Dr. Bertsch helps a young patient. Courtesy photo

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Dr. Bertsch is back to ‘Giving Smiles’

By From page A1 | November 06, 2013

In 1990 Dr. John Bertsch was a young dentist looking for a place to settle and open his new practice. The Lodi-born, Roseville-raised Bertsch was struck by El Dorado Hills’ combination of small town atmosphere with a growing population and he settled when there were only two dentists in town at the time.

He married and had two kids, but after a divorce thought it was time for a change. He sold his El Dorado Hills practice and moved it to Sacramento five years ago, where more than 20 percent of his patients loyally followed. Bertsch remained an El Dorado Hills resident.

“People kept asking, ‘When are you coming back?’” he said.

The answer is now. Bertsch is reopening Giving Smiles in El Dorado Hills, a general dental practice for kids and adults that specializes in high-end cosmetic and holistic, metal free, dentistry.

Bertsch attended University of the Pacific on a full baseball scholarship and majored in art. After an epiphany struck, he decided to switch to science his junior year and applied to UOP’s dental school, yet his art background wouldn’t go to waste.

“I realized I can use art in a new way,” he said, and that’s led to his artistic, alternative approach as a dentist. He didn’t want to use metal, even back then, but wanted to practice cutting-edge dentistry.

Just out of dental school Bertsch went to New York and Los Angeles, where he apprenticed under Dr. Nixon, known as a “dentist to the stars.”

“One day he was working on Sylvester Stallone and Cheryl Tiegs the next,” said Bertsch.

Bertsch has been busy ever since, calling his practice a “boutique” approach — each patient gets his undivided attention as the only patient in the office at a time.

His focus expanded when he was approached by good friend Jason Harper, a pastor at Capital Christian in Sacramento and founder of Be Change, a campaign that raises awareness and secures funding for kids in the toughest area of Sacramento, specifically Oak Ridge Elementary in the Oak Park neighborhood.

“Jason said, ‘Hey our kids are getting a lot of absences,’” said Bertsch. ‘We’re trying to do a nutritional program, a fitness program and we need some dental help because a few of these kids are in really bad shape.’”

Bertsch has provided free dental care to Oak Ridge Elementary students every other Thursday for nearly six years since. “We close down our office; we stop all our fancy high-end stuff and work on these kids,” he said. “Most of them haven’t been to the dentist because their parents don’t bring them, yet dental pain is the No. 1 reason kids miss school.”

One of Bertsch’s first patients made a lasting impression. “She was a little 9-year-old girl who kept her head down and held her hands over her face,” Bertsch said. “I’d ask, ‘How are you? Are you OK?’ She’d hold her mouth and shake her head no.”

Bertsch gently encouraged the girl to open her mouth after nearly 10 minutes. “This beautiful little girl had completely decayed teeth,” he said. “They were rotten, jagged, black. The volunteers told me she would never participate in class.”

Bertsch worked on her for three weeks in a row, giving the girl new composite veneers. “When we were done she looked in the mirror,” he said. “Her little personality went huge! After never hearing her speak, she came back all dressed up and gave me flowers and said, ‘You changed my life! Thank you for giving me back my personality!’

“There are so many of those great stories about helping kids in pain,” said Bertsch.

Yet until they secured volunteer drivers to pick the kids up at school, bring them to Dr. Bertsch’s Sacramento office and then take them back to school, they got 90 percent cancellations because parents wouldn’t take them to the free exams.

Word spread in the Sacramento community of their good works, and soon Bertsch was approached by Jacoby Shaddix, lead singer of rock band Papa Roach, about starting the Run it Forward campaign, a nod to paying it forward to raise funds for Be Change.

In 2012, Bertsch, Shaddix, long-distance runner Harper and about 20 friends hopped in the Papa Roach tour bus and traveled from Santa Monica to St. Louis via Route 66, where runners like Harper ran a marathon distance of 26.2 miles a day over 18 days and Bertsch performed free dental care for kids who needed it most along the way.

Bertsch’s bread and butter is still his Giving Smiles dental practice and he has his eye on helping needy children in El Dorado County next. “Sacramento Dental Society offers an annual free dental day,” said Bertsch. “That’s nice, but once a year? There’s so much we can do to give back.”

Bertch’s temporary office is located across from Raley’s at 3860 El Dorado Hills Blvd. To schedule a consultation or exam call (916) 934-8527 or visit givingcompany.com.

For more information about Be Change visit extramilerun.com.

For more information on the ‘Run It Forward’ campaign visit runitforward.cc.

Julie Samrick


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