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Inside Dental Technology
April 2023
Volume 14, Issue 4

Helping Anyone in Need, Just Because He Can

Veteran technician Prestipino does not seek accolades despite massive donations

Jason Mazda

Helping others has always been second nature for Tony Prestipino, CDT. He recalls when he and his twin brother, as 13-year-olds, learned about a disabled child whose bicycle had been stolen, and then pooled their allowance money to buy him a new one. Later, their mother's periodontal disease motivated Prestipino to become a dental laboratory technician. "I saw the pain that losing her teeth caused her," he says, "and I knew what I was going to do for a living. Once I was able to help her, it was very rewarding."

Now, in his 37th year as a technician and 15th year as President of Artifex Dental Labs, Inc, in Alexandria, Virginia, Prestipino considers charity cases to be part of the job. He estimates he donates at least $60,000 of work per year. "It does not matter what charity," he says. "I am going to do it. I am at a point in my career when that is the part that makes me happiest. Giving back is just something we do." Prestipino does work for Donated Dental Services, a national network of volunteer dentists and laboratories; for the Archdiocese of Washington (D.C.); and for any dentist clients who have charity cases. "If you are doing a charitable case, I am going to do it with you," Prestipino says. "It does not need to be through a formal organization. It can just be a patient who is down on their luck and needs help. And it is not limited to single crowns or dentures; we have done quite a few full-arch reconstructions free of charge."

Prestipino's biggest pro bono project was in 2021, when one of his study clubs decided to help patients who were involved with a dentist who surrendered his license after being investigated by the Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners. They ended up doing approximately $500,000 of work, $150,000 of which Prestipino estimates came from his end. Whether it is people like that, veterans, domestic violence victims, or anyone else, it is in his DNA to help—just because he can. "When I hold the door open for someone," he says, "I do not do it for the ‘thank you.' You don't know what that person's situation is. Maybe they have a bunion on their foot that is causing intense pain, and holding the door allows them to take one fewer step. To have the ability to use my special skills to help in even more impactful ways is a gift from God that I am very appreciative to have."

With an 11-person laboratory, Prestipino occasionally worries that he might become overloaded, but that day has not yet come. "I just say, ‘Just send it. If it gets to be too much, I will let you know,'" he says. His employees have never once complained. "The prescription always says, ‘Charity case, no charge,' but those cases are just as important as any other case we do," he says.

Prestipino believes in karma, and while he emphasizes that he does not do charity work for the accolades, he is proud when they come. A local newspaper wrote an article in 2020 praising his charitable work, and the National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL) gave him its Excellence in Education Award at the 2023 Vision 21 meeting in January. "I do not really realize how proud I am of the things we have done until they are recognized," Prestipino says. "Thinking back on how much I have actually done, I realize that my children, my wife, and my mother can see that. I hope when my children grow up, they remember that."

For the most part, however, Prestipino does the work simply because he can. He has told Donated Dental Services not to bother calling to explain the need for each case. "If you want charity, I will give it to you," he says. "I do not need an explanation. I want to help you." In a way, Prestipino is showing his gratitude for his own blessings. "We are very thankful for everything we have," he says. "We do not take it for granted. Helping others is a way to say thank you to my dentists, my employees, and the whole community for allowing us to serve them."

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