Alex Ziegler is a pediatric dentist from Erie, Pennsylvania. Alex has regularly visited family in Naples since childhood. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and Tufts University with a pediatric dentistry specialty degree. In addition to being a member of Young Professionals of Naples, Alex is also a member of the Collier County Dental Association. Alex currently works as a pediatric dentist at the non-profit Health Care Network and also teaches at the LECOM School of Dental Medicine. In his spare time, Alex loves to play golf and practice yoga.
YP: Did you grow up in Naples?
AZ: I did not grow up in Naples, but it is my second home. I spent 1-2 months each year throughout my childhood visiting my aunt and uncle. I fell in love with the weather, the community, and the people. I was born and raised in a city on Lake Erie appropriately called Erie, Pennsylvania.
YP: Why did you decide to move to Naples?
AZ: I decided to move to Naples because I received an excellent job opportunity from my current employer. While I thought the pandemic was a tough time to move to a new city; it turned out to be a wonderful blessing. Living in Florida, we all have freedom to be active during COVID, and I can’t see myself living anywhere else.
YP: What is your profession?
AZ: I have practiced pediatric dentistry for the past 2.5 years. Like most new dental graduates, I do not own my own practice, but I hope too someday. I work under the guidance of more senior pediatric dentists to gain more real-life experience.
YP: What was the journey like to become a pediatric dentist?
AZ: Becoming a pediatric dentist requires a lot of years in school. I completed my undergraduate and dental education at the University of Michigan. Ironically, I chose pediatric dentistry because my dental school instructors told me that I really had a talent for it. I had previously completed over 2000 hours of community service at a Children’s hospital, and I did research for 2 dental professors. I continued to endure 3 harsh winters while I obtained my pediatric specialty degree at Tufts in Boston.
YP: What other organizations have you become involved with since moving to Naples?
AZ: While I am very familiar with the southwest Florida area, I am new to Naples as a professional. In November of 2021, I joined the Collier County Dental Association to network with other dentists. Since joining the organization, I have established relationships with other specialists, and we now refer our patients to each other. I knew how important it was to join CCDA from experience with organized dentistry during my training.
YP: What advice would you give to others who might be starting out on a similar path?
AZ: I would encourage any young dentist to become involved with different organizations after dental school, so they can establish a strong reputation in the community.
YP: Where do you work as a pediatric dentist?
AZ: I currently work at Health Care Network, a non-profit community health center, which provides medical, dental, and pharmacy care to patients of all incomes. I chose to work for HCN because I worked at several federally qualified health centers during dental school and residency. Each of these experiences has pushed me to learn more about the most up-to-date treatments to serve my patients. Our patients often require a considerable amount of treatment, and there are always new ways we can improve their care. Part of the reason I was recruited to work for HCN is because I obtained a pediatric sedation license. This license allows me to provide treatment while uncooperative patients are put to sleep. Sedation dentistry is critical because children who need the most amount of work cannot tolerate regular dental appointments.
YP: What involvement have you had with charitable organizations related to dentistry?
AZ: During dental school and residency, I worked at several non-profit health centers, which encouraged me to pursue a career at a community health clinic. They were my best experiences during dental school. After spending 8 years in Michigan, I witnessed how critical and beneficial our clinics are to the less fortunate. Without these clinics, many patients would become loose all their teeth and require dentures for the rest of their life.
YP: Based on your experience, what role would you say non-profits play in healthcare?
AZ: Non-profit companies are important for today’s society because the cost of living has increased significantly. Without an increase in wages, the population is forced to seek care or rely on Medicaid to cover the cost of their treatment. Most private practices do not accept Medicaid, so non-profit clinics are the only options for the low-income population to receive care. For Naples specifically, we have many patients, who are recent immigrants, that cannot afford treatment at a private or corporate dental practice.
YP: Why has it been important to you to be involved in healthcare non-profits?
AZ: I am currently the only dentist with a pediatric sedation license at my organization. My license allows our clinic to treat patients who have significant behavior challenges. If we could not provide sedation dentistry at our clinic, our patients would need to travel to hospitals at Tampa and Miami to receive the same care. Traveling 2 hours for dental care is a challenge for anyone, let alone people living below the poverty line. As a result of my additional training, I can provide that treatment right here in Naples.
YP: Are there any other notable accomplishments you would like to share?
AZ: I currently teach one day per week at LECOM dental school in Bradenton Florida. A few of my students will be moving to the Southwest Florida area to begin their careers next year! I am also a reality TV star as I was featured on an episode of Bar Rescue and Yahoo sports. While I am not working, you can find me at the golf course or yoga studio. I hope to become a professional yogi sometime in the next two years. I love to try new restaurants and bars in the area, and I hope to try new places with my new friends from YP Naples!