2021 Top Dentist: Thanh Phan

Editorial StaffJuly 7, 2021
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Photography by Steve Craft
Photography by Steve Craft

Dental Anesthesiology

Dental School: University of California, San Francisco
Years in Practice: 8

Dental anesthesiology is a first-time Top Dentists category in 2021. Why has the specialty grown in recent years? 
[Its] popularity has grown in recent years due to awareness by institutions and dental students. The surge in popularity [followed] specialty recognition by the ADA in 2019. Our societal perspective regarding comfort for dentistry has shifted over the last several decades. Patients and dentists have become more willing to accept sedation and general anesthesia instead of gritting through the physical and psychological discomfort of dentistry.

Dental anesthesiologists are specialists who restrict their practice to administering local anesthetics. How do you determine what level of sedation is appropriate for each patient?  
The combination of factors that determine the level of sedation are patient medical history, desired level of sedation by patient and dentist, and patient age.

Your bio mentions your desire to increase access to dental care for patients who might typically forego treatment – people with phobias or disabilities, for example. Why is it important to you to reach these populations?
Great oral health contributes to good quality of life. I believe that my facilitation of dental care improves the capacity to enjoy delicious foods.

You’re originally from SoCal and went to school in San Francisco. What do you miss most about California?  
Southern California was an amazing place to spend my youth. My fond memories involve playing outdoor sports and cruising around the beach on bikes and spending time in the Pacific Ocean. After college I moved to San Francisco for dental school at UC San Francisco. Those were some of the best years of my life. I miss jogging through Golden Gate Park on misty and foggy days and spending weekends at Lake Tahoe snowboarding.

You and your wife love to travel. What have been your favorite destinations so far? Which are still on your bucket list?
[Our] favorite destinations include trekking in Patagonia National Park, Chile, and safari in Etosha National Park, Namibia. Also Big Sur in California, New Zealand and Japan. [Some] of our bucket list [places are] Argentina, Madagascar, Vietnam and all the national parks in America.

Live music is another passion of yours. What are the best acts you’ve seen in concert?
John Mayer, Haim and Empire of the Sun.

Who is your favorite dentist in popular culture?
The orthodontist, Dr. Jeremy Jamm, from Parks and Recreation.

Going to the dentist regularly appears on popular phobia lists. What is your biggest fear?
I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. Although I do not remember that part of my life, I’ve been told by my parents that it was a treacherous journey. The thought of being displaced in a foreign country has always been a great fear of mine.

“If I wasn’t a dentist, I’d be…”    
Stay-at-home dad, ski bum and jiu-jitsu nerd.