10 Under 10: Dr. Scott Howell on impactful partnerships and how he discovered his niche

Photo of Dr. Howell
At work: Dr. Scott Howell in his office January 2020 demonstrating an intraoral camera that we use as part of our teledentistry program.
Dr. Scott Howell, of Phoenix, is among the recipients of this year’s 10 Under 10 awards, which recognizes new dentist who demonstrate excellence early in their careers. An educator and mentor since 2015 at A.T. Still University, Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health, Dr. Howell has created a teledentistry curriculum for dental students working with individuals with special needs, the elderly and those currently in juvenile detention centers.

Editor's note: The American Dental Association is seeking nominations through Dec. 31 to recognize 10 new dentists in 2021. Honorees will receive a $1,000 gift card and be recognized in various ADA publications and channels. For more information or to nominate a new dentist, visit ADA.org/10under10.

Law school was Dr. Scott Howell’s original career plan. But after working for his father, who was in the dental industry and launched a dental company in the late 90s in Michigan, he pivoted. Dr. Howell had been impressed with how dentists interacted with their patients.

Nonetheless, six years into practicing dentistry, Dr. Howell has found a niche through primarily serving at-risk vulnerable populations, including individuals with special needs, youth in juvenile detention centers and men struggling with substance-use.

Through his work in public health, Dr. Howell has created a teledentistry program for dental students and has partnered with various organizations, including the Maricopa County Juvenile detention centers.

He says that this collaboration came about in a "roundabout way” after he realized that there needed to be more done for the youths residing there, Dr. Howell said.

Photo of Dr. Howell
Psycho: Dr. Howell with an actor portraying Norman Bates during at visit to Universal Studios Hollywood in September 2019. 
His team has since helped expand the center’s previous dental care practices to connect them with additional resources in the communities. He is also working to ensure that their pain is alleviated while in detention saying.

“We're not just pulling teeth. We're also saving teeth when we can,” he said.

In addition, Dr. Howell is particularly passionate about is the Maricopa Reentry Center, which is run by the Arizona Department of Corrections.

The program is for men with substance-use disorders. These men have to try to avoid major dental health problems, especially dental treatment that requires the use of pain medication. Through Dr. Howell's partnership, they are able to help approximately 50% of these men complete their 90-day program by setting them up with basic dental care that's covered by Medicaid.

Another partnership Dr. Howell is involved in is one where he works with an integrated dental clinic.

“It's embedded within a medical clinic, and we work with an affiliated practice dental hygienist who's providing on-site preventive care or connecting with the kids via teledentistry,” Dr. Howell said. “What's really exciting is that we're growing it from a one-chair prevention only clinic to eventually becoming a four-chair comprehensive dental clinic that will provide medical and dental care for kids with complex medical conditions and special needs, teenagers, and some young adults who are all on Medicaid. So it's a very exciting partnership that we've been working on for the past few years.”

Being in the dental field has certainly changed Dr. Howell in many ways. He said he’s found the confidence to know what he is good at and using that to his advantage.

“I think what dentistry pulled out me is that we all have something within us,” he said. “I had something within me that I loved about this field, but it took time to find it. I don't think everyone finds it the moment they enter dentistry, but if we look into new places, there is where we will find where our career is. And it is there where I found where my path was supposed to go.”