Dr. Tiernan Embraces New Dental Technology for the Comfort of his Patients
Mark D. Tiernan, D.M.D., discovered a surprising passion for dentistry at an early age. He grew up in the small town of Noblesville, Indiana, where word of people’s achievements spread quickly through the community. AAA sponsored a contest that challenged students to create posters illustrating safety, and Tiernan won while he was in second grade. By the time he was scheduled for his next dental checkup, his dentist heard the news.
“My dentist remembered it was a big deal I won the contest, and he told me that you have to be an artist to be a dentist,” he said. “After that, I never wanted to do anything else.”
After getting his degree at Oral Roberts University, he immediately set up his practice, Mark D. Tiernan, D.M.D. and Associates PC. For the last 32 years he’s performed dental and orthodontic work within the Wellington Square building, though the practice moved once from one end of the building to another. While Tiernan has decades of experience to rely on, he says he isn’t set in his ways. On the contrary, he’s questioned some traditional practices he believes doesn’t serve the best interests of his patients.
“There were things over the years we were doing that I wondered why we were doing them,” he said. For instance, he doesn’t follow the common practice of taking out permanent teeth, generally the pre-molars, in order to make room for other teeth to shift as he feels the teeth just migrate into a smaller area afterwards. He also hates that traditional braces sometimes have to be worn as long as five years.
Recently, he’s embraced a new type of dental brace called Fastbraces®. Though they were created by Dallas orthodontist Anthony Viazis in 1991, their use has been slow to spread in the United States, although the system has become commonplace overseas.
Fastbraces® have just now started to become popular in the United States, and Tiernan was one of the first in Tulsa to offer them to patients. Traditional braces move the teeth in two stages — first the crowns are moved into position, and then treatment shifts to the roots. Fastbraces® are able to shift the entire tooth in one movement thanks to their patented triangular brackets that redistribute force evenly over the entire surface of the tooth. Not only do Fastbraces® move faster, they also reduce pain and discomfort, since the system reduces friction between teeth and pressure amongst the front and back teeth. The need for retainers is also drastically reduced and sometimes eliminated completely.
“The success rate has been unbelievable,” Tiernan said. “It’s also half the cost of traditional braces since I don’t have to see them as much.”
He’s also in the early stages of implementing a new dental device that can help out people who suffer from sleep apnea amongst other sleep related breathing disorders. Though these maladies are generally solved through CPAP machines, many people choose not to wear them regularly due to uncomfortable straps, hoses and many other issues. The new system aims to improve patient participation with a device fitted in the mouth that moves the lower jaw forward and clears breathing passages. This appliance means no hoses, straps or forced air, only a small appliance which is more comfortable to wear and sleep in for the patient.
Though Tiernan strives to keep up with the latest advances to help patients, he doesn’t forget the personal touch. That starts when the patient walks into his office, which was designed with a fireplace, leather seats and wood paneling on the ceiling to make it feel like a comfortable cabin.
For kids, he has a gaming room complete with an original Pac-Man arcade machine. He also hangs up pictures of many of his patients. As a result, he’s been able to build up a large practice almost entirely by word-of-mouth, and most of his patients stay with him even after they move away — sometimes far away. “I have one patient who has moved to Dallas, but she comes back to have dental work done,” Tiernan said.
He feels much of the personal touch in modern dentistry is being lost, especially through the rise of corporate offices. He believes these offices tend to hire young dentists that are fresh out of school and often loaded with student debt. “It’s preposterous,” he said. “They’re forced into these corporate situations, but once their debts are paid, they’re gone. There isn’t the relationship with the patients.”
Tiernan said he values his personal relationships above everything else. In fact, he runs a ministry after hours that even attracts some Jews and Muslims. He also experiences very little turnover in staff, with some that have been with him nearly as long as he’s been practicing.
Though it’s part of Tiernan’s nature to be open and friendly, he knows a gentle touch is necessary to encourage patients to keep up their dental exams.
“No one, other than a loved one, gets that close to your face,” he said.