With his father, Joseph, working as a dentist in North Haven for many years, Dr. Theodore “Ted” Gargano says he learned at an early age that being a dentist is what he wanted to do. With his goal achieved, it hasn’t just been people in North Haven that he’s helped.
Ted says he saw how being a dentist allowed his father to spend time with the family, and it was a lifestyle that Ted wanted to lead himself. He says he also enjoyed building models and Legos as kid, and enjoyed working with his hands.
“I put two and two together and decided that dentistry was going to be the right choice for me, and I made that decision basically before I even started high school,” Ted says.
When he went to college as an undergraduate, Ted says he became fascinated by the science of dentistry, and the aspects of patient care. It was also during college where he took his first dental mission trip to Ecuador while he was studying for the Dental Admission Test.
Ted says through serving those in need, “That’s where I developed a true passion for helping others.”
In dental school, Ted says third year dental students had the option of going on a service trip to a foreign country to provide free dental services. There weren’t enough spots available for the number of students, so Ted started a new trip through UConn, opening a chance for everyone the chance to go on a trip.
“I spearheaded the Ecuador trip for the UConn dental school,” Ted says.
Ted and five other students went to Ecuador and provided services including fillings, extractions, and root canals to people there. During the four clinic days, Ted and the group saw about 100 to 150 patients.
Most of the people they saw in Ecuador were in pain or knew they had dental needs, and Ted says some of the people had never seen a dentist in their lives.
“The experience is very similar [to dentistry here], it’s just the need is much greater down there,” Ted says.
Everyone he helped in Ecuador was “extremely thankful” for the services (and says his patients here are thankful as well), and called the experience “very rewarding.”
After graduating from the UConn School of Dental Medicine in 2015, he spent 12 months in Denver, Colorado at the Denver Health Medical Center for his general practice residency, which Ted says helped him hone his skills as a dentist and learn more about the connection between physicians and dentists.
“It also exposed me to learn how to treat severely medically compromised individuals,” Ted says.
Returning home to Connecticut, he began working at his father’s office in July 2016, and says he’s been privileged to provided his services and knowledge to those in North Haven. This is where he plans to practice for the rest of his career.
“I’m very excited to be a part of the community my dad has been a part of for so long,” Ted says.
Saying that his dad has been active in the community with dental education, Ted is looking to follow in his footsteps with that as well. Starting around January this year, he visited local a few local daycares, nursery schools, and elementary schools and gave a brief lesson about what it’s like to visit a dentist and keeping up with daily oral hygiene.
He’s also a participant in the Connecticut Mission of Mercy, a two-day clinic that provides free dental care to underserved and uninsured individuals. Ted says the clinic takes place over a weekend in larger cities in Connecticut and sees around 2,000 patients attend.
With the month of October being National Dental Hygiene month, Ted will be going back to elementary schools to continue to educate kids about dental health.
“They’re fun, it’s a lot of fun to do that,” Ted says.