by Tina Cauller
While Guatemala is rich in natural beauty, it is also among the poorest countries in the world. Many of its residents live without fluoridation, adequate nutrition, or basic dental hygiene, and in some areas, even clean water or electricity. As is often the case in impoverished communities, cheap, sugary foods and drinks are readily available. These factors all contribute to poor dental health and, at the same time, the rugged topography and lack of resources combine to make access to dental care an unfortunate rarity.
Dr. J.F. Lopez traveled to the remote mountain communities of Guatemala as a young dental student on a humanitarian mission to help provide dental care. There, his passion for making a positive difference in the lives of others met a budding interest in oral surgery, and the course of his professional career as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon was set.
Although the Guatemala trip sparked his interest in surgery, the foundation for his career was laid years earlier. As a child, Dr. Lopez saw firsthand how families dealing with economic challenges struggle to find access to affordable care, and his early years shaped him into the compassionate, caring person he is today.
“From my own experience growing up, I understand the difficulties people face,” he notes. “I remember as a young child of seven, my mother waking me up very early in the morning to catch the city bus from the Fifth Ward neighborhood into downtown. We would go to the clinic early to get in line for well child visits. The nurses there were so nice and helpful and, under the supervision of the doctor, provided most of the treatment. This was my first introduction to the healthcare field and I remember wanting to be a part of this incredible profession.”
In 1995, Dr. Lopez was accepted to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to continue his oral surgical training. He graduated from Mayo Medical School in 1999 and finished his OMS residency in 2001. He returned to his hometown of Houston and established a private practice in 2003 in the Galleria area, where he continues his dedication to delivering compassionate patient care. “I knew from the earliest days of my career that I wanted to make sure every patient was treated with dignity and respect.”
Access and affordability are still barriers for many, but other things can stand in the way of getting needed treatment. For some patients, fear of dental surgery is a real and present concern. Sometimes, the reason for their fear is hard to articulate. Maybe they had a frightening dental experience as a child or heard about an unpleasant dental experience from a friend. In other cases, patients report that they are afraid of being in pain or that they are afraid to be sedated. Dr. Lopez and his team are prepared to address each patient’s concerns individually and answer any questions they may have.
“I actually love working with patients who are scared. From the first contact, my staff helps put them at ease by walking them through what to expect when they arrive for their appointment. We make certain that patients know from the very first phone conversation that we respect them and care about their comfort.”
Surgeons don’t always gravitate to the profession out of a love for interpersonal relationships, but Dr. Lopez is a natural people person and he genuinely enjoys talking to patients. He has an ability to instantly create a warm rapport and patiently earns their trust.
When patients need oral surgery, anesthesia is sometimes an obstacle to getting care. They may want to avoid missing work or school, or may just be nervous about being sedated. Fortunately, Dr. Lopez is well-versed in oral anatomy and is adept at numbing techniques that allow him to do many procedures with little or no sedation.
Patients are often surprised to find that they can have their surgical treatment without ‘going to sleep’. Even fractures, wisdom teeth extractions, and implant procedures can often be completed comfortably without sedation, thanks to Dr. Lopez’ extensive training and experience. If sedation is required, Dr. Lopez and his team are certified and equipped to provide safe sedation in a comfortable environment. Dr. Lopez has even offered anesthesia training and simulations to his senior assistants so they understand the procedure and what is involved in providing the safest possible surgical care. Each team member providing patient care is trained in aseptic technique and follows strict procedures to minimize the risk of infection. The entire staff is devoted to maintaining a sparkling clean environment in the office.
Dr. Lopez believes that his dedicated staff are key components of his ability to provide the best possible patient care. He has trained all team members personally and encourages them to attend formal and informal continuing education at every opportunity. Most have been with the practice for more than five years, and one for more than 15 years.
Dr. Lopez is committed to utilizing advanced dental technology to provide patients with the highest level of dental care. The practice is equipped with a cone beam CT imaging system that provides a clear three- dimensional image of the teeth, mouth, jaw, neck, ears, nose, and throat. CBCT imaging helps Dr. Lopez evaluate the jaws and face, analyze dental and facial trauma, visualize abnormal position or anatomy of teeth, visualize the head and neck as a comprehensive whole, plan dental implant placement, and assess TMJ disorder. He adds, “Three-dimensional imaging also provides a better window to identify pathology, such as tumors or cysts, that may not be apparent on film.”
Dr. Lopez works in tandem with referring dentists who share his patient-centered philosophy of care. He considers referring partners as integral parts of a team working together to meet each patient’s needs and places a high priority on clear, open communication. He ensures that his surgical patients have a positive experience and can return to their general dentist with confidence after their procedure is completed.
Today, Dr. Lopez continues his personal mission of humanitarian care by serving those in his own local community.
“After realizing my dream of entering the dental profession, I felt that it was time for me to give back to the community that had given so much to me and my family. Initially, I volunteered at the San José Clinic in midtown, where I received dental care as a child. Later, I found a small startup clinic at Casa Juan Diego that desperately needed help. I would take my staff along with me to provide the best possible care along with all the instrumentation we could carry. People often begin arriving before dawn, waiting patiently at the door to be sure they can have a chance to see the doctor. I still volunteer there ― it is always the highlight of the week for both my staff and myself knowing that we are going to the Casa Juan Diego clinic to provide care.”
Dr. Lopez brings the same compassion and desire to help others that originally ignited his interest in oral surgery to every case.
Jose F. Lopez, DDS, MD, RPh, PA
Dr. Lopez is a native Texan, born in Laredo and raised in Houston. His interest in medicine began as a teenager while studying at the High School for the Health Professions in Houston. He attended college at the University of Houston Main Campus and graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy in 1986. He was a member of the prestigious Rho Chi Pharmacy Honor Society. Dr. Lopez worked as a pharmacist for Walgreens at various locations in Houston. He enjoyed the pharmaceutical profession, but his passion for direct patient care led him to pursue dentistry. Dr. Lopez was accepted to dental school at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio in 1991. He was a member of the prestigious Omicron Kappa Upsilon Dental Honor Society and graduated summa cum laude with a doctorate in Dental Surgery in 1995.
In 1995, he was accepted to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to continue his oral surgical training. Dr. Lopez graduated from Mayo Medical School in 1999 and finished his Oral and Maxillofacial Surgical residency in 2001.
In 2001, Dr. Lopez and his family relocated to his hometown of Houston, where he and his wife of 26 years are raising three beautiful children. He established his private OMS practice in 2003 in Houston’s Galleria area. Dr. Lopez is a member of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), the Texas Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (TSOMS), the American Dental Association (ADA), the Greater Houston Dental Society (GHDS) and the Hispanic Dental Association (HDA).
Dr. J.F. Lopez
1770 Saint James Place, Suite 512
Houston, Texas 77056
Casa Juan Diego is a ministry designed to empower individuals rather than enable them and serves as the bridge to living as a contributor to society. The clinic at Casa Juan Diego, which provides free dental and medical care, is totally supported by donations and operates without governmental help. Monetary donations are very much appreciated and can be sent to: Casa Juan Diego at P.O. Box 70113, Houston, TX 77270. Dental volunteers and supplies are also sorely needed. For more information, to volunteer, or to arrange a donation, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Politician and civil rights leader Barbara Jordan, congressman and anti-poverty activist Mickey Leland, R&B musician Archie Bell, heavyweight champion George Foreman, and Dr. Ruth Simmons, the first black president of Brown University and president of Prairie View A&M University, as well as many prominent physicians grew up in Houston’s Fifth Ward.