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ADA Distinguished Service Award: Dr. Richard V. Tucker

October 01, 2015

By David Burger

Dr. Tucker
Washington — It comes as no surprise that Dr. Richard V. Tucker was born in a town named Orofino, translated from Spanish as "fine gold."

Gold is the defining element in the career of Dr. Tucker, whose use of gold in restorative dentistry has created legions of devotees who consider him to be the gold standard when it comes to dentists.

The ADA's Board of Trustees will bestow upon Dr. Tucker the ADA Distinguished Service Award at the ADA House of Delegates in Washington, D.C., at ADA 2015 — America's Dental Meeting, on Nov. 6.

"I am proud to honor Dr. Richard Tucker with the ADA Distinguished Service Award," said ADA President Dr. Maxine Feinberg. "His dedication to excellence in dentistry and to high ethical standards has impacted countless dentists around the world. The fact that there are more than 50 active Tucker Clinical Operating Study Clubs around the globe speaks to Dr. Tucker's leadership in his field."

For the first time, the ADA Distinguished Service Award, the ADA's highest honor, will go to two people. His fellow honoree is Dr. Jeanne Sinkford.

"I feel honored, of course," said Dr. Tucker from his home in Bellingham, Washington.

Dr. Tucker had a small-town private practice from 1948 to his retirement in 2013. It was there where he studied to perfect and innovate gold procedures, especially for use in general dentistry.

Because of his innovations, there are more than 50 Tucker Clinical Operating Study Clubs around the world, including in Japan and Italy, created in his honor. The way he used gold in restorative dentistry has become universally known as the Tucker Technique.

"Willie Mays was once described as belonging in a higher league, being too good for the majors," said Dr. Curtis F. Smith, associate dental director of Delta Dental Washington and member of a Tucker study club. "That pretty well describes Dick Tucker's relationship to the everyday world of restorative dentistry. He seems to belong to a higher league. His influence is nationwide and international. He has truly become a dental profession icon."

Born in 1922 in Idaho, Dr. Tucker graduated from Washington University, in St. Louis, in 1942 and the Washington University School of Dentistry in 1946. After two years in the U.S. Navy, he began his private practice. He is a past president of the Washington State Dental Association, Academy of Operative Dentistry and the American Academy of Gold Foil Operators.

Besides gold and his family — his son, daughter, two sons-in-law and granddaughter — are all dentists — Dr. Tucker said his other love was teaching. "It is a service that is not duplicated," he said. He has presented more than 250 lectures and graduate courses in dental schools, institutes and other dental organizations all over the world on his favorite subject, cast restorative dentistry.

"I never met such a mentor that was so humble and kind, and willing to advise us in all aspects of life," said Dr. Ted T. Kanamori, a dentist in Makawao, Hawaii, who has been a member of a Tucker study club for more than 25 years.

"He is a highly skilled and gifted dentist that has spent his career perfecting the finest in gold restorations and teaching other dentists how to achieve similar results," said Dr. Ronald Dahl, a dentist who shared an office building with Dr. Tucker. "I have always been impressed by his tireless dedication to the profession of dentistry and his study clubs. His ability to personally mentor as many as five Tucker Study Clubs throughout the year and make occasional appearances at multiple others from as near as Seattle to as far away as Germany was truly amazing, all while maintaining a simple practice in general dentistry in our little town of Ferndale. What is even more notable is that he maintained this schedule for well over half of his 65-year dental career."

Dr. Tucker wants only to be remembered for being one thing.

"A good dentist," he said.