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DENT Talks encourage listeners to help others and themselves

Speakers share personal journeys during new SmileCon event

October 13, 2021

By Mary Beth Versaci

Photo of Brett E. Gilbert, D.D.S.
DENT Talks: Brett E. Gilbert, D.D.S., discusses his journey to self-love during DENT Talks: Ourselves on Oct. 13 during SmileCon.
Las Vegas — A dentist who treats exotic animals, a triathlete and recovering addict, and a self-love advocate shared their stories during DENT Talks: Ourselves (3119) on Oct. 13 during SmileCon.

Tina M. Brandon Abbatangelo, D.D.S., knew all about Joe Exotic and the other subjects of "Tiger King" on Netflix long before the series captured the public’s attention at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. A volunteer with the Peter Emily International Veterinary Dental Foundation, Dr. Brandon Abbatangelo provides dental services to exotic animals at U.S. animal sanctuaries and has seen firsthand how they have been mistreated by past owners.

"We travel throughout the United States, and we do dental procedures on exotic animals," she said. "There is so much dental disease in these sanctuaries, so we go there and we do root canals, extractions, whatever it takes, so that these animals can eat and survive."

Her volunteerism started with invitations to help veterinarians perform dental work, so she extended an invitation to those in attendance at her DENT Talk to do something outside their comfort zone.

"Do something that's going to get you out of your comfort zone because you came to SmileCon for a reason," Dr. Brandon Abbatangelo said. "You came to renew yourself, to refresh."

ADA trustee Brett H. Kessler, D.D.S., is an amateur endurance athlete, having completed the Hawaii Ironman — a feat he called "improbable."

"It's improbable for me for many reasons, not just physical, but I am also a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, and I view my life as an adventure because I feel I am living on extended time," Dr. Kessler said.

Now more than 20 years sober, he shared how his own journey led him to provide dental care to other recovering addicts, and he encouraged listeners to ask for help when they need it.

"When we struggle, have the courage to ask for help," he said. "Help is available. You don't have to suffer alone."

After endodontist Brett E. Gilbert, D.D.S., made a mistake during a presentation in front of thousands of people and the perfectionist in him questioned how that could be possible, he realized he had been pouring from an empty cup for a very long time. He then learned an important lesson.

"The most important lesson is that self-love is No. 1," Dr. Gilbert said. "Self-love is the most important ingredient for a healthy, happy, fulfilled life."

He explained how focusing on the mind-body connection and his emotional intelligence helped him cultivate his own self-love. He could then take that love and confidence and give back.

"Dig into practices that will cultivate the ability to love yourself. Dig into practices that will allow you to fill your soul, fill your cup, overflowing, because it's really hard to pour from an empty cup, I learned that," Dr. Gilbert said. "But when your cup is overflowing and you’re caring for self, you're loving yourself, then it’s amazing how much you have to give."