Jeff was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Southern California. His career in dentistry was not in his scope during his youth, although his father, Gerrid Joy, was a dentist. He always loved making things and by 18 years old, he was a licensed building contractor in Brookings, Oregon.
He studied several disciplines at three different universities after graduating from Villa Park High School in Orange County in 1978. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cellular Molecular Genetics from Humboldt State University, Jeff entertained the idea of becoming a genetic engineer. Although intriguing, the idea of being stuck in a lab all day did not appeal to him as he wanted to have more interaction with people. He then spent a year building homes while deciding on what career direction to take.
After some encouragement from his father, Jeff decided to study medicine. He applied for admission to medical school in California but switched to dentistry after learning of the hierarchical approach to doctors in hospitals and the power of insurance companies which prevent the practice of good, ethical medicine. Jeff is a highly motivated and self-driven person who felt he would have a much greater impact being self-employed.
Jeff graduated from University of Southern California School of Dentistry with a Doctorate degree in Dental Surgery in 1987, while also working as a clerk in a supermarket during the night and a waiter in a restaurant on the weekends in order to pay for his dental education. He was awarded the American College of Dentists Achievement Award upon graduation which identifies one student from the graduating class as the best all around student for the four year curriculum.
Three months after graduating, Jeff bought into a dental practice in Downey, California with an experienced prosthedontist, who specialised in advanced reconstruction of teeth and jaws. He worked for 10 years alongside Robert Larner, DDS absorbing and practising prosthodontics to improve his dental skills. Jeff then secured a second dental office in El Monte, California to further his skills after taking on associate dentists. In 1999, the original office in Downey was moved to a new building and expanded to twice the original size to accommodate the demand for advanced dental services.
In 2005, the economic and political climate of the United States made Jeff and his wife increasingly nervous, which is when they decided to move to New Zealand. After 18 months of paperwork, Jeff, his wife Jana and their two children settled in Whangarei, New Zealand. He worked as a dentist with Bruce Sanson at the original Kowhai Court Dental office on Rust Avenue, which is where Jeff realised the poor state of oral health in New Zealand, particularly in Northland. He began to investigate why a first world country like New Zealand was suffering from third world dental health. He quickly found that dentistry in New Zealand is quite a bit different than that of the United States.
The dental education provided at the Otago School of Dentistry consists of five years of study after graduating from Year 13. Students at the five year program enjoy term breaks and Summer breaks and graduate with a Bachelor degree to practise dentistry. In the United States, dental students must have a four year science degree before entering the four year dental program, which is equivalent to five and a half years by New Zealand standards since no breaks are allowed in the program. Then, a graduating dental student must sit a licensing exam where only half of the students usually pass in order to obtain a license to practise. Needless to say, there is quite a difference between a BDS (Bachelor of Dental Science) degree and a DDS (Doctorate in Dental Surgery) degree.
After a few short months of practising in New Zealand, Jeff was inspired to make a difference in the dental health of New Zealand. He built the Kowhai Dental office at 61 Maunu Road, which opened in May of 2009, with the intention of introducing modern, comfortable and high quality dentistry to the people of Northland. Jeff found that many patients he saw had terrible and often traumatic experiences with the school dental nurses, which kept them from seeking regular needed care. He also found that most people found dentistry in New Zealand too expensive to afford.
Jeff found that the cost and comfort of dentistry were the main reasons most people stayed away from the dentist until absolutely necessary. Those factors, as well as durability, are the main focus in Jeff’s approach to dental care at the Kowhai Dental offices now. During the first few months practising in New Zealand, Jeff found that dental suppliers in New Zealand were charging almost double on the same goods available in the United States. To overcome the high cost of dental supplies, Jeff and a friend started a dental supply company, Jeda Dental, which would source supplies from around the world and offer them to dentists in New Zealand at tremendous savings. As you might imagine, this upset the many dental suppliers in New Zealand. Jeff hoped this would force these same suppliers to reduce their prices in order to compete with Jeda Dental. As it turned out, this plan worked. Dental suppliers in New Zealand now charge the equivalent of other parts of the world. The cost of delivering dentistry is now about the same in New Zealand as most western countries. This enables Kowhai Dental to pass on these savings to their patients, making dental care accessible and affordable.
Two years later, in 2011, in order to determine what was being taught at Otago School of Dentistry, Jeff accepted an offer from the Otago School of Dentistry Outplacement Programme to be a mentor for 5th year dental students who would practise in a real-life setting outside the dental school. Ngati Hine provided patients in need who were aware of the mentor-student programme where dental students just about to graduate could get a feel for the demands in a dental practice. Jeff hoped that if he could determine where Otago left off, he could take recent graduates on as associates and teach them “the ropes” to further their education and increase the quality of care in New Zealand.
From 2011 to 2013 Jeff mentored two students at a time for two weeks each during the Outplacement Programme, for a total of 24 students. Jeff met with the director of the Outplacement Programme in Otago, along with other mentors to discuss their findings on two occasions. Unfortunately, Jeff found that his suggestions to improving the education process fell on deaf ears and decided to terminate his involvement in the programme.
The patient demand continued to increase at Kowhai Dental and Jeff had to find more qualified dentists to help out. He advertised in the U.S. for dentists in the hopes of bringing in more doctorate-trained dentists. This process has proved fruitful as Kowhai Dental now has five providers (and more coming) with the education that Jeff feels is essential in providing high quality dental care. By 2015, the patient demand for services at Kowhai Dental had grown to such an extent, that a second facility was clearly needed.
Until recently, patients had to travel to Auckland to receive advanced dental services such as gum treatment, complicated implant services or orthopaedic orthodontics. The concept of bringing those services to Whangarei was behind the development of Kowhai’s second facility. Jeff worked with architect Chris Howell from Main 4 Architects and Kerr Construction of Whangarei to design and build the new facility at 63-65 Maunu Road. Now, with the help of Wendy Williams, RDH and Matthias Stamm, DDS, PhD, exceptional gum services and complicated implant and oral surgery services are available at the new Kowhai Dental facility.
Jeff’s daughter needed orthodontics and he was not satisfied with the proposed treatment from the orthodontists in Whangarei. He decided he would take the necessary courses to treat his daughter for her orthodontic condition. Three years later and several hundred hours of orthodontic education, Jeff is able to treat a variety of orthodontic problems for adults and kids. Jeff has studied orthopaedic orthodontics under Skip Truitt, DDS, MS, who is a renown orthopaedic orthodontist in the United States.
Orthopeadic orthodontics (or functional orthodontics) differs from traditional orthodontics in one simple concept. Traditional orthodontics evaluates the available space in the upper and lower jaws, extracts any teeth that may not fit and then straightens the remaining teeth with braces. Orthopeadic orthodontics evaluates the size and position of the upper and lower jaws and manipulates their size and position with appliances to make room for the teeth present. Braces afterwards may or may not even be required after the orthopaedic therapy and rarely are teeth required to be extracted.
In addition to straightening teeth, orthopaedic orthodontics can treat many jaw (TMJ) problems that arise from jaw discrepancies. Jeff is happy to be able to provide these services to the people of Northland.
Besides dentistry, Jeff spends his time with his family, riding motorcycles with his son, going on holidays with his wife and visiting his daughter in Palmerston North who is studying Veterinary Medicine at Massey University. Jeff also enjoys golf, staying fit and has recently taken up kiteboarding.