178 Top Dentists in 8 Specialties as selected by their peers
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Aymee Costales Spindler DDS Periodontics
Steven J. Spindler DDS Periodontics
2540 Severn Ave., Suite 402, (504) 887-8205
Aymee Costales Spindler is from Havana, Cuba. She came to the United States in 1968 with her parents, political refugees escaping Fidel Castro’s communist regime. They arrived with only a small bag of clothes and came to New Orleans because some of Aymee’s family – who escaped in the early 1960s – lived here. “The early years were very difficult but my family is very hardworking, and eventually things became better for all of us.” Her father eventually found a job at Shell in Norco. Providing for the family, he allowed Aymee to focus on her studies and learn to speak English in only a few months.
Steven Spindler was born in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1956. After spending his early childhood on Grand Island, N.Y., Steven’s father was transferred to New Orleans when he was beginning high school in ’71. Steven says, “I love living here with all New Orleans has to offer.”
After moving to New Orleans, Steven attended Holy Cross High School and then headed to Louisiana State University for his undergraduate degree. Aymee graduated from Grace King High School and went to college at LSU Shreveport. Both Steven and Aymee completed their residency at the LSU School of Dentistry in New Orleans.
Steven’s parents and his uncle had always encouraged him to get a professional degree. “Dentistry seemed a logical choice for me as I was an avid student in the biological sciences,” Steven muses, “I loved and still enjoy exploring new technologies.”
He became interested in periodontics during his junior year of dental school. (Periodontitis is a disease where the ligaments and bones supporting the teeth become inflamed and infected.) “Dr. Sandy Mason, a resident at the time, now full-time faculty at LSU School of Dentistry, took me under his wings and allowed me to participate in his post-graduate research investigating the causes of a juvenile form of periodontitis.” After starting his periodontics residency, Steven met Aymee doing research on the same topic.
As Steven was finishing his research, Aymee wanted to continue the work. Steven says, “From there, our relationship began. We joke today, that ‘I gave her my germs,’ since the research we worked on elucidated the main bacterial species implicated in cause of juvenile periodontitis.” (They succeeded in finding the bacterial cause and the immunologic response in juvenile periodontitis.) The two were married in 1983, the year Steven completed his residency and the year Aymee began hers.
Aymee was interested in dentistry because it “represented for me an occupation where I could interact with people, do wonderful things with my hands, continue studying science and feel that I was helping others.” After finishing dental school, Aymee worked as a general dentist for one year and realized that it wasn’t the job for her. She then started thinking about going into periodontics: “I remembered how interesting I had found my classes in periodontics. I had also enjoyed working on an immunology research project in the periodontics department” (the same one where she met Steven).
She decided on periodontics because it requires not only knowledge of dentistry but also medicine and surgical skills: “This was the field for me, and I enjoy my work to this day. I enjoy always doing my very best using the best possible materials and technology to help my patients improve their health. I also enjoy periodontal plastic surgery cases.”
Steven notes, “By far the most challenging, yet most rewarding, part of practicing periodontics is keeping patients comfortable while rendering the most advanced therapies available.” The field is constantly innovating new, less invasive techniques for saving teeth or replacing them with implants. At the Spindlers’ practice, Periodontal Health Specialists LLC, they employ sedation methods; play soft, relaxing music; and are gentle while working with patients’ mouths.
Steven says, “Helping patients obtain health, comfort and optimal esthetics is extremely rewarding.” Periodontal inflammation has side effects that can impact heart disease, strokes and respiratory illnesses, and it has been associated pre-term, low birth-weight babies. “Treating periodontal inflammation eliminates these risk factors,” Steven says. “At the same time, we are able to re-grow lost gum tissue in areas of recession and enhance smiles by reshaping the gum architecture. It’s an exciting time to practice, when so many things can be done so comfortably.”
Steven says, “People warned us soon after we were married that we should definitely not work together and if we did, we would certainly wind up divorced. If I had it to do all over again, I would make the same decision in a New York second! Aymee is the best associate I could ever ask for to work with professionally. We have different areas of interest and split the management duties accordingly. On top of that she is the best wife a guy could ever want, so I am truly a fortunate person.”
Steven opened their first office in Chalmette in 1983 and a second one in Laplace in ’84. Aymee opened the Metairie location in ’85. Aymee says that this was one of her most challenging experiences: “I was the first female periodontist in the city and one of very few lady dentists. I had to go door-to-door to introduce myself to the general dentists and ask them to please let me help with their patients’ periodontal needs. Many of them were quite surprised to see me and told me so!” It ended up being a great success, though; by ’96, the Metairie location was so busy that Aymee and Steven closed the other locations.
It goes without saying that the Spindlers love their practice. When they have free time, Aymee enjoys exercising, while Steven loves biking, snorkeling and scuba diving. They also do a good bit of traveling. The Spindlers have one daughter, Ali, who graduated with honors from Tulane Law School this past May and will be staying in New Orleans, working at a prominent law firm.
– Natalia Le
Inspired by Dad
G. Bradley Gottsegen DDS Orthodontics
Gottsegen Orthodontics, 3424 Coliseum St., (504) 895-4841, www.gottsegenorthodontics.com
Brad Gottsegen grew up admiring his father, Dr. Marshall Gottsegen’s, work as an orthodontist. His father enjoyed both the technical aspects of the field and the personal interactions with his patients and their families. Gottsegen worked side-by-side with his father for eight years until his father retired in 2005. “He created a lot of beautiful smiles in his nearly 40 years of practice, and I’m proud to be carrying on his legacy,” he says
Growing up, Gottsegen wanted to be a rock star – he has played bass in many bands since high school, and “in the late 1990s, I was in a band that, we thought, was going somewhere. Kids and day jobs got in the way of that happening. I still want to be a rock star, but at 43 years old, I’m not liking my chances.”
He ended up majoring in economics at Washington and Lee University, went on to Louisiana State University School of Dentistry, where he completed his residency in orthodontics. Immediately after, he entered into private practice with his father at Gottsegen Orthodontics, which has been in practice for more than 40 years. Gottsegen often sees third and fourth generations of families that his father began treating many years ago, which Gottsegen thinks is “a testament to us not only doing a good job, but doing it in a way that people trust we’re giving them our very best effort 100 percent of the time. For that, I’m very proud.
“My favorite thing about being an orthodontist is the personal relationships I get to develop with my patients. I see people from ages 5 to 85, and no two patients’ needs, both clinical and emotional, are alike. It’s a very intimate environment, and my staff and I try our best to make sure that each patient feels like we are taking care of them as an individual, and not as just another set of teeth.”
Although Gottsegen’s practice uses all modern technology available to orthodontic practice, “we’re old-fashioned in that we’ve always held onto what appears to be a more-and-more outdated ideal in health care of putting our patients first. This keeps us grounded in the fundamental reason we do what we do – to help people.”
For about 10 years, Gottsegen Orthodontics has exclusively used digital radiography, allowing them to take X-rays at a significantly reduced radiation level (in comparison to traditional, film-based systems). They can immediately see these images on any office computer without having to develop film. Gottsegen’s practice uses ultra-modern, self-ligating braces, which allow treatment to proceed efficiently. “We do whatever we can to reduce the amount of time [patients] have to spend in the office at each appointment. Using these high-tech braces allows us to do that.” Most routine office visits – once braces have been placed on the teeth – last less than 15 minutes. In certain cases, Gottsegen also treats people with Invisalign, a system of clear plastic aligners that allows orthodontists to straighten patients’ teeth without braces.
One of the practice’s newer technologies is the use of soft-tissue lasers, which recontour the gums around the teeth. Sometimes people appear to have short teeth when their teeth are actually a normal length but are somewhat covered up by extra gum tissue. “We use our lasers to quickly and painlessly (without having to give any shots) remove the extraneous tissue, thereby exposing more of the tooth structure and making the teeth look longer and more attractive. In a matter of minutes, this easy cosmetic procedure can completely transform a person’s smile,” Gottsegen says.
The most challenging thing for Gottsegen is juggling his time between his professional and personal life. “My wife Leslie and I have three children, and finding a balance between taking care of my patients and taking care of my family has always been somewhat difficult. Fortunately, however, a career in dentistry affords me a degree of flexibility that somehow allows me to squeeze it all in.”
He and Leslie also manage to find time for several volunteer and philanthropic causes: “I’m a very fortunate person, and I feel a strong responsibility to give back to those in the community who are in need.” One of his volunteer activities is providing orthodontic services to Boys Hope Girls Hope (www.boyshopegirlshope.org/nola), a residential facility for at-risk and disadvantaged youth. “These terrific kids have often drawn a pretty tough lot in life, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to help them out in my own, specific way.”
Gottsegen’s passion for volunteering carries on to all other parts of his life: In addition to music, he is an avid Saints and Hornets fan, he enjoys photography and playing golf, but “most of all, I just like hanging out with my family. Life is precious, and we try to make the most of it.”
– Natalia Le