In a profession whose practitioners are portrayed in pop culture as everything from milquetoast to sadistic, Bill Dorfman may be the closest thing the dental industry has to a sex symbol.
Dorfman is a regular on the ABC series "Extreme Makeover" as well as the best-selling author of a new consumer guide to cosmetic dentistry and his busy Century City dental office reflects it.
The walls are covered with framed autographed magazine covers featuring past celebrity patients such as Brad Pitt and Rosie O'Donnell. He's also recently married to a former Miss America contestant 20 years his junior, and in his bachelor days "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno set him up on a date with "Desperate Housewives" star Terri Hatcher at her request.
But at his core, Dorfman, a father of twins, still has a lot of the little boy who was fascinated with dentistry ever since a childhood accident required him to have restorative and cosmetic dental work.
It's the kind of focus that has led him to juggle a third life: as the founder and public face of a Culver City dental supply company called Discus Dental Inc., which has thrived with a hit line of dental whitening products. The company may go public next year.
"Instead of being afraid at the dentist, I was intrigued by the whole process as a little guy, and I never wanted to be anything else," said Dorfman, who looks far younger than his 48 years and whose own teeth are capped, veneered and chemically whitened like his patients.
The Los Angeles native has bona fides. He's a graduate of UCLA, the University of Pacific School of Dentistry and a prestigious residency in Switzerland. But most of the public knows him as "America's dentist" from his three seasons of improving the smiles of "Extreme Makeover" participants after they had been lipoed, augmented and Botoxed.
Within his profession, though, he and his partner, Discus Dental Chief Executive Robert Hayman, have had to endure being dubbed the bad boys of the dental supply industry. Their sin? Throwing a little Hollywood marketing into the mix.
They launched their flagship in-office teeth whitening product 13 years ago replete with upscale packaging and a provocative marketing campaign featuring models wearing little more than their shiny NiteWhite smiles.
These days, though, many of those once critical dentists are now grateful for the exposure the television show has given to the cosmetic dental industry and refer to the increased cosmetic business they have gained as "Dorfman dollars."
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