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Dr. Daniel J. Klemmedson discusses passion for dentistry

"Mrs. Klemmedson, Daniel has eight cavities." The pronouncement, made during a boyhood visit to the dentist, remains ingrained in Dr. Daniel Klemmedson's mind.

"I spent way too much time in the dentist's office," said Dr. Klemmedson. In spite of all the time he spent in the dentist’s chair, it was beside the chair where Dr. Klemmedson saw his future. As he remembers it, he was attracted to the convenience.

"I liked the fact that my dentist in Tucson lived in his office," Dr. Klemmedson said. "His office was attached to his house, and I thought that was pretty cool. "What started out as a career of convenience — either be a dentist or marry a dentist — became a passion, layered with greater complexity than what he had imagined as a teenager.

"What other profession allows for full use of intellectual abilities as well as surgical skills?" he asked. "We are the definition of primary care: Diagnosis, education, prevention and clinical care over a lifetime. The autonomy of practice choice, self-regulation and work-life balance cannot be beat."Dr. Klemmedson's career in organized dentistry will culminate Oct. 19 when he is installed as the 157th president of the American Dental Association at the virtual House of Delegates meeting. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ADA Board of Trustees voted to hold the ADA FDC 2020 meeting and subsequently the House of Delegates virtually this year.

'I didn’t know how to stop'Dr. Klemmedson was born in Missoula, Montana, in 1954. His father's job in forestry and watershed management and his doctoral research at the University of California-Berkley forced the family to move around a bit during Dr. Klemmedson's youth: California, Boise, Idaho, and finally, Tucson, Arizona, where Dr. Klemmedson finished junior high, high school and ultimately obtained a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Arizona.During a college summer, he served as a counselor for Camp Wildcat, a student-run organization at the University of Arizona that provided underprivileged children the opportunity to go camping in the mountains outside Tucson.

It was there he met another counselor: his wife, Adaline. They ultimately married before he started dental school at the University of Southern California in 1976.

Adaline got a job in the fundraising and development division for one of the vice presidents at USC, and benefited from a program to reduce Dr. Klemmedson's dental school tuition by half. A good portion of the remainder of his tuition was paid by the state of Arizona, which had no dental schools at the time so they collaborated with neighboring states to help residents financially.

As a result, Dr. Klemmedson graduated dental school relatively debt free. Without the debt and the stress that typically comes with it, Dr. Klemmedson had a lot more choices when it came to his next steps. His choice? More school."I did not know how to stop," Dr. Klemmedson said.Dr. Klemmedson completed a three-year oral and maxillofacial surgery residency at the Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center in 1983, obtained his medical degree from the University of Southern California School of Medicine in 1985 and completed a transitional internship in the Tucson Hospitals Medical Education Program in 1986.

You read that right: Dr. Klemmedson is a dentist, oral surgeon and M.D.After obtaining all of his degrees, Adaline ultimately put her foot down."Do you like what you do?" she asked. The answer was yes."Then get a job," she responded.

Dr. Klemmedson met his future partners while providing anesthesia for them during a clinical rotation at Tucson Medical Center. Drs. Theodore Kiersch and Edward Schneider were involved in organized oral surgery and invited him to a meeting at the Western Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons before he joined their practice."One of my partners became a trustee of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons," said Dr. Klemmedson.

"I was constantly surrounded by organized dentistry and experienced the benefits first-hand."Dr. Klemmedson eventually became president of the Arizona Dental Association, vice chair of the ADA Council on Dental Benefit Programs, a member of the ADA Board of Trustees and now president-elect.He's switched partners a few times and currently has a practice in Tucson and a satellite one in Sierra Vista, Arizona, less than 10 miles from the Mexican border, where many of his patients come from the Fort Huachuca military base or are veterans from the area.For the past 30 years, Dr. Klemmedson has joined primary care and specialty physicians, audiologists, nutrition specialists, sociologists, dentists, orthodontists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons as a member of the Children's Clinics' cleft palate-craniofacial team.

Dr. Klemmedson coordinates surgical care with plastic surgeons and ear, nose and throat surgeons to address the many specific needs his pediatric patients require from birth to adulthood. His primary area of concentration is with the maxillary cleft closure and bone grafting, orthognathic surgery and dentoalveolar surgery.

During the little free time he does have, Dr. Klemmedson "putters around the yard" with his cacti and succulents; exercises every morning at 4:30 a.m.; is an avid cyclist, having ridden across major portions of Australia; and supports his wife's endeavors."My wife, she's kind of the star of the family to be honest," Dr. Klemmedson said. "She leads and I follow."Adaline ultimately became the program director of the Institute for Marine and Coastal Studies at USC.

In Tucson, she also worked in health care, ultimately retiring as a vice president of the teaching hospital associated with the University of Arizona College of Medicine. After retiring, she became a community volunteer and philanthropist "serving as the chair of more local groups in Tucson than I can name," Dr. Klemmedson said.

by Kelly Ganski

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