Article by Ayana Jones
As the owner of Champion Dentistry, Dr. Charles W. Champion enjoys providing quality dental care to the community. His West Philadelphia-based practice provides a range of services including laser dentistry, dental maintenance, cosmetic dentistry, orthodontic treatments, and diagnostic testing for sleep apnea.
The native of West Chester, Pa., was raised in a two-parent household with his four siblings. His father was a chemical sales representative and his mother was a homemaker and hairdresser. He was educated in the public school system. Dr. Champion initially planned to pursue a career as a cardiologist; however, he developed an aptitude for dentistry while pursing his undergraduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh. “Knowing that medicine was a very time-consuming profession, I thought about the opportunity of doing dentistry and being able to raise a family and not necessarily being married to a hospital,” he said. “Being raised in a two-parent household, I wanted to be in a profession that also would allow me to spend time with my family and be an active, present parent and raise my children to their fullest potential,” he stated.
To pursue his new-found career interest, Dr. Champion attended dental school at Howard University. He was homeless for a brief period during this time, lived in his car while he worked and pursued his studies. “It was a tough situation, but I am very blessed to have made it through with very hard work and discipline. I’m happy to be a dentist today practicing in Philadelphia,” he said.
After obtaining his dental degree from Howard, he completed his residency and went to work for about six years with Dr. Sidney Bridges, a longtime dentist in the African American community in Philadelphia. Dr. Champion’s ultimate goal was becoming an entrepreneur, so he purchased a dental practice on North 63rd St. in West Philly. He later bought the house next door and expanded from four to nine dental operatories. He and his wife lived on top of the dental office for 10 years before they purchased a home. The couple have three children ages 16, 19 and 23.
Dr. Champion said that during his years of practice he has seen changes in the African Diaspora, including the African American and the Caribbean community, as it relates to dental care. “I see it as we continue to move up the social and economic ladder, we have now a much better opportunity to receive a greater quality of care and to enjoy a lot of things that were not possible in the past, including the technology and different things that are afforded in a generational transition.”
Reflecting, he said 30 years ago, dentists focused on drill and fill, taking people out of pain and eliminating maladies and issues that could cause future pain. “Now my dental practice is more into optional, functional, aesthetic, essentially remaking smiles and filling a want, instead of a need, for people.”
He finds it more rewarding to be practicing dentistry today as opposed to when he first started out. “It’s a pleasure to do dentistry now than in the past, “We have more options to provide quality care for folks today. When I started out, we were insurance driven and now we are driven by our patients to provide attention to their wants and desires, not just necessities.”
Dr. Champion explained how the use of laser technology is considered the cutting edge in dentistry, and how functional it has become in numerous dental procedures such as fillings, root canals and tooth removal. “With the use of the lasers we can almost save every tooth, to allow bone to grow around teeth to stabilize them and then restore them,” . He added, “Most dental issues are associated with bacteria and using a laser allows us to nearly eliminate the bacteria.”
Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, and Sleep Apnea: “A lot of the dental problems are associated with diabetes and high blood pressure because people are breathing through their mouths all night and their mouths become dry. They are more susceptible to bacteria and thus periodontal disease and tooth decay,” said Dr. Champion, who has done sleep studies for 15 years. “We treat these illnesses better because we are diagnosing them earlier with sleep apnea and other dental maladies.”
Anatomy and Physiology: “These issues have a strong pre-selection for language. This means that if we attempt to pronounce English sounds, i.e., the s’s and the th’s, they require us to push our tongues into our teeth,” Dr. Champion explained.
“Those English sounds were designed for people with smaller tongues and higher vaults. In our African Diaspora community, we tend to have shallower vaults and bigger tongues making it harder for us to pronounce English words and sounds. This can cause protruding teeth and more dental maladies.”
When he worked with Dr. Bridges years ago, he recalled him stating that the meat and potatoes of dentistry were fillings and dentures. “Today the meat and potatoes of dentistry are periodontal disease, laser dentistry and treating people to help keep their teeth for all their lives,” Dr. Champion explained. “We can almost put every tooth back in someone’s mouth that was going to be lost; we can save it or replace it. Dentistry has changed from sort of a barbaric situation to an artistic situation.” Dr. Champion noted.
For his legacy, Dr. Champion wants to be remembered for keeping people healthy and helping to educate them, so we can avoid the pitfalls that have fallen on previous generations. “To me, legacy is something that you work on every day ̶ helping change each person’s perceptions and thoughts and to impact humanity ̶ that is the legacy that I want to be remembered by,” he added.
Champion Dentistry is located at 1170 N 63rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19151, Tel. (215) 473-4717.
Ayana Jones is a Philadelphia-based journalist who writes about health care issues. She earned her bachelor’s degree in humanities with a concentration in journalism and mass communications from the University of the Virgin Islands.