Kevin R. Doring has won what amounts to the Oscar award for dentists.
Last month, the 33-year-old Ellicott City dentist received one of the American Dental Association's highest honors: the Golden Apple Young Dentist Leadership Award.
"It's nice to be recognized by your peers," said Dr. Doring, who competed against 32,000 eligible applicants across the United States.
The Maryland State Dental Association nominated Dr. Doring for the award, which recognizes dentists under the age of 40 who have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities, community involvement, and service to the American Dental Association (ADA).
Dr. Doring, who operates practices in Ellicott City and Edgewater, was nominated for the Golden Apple award in 1989 and 1991.
He is one the youngest candidates to receive the award, said ADA spokesman Khris Martin.
Dr. Doring visits local elementary schools and nursing homes, and volunteers his dental skills to the needy.
For the past several years, he has participated in Donated Dental Services, a volunteer program that provides free comprehensive dental care to handicapped, elderly and poor patients.
"He's very personable," said receptionist Sue Spencer. "He's very pleasurable and has a good bedside manner. He's very calming and reassuring."
Because Dr. Doring is one of Maryland's few general practitioners who holds a license to anesthetize patients, he sees many people who are afraid of dentists or who are mentally disabled.
In Dr. Doring's waiting room, visitors are greeted with a sign bearing the names of new patients.
When patients leave, they are often encouraged to grab flowers from a vase. A glass jar of sugar-free gum is there for the taking.
It is all part of Dr. Doring's effort to change people's negative attitudes toward dentists.
"Most people have a bad perception of dentistry," said Dr. Doring, who insisted that dentists help people by relieving pain. "We're like physicians of the mouth."
To ease people's fears, Dr. Doring spends 1 1/2 hours with new patients.
"We try to be friends with our patients. We sit down and talk to them," Dr. Doring said.
"We see one patient at a time. We don't make a lot of money, but I treat them like I want to be treated."
Dr. Doring also encourages patients to take care of their teeth before serious problems occur. "We try to educate them," he said.
"We try to be preventive-oriented."