In an era where work longevity often is marked by weeks or months, it’s nothing to sneeze at when someone sticks at something for a full year.
Another, rarefied category comes when someone reaches the 10-year threshold. Rarer still are those who can measure their tenures by the number of decades of service.
But 50 years? Who does anything, other than breathing, for an entire half-century anymore?
Meet Dr. Lou Taglia Sr., who this year is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his Elmwood Park dentistry practice, Taglia Advanced Dentistry, 7310 W. North Ave.
He has actually been a dentist for 52 years, with the first two years as a captain in the Army Dental Corps practicing dentistry. Among those practicing full-time dentistry in Illinois, the 77-year-old is believed to be among the most senior—if not the elder statesman.
According to an Illinois State Dental Society representative, some dentists in their 80s are still practicing part-time. The organization does not have records on whether dentists work full- or part-time.
Taglia attributes his longevity, in part, to his daily exercise regimen. For the past 27 years, that has meant working out at his health club. He hits the weights to some degree, but the real key is extensive stretching that “takes care of any stress in my body,” he said.
At one point, Taglia was doing 500 sit-ups a day. Then, about 15 years ago, he was taught some core exercises to develop his stomach and back muscles. That saved him considerable time, he recalled with a chuckle.
Another therapeutic outlet has been handball, which he used to play six days a week. “You beat the heck out of that ball,” said Taglia. “That’s a great release.”
The fitness dedication has borne fruit in helping him in his care of patients.
“Dentistry is a very physical activity, that’s something most people never realize,” Taglia said. “The hand-eye coordination you need, the ability to stay focused in very small spaces—those are not only mental, but physical, demands that you have to meet on a regular basis.”
Another factor that has kept him actively engaged: taking care of patients, some of whom he has had since the early years of his practice.
“I absolutely love coming to work,” said Taglia. “It never gets old.”
In the last five years, Taglia Sr. has scaled back the scope of his work. He continues to perform minor surgeries, but defers major surgeries to his son, Lou Jr., who has taken a variety of post-graduate courses and seminars for cosmetic and restorative dentistry at some of the world’s foremost dental training centers.
They include the Pankey Institute for Advance Dental Education, the Misch International Implant Institute, and the Kois Center for Advanced Dental Studies.
Seeds of the elder Taglia’s endurance can be traced to the 1940s, when he developed into a strong multi-sport athlete. Football and baseball were his best sports, and he also excelled in basketball. After graduating in 1953 from St. Philip Basilica High School in Chicago, Taglia turned down scholarships to play football and baseball in college.
Instead, at his father’s behest, he attended Xavier University in Cincinnati, graduating in 1957, before receiving his dental degree from the University of Illinois School of Dentistry in 1961.
His practice has served approximately 10,000 patients over the years, using a variety of technological and medical advancements to help patients with more extensive needs than he ever imagined back in 1961.
“The biggest change has been cosmetic dentistry and implants—we can help people who previously couldn’t be helped,” he noted. “It’s fantastic to help more people carry on so much better with their lives.”
Amid the change, there has been one constant: patients’ fears of coming to see the dentist, and his need to figure out how to put them at (relative) ease.
It’s the facet of dentistry that Taglia has continually emphasized: gain a clear understanding of the patient’s complaint before you delve into treatment.
“The most successful dentists are the ones that can make their patients relax in the chair, though they don’t really want to be there,” Taglia concluded. “That’s a challenge that I still enjoy taking on, and conquering, for the good of each of my patients.”