There’s a lot behind the smile of Bill Dorfman, ‘America’s Dentist’, as he is known in the US. He is not just the reason behind the perfect smile of a slew of Hollywood’s finest including Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, and Katy Perry, he is also a philanthropist, a winner of six lifetime achievement awards, an author and a regular on famous TV shows like ABC’s Extreme Makeover and CBS’s The Doctors. His books include the bestsellers The Smile Guide and Billion Dollar Smile. As he prepares to launch his own show, Dr. Bill’s Show, he takes the time to talk to Editor-in-Chief Yasmine Shihata about the secret behind his perfect smiles.
Dr. Dorfman’s career started right after his graduation from the University of Pacific in San Francisco as one of their youngest graduates with a doctorate degree. After completing his two-year residency in Switzerland, he returned to the US and started his own business in aesthetic and general dentistry in 1985. Four years later, he had already established his own company, Discus Dental Inc.; the world’s leading manufacturer and distributor of tooth whitening, oral hygiene, and aesthetic dental products. As a member of the American Dental Association, he went back to his university and founded PAC-Live, a continuing education program to teach practicing dentists state-of-the-art cosmetic dental skills. With so much to discuss, we dove straight into our interview…
How did you become the quintessential Hollywood dentist? What is it that differentiates you from other dentists?
I have been in the business for about 30 years now. When I first started I got the chance to work with a number of well-known cosmetic dentists who taught me the ropes. Through a young woman I was dating, who used to work at a talent agency, I got to meet a lot of people in Hollywood’s entertainment industry. And now these people are running the biggest agencies in the business so they started sending me their clients. This is probably where most of my famous celebrity patients come from. I also work with a lot of big hairstylists who also recommend me to their clients. I think what sets me apart from the rest is that I look at this as a service, it’s not just about giving great dentistry, it’s about creating a great environment where the patient feels safe and comfortable.
But in a city like Los Angeles, one would assume that there are so many cosmetic dentists vying for the same market and offering the same type of service, obviously you’re doing something better than everybody else…
In a nutshell it’s this: most people wait for opportunities to happen, I don’t, I make them happen. The second thing is, when I do get an opportunity, I don’t just take it, I master it.
I got a phone call once from Johnny, Katy Perry’s makeup artist, asking me to make a grill for Katy Perry to wear in her Dark Horse video saying they only have a budget of $1,500 USD. So I thought if I am going to do this, why not go big? I called my friend Sheryl who owns 14 Karat, the largest jewellry store in the country and by the following day I had one million dollars in gems to make the grill. I got an impression of Katy Perry’s mouth and I made the design and she wore it in the video. In fact I am going to be in the Guinness World Records for making the first million-dollar grill! It’s taking initiative and going the extra mile that makes me stand out, I maximise opportunities.
Can you tell us a bit about some of your celebrity clients?
I’ve worked with Lindsay Lohan, Katy Perry, Debra Messing, Brooke Burke, Matthew Perry, Jason Alexander, Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Fergie, Ozzy and the whole Osborne family, Slash, the late Esther Williams, Melissa Joan Hart, Usher, Mark Wahlberg and many others I can’t talk about.
When you’re a celebrity and you’re on TV and your smile fills the whole screen, it better look good, that’s your money maker. If it doesn’t, then they come here and we’ll make it look good, but it can’t be fake. It’s got to look good and natural.
Can you tell us a bit about the most cutting edge procedures you’re doing now?
There’s always something new that you need to learn. That’s why I take a lot of classes all the time, learning about new techniques, new materials, and new procedures. I have had the biggest impact in the tooth whitening field. We started a company called Discus Dental 20 years ago, I owned it until 2010 until I sold it to Phillips. And essentially I retired at that time, but I still practice because I love it.
I spend a lot of time doing the film prosthetics that I do, and I run a huge summer program and I would love to see more people from the Middle East attending it. It’s a one week program at UCLA, it’s called LEAP. It’s a motivational leadership program for high school and college kids. If someone can’t afford to take it we offer a lot of scholarships for A students, and about 60 percent of the people who apply for it get it.
So you are no longer taking clients as a dentist?
No, I still work as a dentist. In fact I have a lot of patients from the Middle East; I treat a huge contingency of the royal family in Saudi Arabia.
What we do with a lot of patients that come from the Middle East is that we get all the records and everything before they come to LA. We ask them to send us emails with their x-rays and photographs so we can prepare for what we need to do and tell them how long they will need to be here. Then when they arrive the whole process is done very efficiently.
How long is the waitlist to get to see you?
Since most of my patients are not foreigners, we’re pretty good about scooting people around if we have someone coming from out of town, we don’t turn anybody away. I don’t work on Fridays anymore but if somebody comes in and I’m totally and solidly booked I can commit on a Friday.
Do you consider yourself a visionary and an entrepreneur or are you still a dentist at heart?
Well, I don’t think I really fit into any box. Even in treating complex cases, I come up with ideas that are very novel. I’ve never been confined to a specific thing; I’m always trying to think of better ways to do things. My favourite quote is from Albert Einstein when he was being applauded for his brilliance as he got his Nobel peace prize, he said “It’s not my brilliance that made me successful, it’s my creativity.” I’m not the brightest guy you’ll ever meet, there are a lot of guys who are smarter than me, but when it comes to being creative that’s where I am really in my element. I like creating things.
When I do dentistry it’s really effortless. My first time working with other dentists was in Switzerland after I graduated from school. I noticed that while practicing comes very easily to me, it’s proving challenging to most of them. I’m just lucky because the thing that I love doing just comes easily to me.