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Meet Dr. John Luther

Pictured from left to right:  Dr. John Luther D.D.S. spending time in the kitchen cooking with his two sons, David Luther M.D. and Daniel Luther M.D.


How does someone with a degree in Marine Biology become a highly accomplished dentist with an expertise in advanced restorative dentistry?


As a Southern California native, John Luther grew up near the coast and was always fascinated by science and the beauty of the sea. He entered the University of Southern California at the age of 16 with the dream of becoming an oceanographer. 


But with the economy at graduation being what it was, John found no jobs in oceanography and spent the next year working in a hospital emergency room and giving tennis lessons before applying to Northwestern University School of Dentistry. He made the move to Chicago to complete a D.D.S. 


As a young dental student, John worked his way through school as an intern at an advertising agency, where his warm and outgoing personality was a huge asset in calming client jitters.  It was a trait that John would find invaluable later in his career as a dentist.


John took a residency in Oral Pathology at the Veteran’s Administration in Long Beach, California.  At the VA, John gained experience in more than just dentistry, completing over 50 full autopsies while acquiring a good understanding of medicine and disease processes.


(His medical experience at the VA served him well; he discovered and diagnosed a small cancerous lesion on his lip – undetected by his dentist – and sought treatment, which probably saved his life.)


John spent nearly 20 years as a restorative dentist, always saving one day out of the week to teach. Eventually, the American Dental Association expressed interest in his clinical and data background, and John moved back to Chicago to join the organization as Senior Vice President of the ADA helping set strategic direction for dental practice, dental benefits and public health.


He later served as Chief Dental Officer at United HealthCare, establishing standards of practice for medical/dental integration and clinical quality, and at Dentaquest, the largest Medicaid insurance company in the country.


Now, as Chief Dental Officer at Western Dental & Orthodontics, John continues to focus on quality, ensuring that all Western Dental doctors follow exacting standards in orthodontics, implant dentistry, periodontics, endodontics, cosmetic dentistry and general dentistry.  He has brought a wealth of expertise in the clinical, operational and business side of dentistry to a leading dental service organization. 


John balances his passion for dentistry with his hobbies as a tennis player, biker, prolific cook and adventurous traveler.  When he’s not at the beach in Southern California, his favorite vacation spot is Kauai.  Either way, he’s never far from his first love, the ocean.


Expanded Medi-Cal Benefits Improve Lives of Many California Dental Patients
By John Luther, DDS, Chief Dental Officer Dental care benefits under Medi-Cal – and the over 13 million Californians who depend on them – took a big hit in 2009. State budget constraints caused by the onslaught of the Great Recession resulted in deep cuts to state services, including basic dental care under the Medi-Cal program. Eight years later, as the economy slowly recovered, California lawmakers passed a bill that fully reinstated those reduced benefits, providing improved dental care services not previously included as covered benefits under Medi-Cal. The changes took effect January 1, 2018. The Medi-Cal Dental enhancements are substantial. Patients are now covered for procedures like scaling & root planing (SRPs or “deep cleaning”), treatment vital to the management and prevention of gum disease in high risk patients. Root canals on back teeth, instead of extractions, are now a possibility for many. Partial dentures are an option for denture patients. And many other services – exams, x-rays and fillings – are now included. This is good news. For example: It means that, if clinically appropriate, a denture patient doesn’t need a full mouth extraction to receive dentures – previously the only option under Medi-Cal – because partial dentures, which require fewer, if any, extractions, are now covered. Partial dentures not only provide significantly better performance and comfort than full dentures, but they also save existing teeth, help maintain bone and a provide a better quality of life. A patient requiring a root canal on a back molar is now covered for that procedure, saving the tooth and preserving bone and the overall health of the patient. Under previous Medi-Cal coverage, the patient’s only option was extraction. Scaling & root planing, now covered, is critical in controlling gum disease. Untreated gum disease makes it harder to control diabetes and is linked to other diseases such as heart disease, respiratory diseases, and even cancer. It’s been gratifying to see significantly more patients now enjoying this enhanced quality of dental care coverage. At the 191 Western Dental offices in California, we’ve seen an increase of 20% in Medi-Cal Dental patient visits since the beginning of the year. Being the largest provider of Medi-Cal Dental services in the state, we’re geared up to meet this pent-up demand. Our doctors and staff have been preparing for months in anticipation of the influx, and we expect to see a continued flow of new and returning patients as more patients with Medi-Cal Dental learn of their enhanced benefits.
How to Get the Most from Your Dental Plan
  Going to the dentist is probably the last thing on your mind this holiday season. But while you’re making your to-do list, you might add “make dentist appointment” because December is an ideal time for a visit. Kids are out of school for their holiday break, appointment slots are available, and for many of us, dental plan benefits expire at the end of the year.  That makes getting in to see the dentist a higher priority this month.   If you’re in the middle of dental treatment, it can be important to make that next visit. For example, as patients receiving a dental implant know, there are several steps to receiving your implant. If your last appointment was for bone restoration a few months ago, you may be ready for placement of the implant. Or the doctor may have your permanent crown ready to replace that temporary crown you received a few weeks ago.   Scheduling a cleaning with the hygienist is wise every six months, and more often if you had periodontal care on your last visit. Coming in for an appointment now to continue treatment you’ve started means you can use up deductibles and maximize your plan’s benefits this year.   You may also want to start needed treatment with any remaining benefits you may have this year, and then pick up where you left off with fresh new benefits in January. Many people split care over two year’s benefits this way for best coverage.   Don’t neglect your oral health altogether this holiday season. Squeeze in an hour of your day to see your dentist just one more time before year end.  You’ll know you’re getting the most out of your dental plan, and you’ll feel good about starting off the New Year with a fresh new smile!