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Leading, Advocating

Dr. Cary Limberakis (C’73, D’78) takes on the leadership of the Pennsylvania Dental Association as its new President.

Dr. Cary J. Limberakis (C’73, D’78), who became President of the Pennsylvania Dental Association in April 2024, is passionate about the issues on his lengthy to-do-good list, with a supporting statistic or story for each.

On expanding drinking water fluoridation throughout the Commonwealth: “For children, tooth decay is the number one affliction that causes them to miss school; it’s not colds or allergies. What better way to help those with access-to-care challenges than to fluoridate the water and minimize tooth decay?”

On lobbying Harrisburg lawmakers on dental issues, including Medicaid-covered dental procedures and reimbursement for practitioners: “Until two months ago, Medicaid would only cover one denture during a patient’s lifetime. That’s ludicrous! The body changes over the years, including the mouth. We’ve had some successes, including the funding increases for dental Medicaid this year for the first time in more than a decade. So, we’re moving in the right direction. But we’re still not where we would like to be.”

On a plan to improve PDA’s governance: “We want to cultivate leadership and promote young dentists across the state. We want to see them succeed not only in dentistry, but also in their professionalism and their roles as leaders in the community.”

On stressing the connection between good oral health and the rest of the body: “We already know that research has demonstrated a correlation between gum disease and cardiovascular health, diabetes, and other maladies. More recently, researchers have even suggested a link with Alzheimer’s disease as well. Controlling periodontal disease, one form of chronic inflammation, helps to mitigate these conditions.”

It’s a lot, Limberakis admits of the agenda before him, but he is eagerly embracing the new leadership role and the opportunities it affords him to advocate for and advance oral healthcare.

“The PDA exists to help members succeed and improve the oral health of the public,” says Limberakis, whose term as PDA President runs through next April. “That’s our mission, and “I take it to heart.”

Limberakis has been practicing dentistry for 46 years, almost all of them at Limberakis Family Dentistry in Abington, PA. His son, Jonathan, made it a true family affair when he joined him in practice in 2015 following his general practice residency.

Limberakis went to dental school because he felt the profession would meld his passion for biology with this love to help people, and he says it has done that and more.  “Dentistry is a fusion of science and art,” he says. “From biology and material science to biomechanics and aesthetics, it is such an ever evolving and dynamic field of healthcare.”

His best advice for young practitioners: “Maintain a high standard of care. If you do that, and keep your patients’ best interests first and foremost, you will succeed.” He also has a few favorite dental aphorisms for the next generation, including, “I tell patients ‘I can do Rolls Royce dentistry on you, but if you don’t change the oil every three months (practice good oral hygiene), you’re going to have a broken down Rolls Royce!”

In addition to his more formally stated goals for the PDA, Limberakis wants his presidency to highlight the importance of community service. Among his own volunteer efforts, he has been involved for many years with the non-profit Mission of Mercy in Pennsylvania (MOM-n-PA), an annual, free, two-day dental clinic for the underserved population throughout the Commonwealth. “It is a most gratifying experience,” says Limberakis. “When I orient new volunteers, I tell them that they’ll finish the day infected with the volunteerism bug and want to volunteer again in the future, since it is so gratifying restoring smiles.”

He also wants Penn Dental Medicine alumni across the country to know it is never too late to get actively involved in their professional associations. During his first 20 years as a dentist, he says, “I went to meetings and took courses for re-licensure, but never really became involved.” Then around 25 years ago, a friend became president of the local dental society. Limberakis congratulated him and asked if there was anything he could do to help. His friend seized the opportunity and appointed Limberakis chair of a committee. That was the beginning of a new passion for him — being actively involved in his professional association at the local, regional, state, and national levels.

“Without a doubt, serving as President of the Pennsylvania Dental Association is the pinnacle of my dental career,” he says. “I’ll never regret the day I congratulated my friend and asked him if there’s anything I could do to help. It changed my life for the better.”

Now, Limberakis says, he is waiting for others to ask him that same question.

From the Spring 2024 issue of the Penn Dental Medicine Journal.