Saving Smiles

Mark Duncan, DDS Volunteers His Time and Services
Ready, set, smile! For some people, the thought of smiling for a simple family photograph puts terror in their hearts. They may frown or hide from the camera because of poor dental health or a migraine headache with so much pain that it doesn’t allow smiling.

But a local dentist spends each day providing solutions to those dilemmas. Through his dental practice, as well as significant volunteer work, Mark Duncan, DDS, is in the business of helping others.

Duncan, owner of Dental Design Institute (, has restored a pain-free life to many patients who previously suffered severe migraines. Although migraines can develop from many causes, their origin could be something as simple as a person’s “bite.”

Duncan took the traditional dental school’s study of bones and teeth further and began an intense study of muscles. “Look at the bite,” he said. He is watching the occlusion – the way teeth come together when a person bites down.
Some patients grind their teeth at night, many have bone loss or recession, sensitivity in their teeth, a persistent gag reflex, or migraine headaches so intense that their fingertips become numb. For these patients, Duncan said he can help them “get rid of a lifetime of pain, almost always without surgery.”

“Neuromuscular Dentistry (NMD) has changed more in the last five years than in the 30 previous ones,” he said.
Duncan has fostered portions of that change through his involvement with the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies (LVI), where he progressed from student to clinical instructor. Through LVI, Duncan teaches comprehensive care – treating the whole mouth rather than focusing on just one tooth. He credits LVI for his growth as a dentist. “It is because of LVI that I am able to provide the type of care that really changes people’s lives,” he said.

Cosmetic and aesthetic enhancements can change lives. But other patients may need major reconstruction. Duncan restores smiles in some cases by volunteering his procedures, teaming with Jackson L. Sullivan, DDS, of Edmond Endodontics when a patient requires a root canal.

Among the recipients of Duncan’s volunteer work are Jamie and McKenzie, who have both benefited from new smiles.
A victim of domestic abuse and malnutrition, 22-year-old Jamie had to stay out of the abusive relationship for a year and participate in counseling to be eligible for the Give Back a Smile program, a project of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Then, Jamie waited five more months for acceptance.

“The program is designed to restore the upper smile,” Duncan said, “but she needed so much more, we decided to rebuild her whole mouth for her.”

After a total of $35,000 in procedures, including tooth extractions, porcelain veneers and six root canals, Jamie enjoys a superior smile. She’s also making plans for a new future, possibly in psychology to become a counselor or social worker.

McKenzie was already in college when she came to Duncan. She previously had been told that she would need jaw surgery and years of orthodontics to correct her mouth.

“She was unlucky enough to have small teeth and was missing some permanent teeth,” Duncan said. “Her parents were unable to help her restore her smile and, after we met her and fell in love with her, we rebuilt her mouth. It did amazing things for her.”

After avoiding jaw surgery and obtaining her new smile, McKenzie posed for pictures as the basketball homecoming queen her senior year of college. She is considering dental school, Duncan said.

Besides participating in Give Back a Smile, Duncan pledges $10,000 each academic year to the W.I.N. (Women In Need) Foundation. However, his staff encouraged him to pledge $20,000 this year. Duncan refers to this challenge as a “call to action” to get people to whiten their teeth while donating to a great cause. Duncan donates all his proceeds from The Zoom! Chairside Whitening System to the W.I.N. Foundation. Zoom! is a procedure that whitens teeth in less than an hour. Patients write their checks directly to W.I.N. and receive a tax receipt for their donation.

W.I.N. provides quality dental care, counseling and other assistance to women, children and men who have been abused.

Duncan said his close-knit staff exhibits the same kind of compassion and loyalty. Hygienist Angie said of her boss: “He really cares about his patients and goes out of his way to give great customer service.” Duncan calls it his responsibility to touch other people’s lives.

Duncan’s family is all smiles, too. He and Susan have been married 10 years and have a daughter, Faryn, 8, and a son Eli, 5. Even with his busy practice, volunteer efforts, teaching seminars and taking courses in new advancements in dentistry, Duncan makes plenty of time for family. They enjoy travel, snow skiing and scuba diving.

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