STATE COLLEGE — Whether it’s being the first doctor in town to offer a Starbucks kiosk in the waiting room, or being the first general dentist in the entire world to perform robot-assisted implant surgery, Dr. Eddie Kotary likes to be on the cutting edge.
During his 20 years of practicing dentistry in State College, Kotary has been a pioneer in the use of many different technologies, including pinhole surgery, a minimally invasive procedure for grafting gum tissue; scalpel-free periodontal laser surgery; CT machinery for dental implants; and Botox for dental patients.
“I’m constantly looking for newer technologies, new ways to improve, but one of the things that’s important to me is, if I’m going to adapt a new technology or new practice, I have to make sure it’s going to be good for the patient,” Kotary said.
He is particularly excited about the new Yomi robotic system that will be installed in his office in December. He’s been working with developers at Neocis, the company that also developed Mako, a common robotic-arm machine used in joint replacement surgery, to test out the technology. He says it will reduce patients’ costs, discomfort and healing time of implant surgery.
“Right now, when we do implants we have to take impressions to create a surgical ‘guide’ that has to be drilled into the jaw to stabilize it. It takes time to have that fabricated, and you need to use a scalpel and stitches,” he said. “This (Yomi) is robotically assisted, minimally invasive implant surgery. The robot guides the clinician, and it is extremely accurate. So when I do implants with this, I won’t have to use a surgical guide, create a flap, use a scalpel or use stitches, because I’ll no longer need to place (the implant) by sight.”
To date, there are six Yomi systems in use across the country, all at large implant centers. Kotary said he will be the first general dentist ever to offer the technology, which will reduce his implant fees by $500.
In some ways, Kotary feels that by staying ahead of the curve with new technologies, he is honoring his father, the late Dr. Edmond Kotary, who started practicing dentistry in State College in 1967. The father/son team practiced together from 1998 until shortly before the elder Kotary’s death in 2009.
“My dad said, ‘Graduating from dental school is just your license to learn. You have to continue to stay current,” said Kotary, who received his dental degree from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Temple.
Kotary not only stays current on the development of new technology through 100 hours of continuing education each year, but he also has designed several inventions himself.
One of those inventions came as a result of his time as a placekicker for the University of Delaware, where he received his undergraduate degree in biology and business.
“My first invention was a field goal net with a logo on it,”he said. “We demo’d it at Beaver Stadium in 2001 with the Nittany Lion logo on it. So, when you see the nets with the ‘All-State’ logo behind the goalpost, that’s my invention.”
Kotary also has spent time working on a new, less invasive dental X-ray machine, and most recently, he’s teamed up with a Penn State biomedical engineering professor Daniel Hayes to start a company called Osteosynth, which is developing “bone foam,”a material that can be placed into an extraction socket, eventually hardening into bone tissue.
Kotary sees regeneration, and technology such as bone foam, as the wave of the future in medicine. He also foresees 3-D printing technology continuing to grow in prominence, and the eventual elimination of radiation in X-ray technology.
Kotary is currently in the process of rebranding his dental practice, located at 2014 Sandy Drive, with a new name: Advanced Dentistry. Now the sole owner and dentist, he has scaled back from the days when his practice included five dentists and 40 employees.
“In some ways, smaller is better. It’s less stress and you can focus more on the patients you have and on the employees,”he said.
Scaling back a bit is especially important right now to Kotary, who suffered a heart attack last year at the age of 46.
“I didn’t even know I had a heart attack. I wasn’t having any symptoms. I was biking to work and I started getting a numbness in my hands,”he said.
Tests revealed that the left anterior descending artery, aka “the widowmaker,”was 100 percent blocked. He received two stents, was put on statins to control his hereditary high cholesterol and, two months later, a follow-up test showed no residual heart damage.
“I feel really lucky, extremely blessed,”Kotary said. “Usually, when this kind of heart attack happens to someone my age, it’s fatal.”
Kotary truly appreciates his family time with his wife, Jocelyn, and his two daughters, Hope and Paige, as well as what he calls his “second family”— his practice.
“I have patients as young as 1 year of age, and one patient who is 99, and they’re like my extended family. Whenever I have a patient in the chair, that is the most important person of the day,”he said. “Even though we are very high-tech, first and foremost I want to be known as a family practice that is patient-driven.”
Kotary is the head of the Special Smiles program for the Pennsylvania Summer Games Special Olympics, and offers free oral cancer screenings on Hunter Safety Day every year. He also works to spread his enthusiasm for the profession by teaching a class on business development in dentistry at both Penn and Columbia University every year, and he mentors Penn State students who hope to go to dental school.
“It’s really a cool profession,”he said. “We’re often the first line of defense for a lot of health issues. We do a lot more than fillings, crowns, implants, extractions. We treat the patient as a whole, not just a mouth.”