By LESLIE COLLINS
April 2, 2014
They say like father, like son, and Dr. Ed Kendrick has truly followed in his father’s footsteps.
“I was to be a dentist like a farmer’s child is born to take over the farm,” Kendrick said, who operates his own dental practice at 4605 Independence Ave.
Kendrick still remembers his father’s dental practice located on the second floor of Pierce’s Drug Store at Monroe and Independence Avenue.
During the 1960s, his father traveled overseas to Guatemala on mission trips to perform dental work and Kendrick tagged along.
“It really opened my eyes to how good we have it in this country and that there are other ways of living where people can be equally happy,” Kendrick said.
During one of the trips, Kendrick shadowed LIFE magazine freelance photographer David Mangurian for three weeks and Kendrick said he became “hooked” on photography.
To put himself through dental school, Kendrick became a freelance photographer himself, photographing more than 350 weddings, creating modeling portfolios, and taking pictures for local newspapers and the Kansas City Starlight Theatre.
Kendrick still incorporates photography into his dental practice. Close-ups of vibrant butterflies fill the walls of his waiting room, all photographs he took himself. He also enjoys dental photography and takes close-ups of mouths to use for patient education, documentation and lectures.
“The pictures save a thousand words in informing people about their own conditions,” he said.
For Kendrick, working in Northeast reminds him of his trips to Guatemala. There’s a need for dental care, he said.
“Right now, I’m the only dentist along the Avenue; it’s not easy being a dentist here,” he said. “Dentistry is expensive and many people we see can’t even afford their basic disease and control needs. There’s lots of dental needs. The dental needs here resemble the dental needs that I saw in Guatemala, especially so as we have a growing immigrant population who have not had access to modern dentistry.”
Kendrick said he likes making a difference in people’s lives and finding a way to give them access to dental care. Improving oral health can change how a person is viewed by others, he said.
“Some people become more employable because of their (improved) appearance or more approachable,” he said.
Solving bad breath problems also improves one’s interaction with others, he said.
“Dental health is integral to total health,” he said. “Infection in the mouth often affects other body systems.”
Research has linked poor oral health to pneumonia, pancreatic cancer, stomach ulcers, colon issues, heart attacks and more, he said.
“The blood that flows through infected gums and the jawbone also flows through the rest of your system,” he explained.
During his practice, Kendrick saw so many oral-systemic complications that he founded Bringing Oral Care to Allies (BOCA) in 1993. BOCA aims to reach out to medical personnel and stress the link between oral health and overall health. He’s also a member of the American Association of Diabetes Educators, chairman of the Missouri Department of Health Diabetes Council and participates in the American Diabetes Foundation.
Asked why he’s focused on diabetes, Kendrick said, “We will see somewhere between 12 and 20 patients a year where the oral conditions are indicative of diabetes. Many times, difficulty in controlling gum disease is because the patient is an uncontrolled or undiagnosed diabetic.”
Diabetes also contributes to dry mouth conditions which accelerates tooth decay, he said.
For those who fear the dentist, Kendrick said he tries to calm their nerves by listening and focusing solely on them.
“Inform before you perform, and contrary to the way health care generally operates, that includes having frank discussions about cost,” Kendrick said.
Another key is to “take your time,” he said.
“Many dental procedures are done well if they’re done slowly and other dental procedures are done well if they’re done fast. Know which is which,” he said.
As Kendrick talked about his practice, he assured this reporter he’s not ready to stow away his dental instruments just yet. For 38 years, he’s practiced dentistry and he plans to hit the 50-year mark.
“I’m going for 50 because the licensing agency in Missouri gives us a plaque,” he joked. “And I like dentistry. As long as I have eyes, hands and my mind, I intend to keep practicing.”