dentistry,” Balzli said. “I still consider him a mentor.”
Now married with two daughters and a son, Balzli said he enjoys spending time outdoors with them. In his office, he has a single-lens reflex camera fitted with a lens for intraoral photos of patients’ teeth before and after procedures, and he said he would like adjust it for his family adventures.
“I’d like to get a different lens for that and use it for outdoor photography,” Balzli said. “My wife’s been dying to get her hands on it.”
Balzli said he has made sure he and all his associates treat patients with kindness from the moment they greet them on the phone. He said examples of the importance of this personal touch include patients who fear dentists and their assortment of drills, hooks, and other cold steel implements. It helps to tell them how much the technology has changed, he said, but at some point, the manner in which patients are reassured matters just as much.
“Patients have put treatment off for as many as 20-plus years because of a traumatic experience, even as a child,” Balzli said. “My staff are here to make their visit as comfortable as possible and to address any concerns they may have. If you stop to talk to them, get to know them as a person, in terms of not just what their dental problem is but what their other issues are, many times, that’s half the battle right there.”
Balzli said he wouldn’t be where he is today without his patients, his staff, his friends and his family.
“I think I’ve been blessed and fortunate,” Balzli said. “I surround myself with good people — from a great family to a kind and compassionate staff. Without them, I couldn’t do it.”