Family Dental Health Services’ Dr. Matthew Wettach was honored by the University of Iowa’s College of Dentistry as the James Harris Adjunct Faculty of the Year.
The dentist, who only graduated from the College of Dentistry in May 2016, is one of the youngest adjunct faculty to receive the award, and views teaching as an opportunity to further his knowledge of dentistry to serve the residents of Henry County and shape future dentists.
“(Teaching) is a neat way to make a difference,” Wettach said. “Seeing patients on a day-to-day basis, you’re making a difference in their life. But with teaching, you’re hopefully making a difference in a student’s life, who can take that knowledge going forward, implement that technique and help more patients down the road. It’s making a difference with patients by teaching students.”
Wettach has been an adjunct at the College of Dentistry for the past three years, teaching Family Dentistry, a comprehensive care program for fourth-year dental students. Wettach said that adjunct professors at the College of Dentistry typically have private practices on the side, but enjoy spending one day a week instructing students, giving them advice and teaching them about the private practice world.
Teaching is the highlight of Wettach’s week, he said. Wettach finds that students are eager to learn and he enjoys helping them solve a problem and seeing that light bulb turn on once they understand the concept he’s trying to introduce.
Wettach said that even when he was in school at the College of Dentistry or working toward his undergraduate degree at Luther College, he loved helping his classmates. As an adjunct, he gets to use his position to build a connection between the College of Dentistry and his practice in Mt. Pleasant.
“I always wanted to do some teaching,” Wettach said. “At the College of Dentistry, I’m with other faculty there, I get to bounce some ideas off them, and it’s a collaborative environment. Dentistry is a forever learning field. The more I can learn from other professors, the better I’m able to help myself.”
Wettach said there are different treatment plans for any dental problem. Having the opportunity to work side by side with other professors in the College of Dentistry is a learning opportunity for him as well. One of the professors he works with is a worldwide leader in aesthetic dentistry, Wettach said.
“If there’s a patient who comes in with a highly aesthetic case, I can refer them to someone who is known worldwide in aesthetic dentistry,” Wettach said. “I’m continuing to learn from him ways to serve the patients in my community.”
Wettach went into dentistry because he always wanted to make a difference, he said. Dentistry is a way for him to care for patients and help improve their lives.
While dentists might have a bad rap, Wettach said that it’s important people understand in the end, dentists are trying to get their patients out of pain. The more a person visits the dentist, the fewer problems they will have in the long run, he said.
“I see internet members about root canals. Yes, we know they’re not fun, but in the end they’re there to help you,” Wettach said. “Coming to see us may create anxiety at first, but hopefully through more frequent visits, we can prevent that bad dental pain from happening.”
Dentistry is an art form, Wettach said. He takes something that is broken down and builds it up to a more natural experience. That’s what drives him to continually want to improve his craft.
“When you see a great result, it’s very rewarding,” Wettach said. “Hopefully, the patient appreciates that as well.”