Keeping People Grinning: Agnini Family Dental
By Adam Spafford
Photography by Jordan Randall
In 1979, Michael Agnini was practicing dentistry in Fort Myers when a pastor from Lakeland visited the church he attended and urged him to consider Lakeland as a new home for his young family and business. Dr. Mike accepted the invitation and joined an existing local practice before opening up his own on Kerneywood St.
When his sons Drew and Matt, both fresh out of dental school, joined the family business in 2004, it quickly became clear that the practice was ripe for expansion. Through that expansion and then acquisition and consolidation over the years, in 2009 Agnini Family Dental took the form Lakelanders are familiar with today: a North Lakeland location at 1805 Lakeland Hills Blvd. and a South Lakeland office, which started on Oak Street, but now resides at 2410 S. Florida Ave. Other family members, including Dr. Mike’s wife Donna and daughter Ashley, have also been a big part of the practice.
When Dr. Drew tells the origin story, though, he reveals that it nearly didn’t come together this way.
“Joining the family practice was not always the plan,” he says, noting both he and his brother decided fairly late in their undergraduate studies to pursue dentistry. “My dad never pressured us toward it, either. In fact, in the years we were growing up, the field of dentistry had become a bit mundane and I think my dad worried we’d find it uninspiring.”
But two auspicious things were about to happen. Dental innovation started increasing rapidly—something that provided a sort of renaissance for Dr. Mike as he learned new techniques—and Dr. Mike and Drew went on a dental mission trip to Zimbabwe, Africa.
“I couldn’t help but see the impact of helping people out of their pain and creating healthier mouths,” Drew says, sharing that’s when he changed his career path toward dentistry.
“I couldn’t help but see the impact of helping people out of their pain and creating healthier mouths.” – Dr. Drew Agnini
That personal commitment to individual care has helped position Agnini Family Dental as a community leader, especially in the last decade or so where an influx of corporate chain dental facilities have been opened in Lakeland.
“There’s room in the marketplace for that form of care, too, but I’m committed to fighting for our profession, so to speak,” Drew says. “We’re partial to our smaller, privately-owned model run by people raised and embedded in Lakeland. We form strong relationships with our patients. Dentistry might be the only field of medicine where we see patients twice a year for preventive maintenance.”
Dentistry is such an up close and personal experience, and Drew jokes they can sense when a person’s comfort zone is being encroached upon much like the famous “Seinfeld” scenes with the “close talker” who has no regard for someone’s personal space. Obviously, Drew and his team get to know their patients while also making them comfortable.
Drew said some of his most rewarding professional experiences are related to rehabilitation dentistry. For 15 years, he’s been perfecting the science and art of creating a comprehensive plan to restore and makeover unhealthy mouths. Rehabilitation involves solutions for long term health and function, as well as cosmetic work.
“Rehabilitation patients often come in feeling hopeless. Perhaps another dentist said they needed to have all their teeth removed. I’ve often been able to give them other, less drastic options,” he says. “I recently had a patient in his mid-80s whose teeth were worn to less than half the size of normal teeth. We worked out a plan to keep all his teeth. I saw him at his follow-up and he was grinning from ear to ear!”
Agnini Family Dental offers comprehensive dental services from hygiene and orthodontics to implant and surgical dentistry. Drew is proud to operate what he calls “an advanced general practice” where they can provide a number of specialties, including IV sedation.
“About 20 years ago we started doing some surgery that required sedation. An unintended benefit emerged as it opened up dental care to both special needs patients and those with extreme dental anxiety. Otherwise, both groups often forgo dentistry altogether,” Drew says.
But Dr. Drew is also measured in sedation’s application.
“I inform patients that sedatives can help a lot but it’s certainly not the whole answer. Sedation can even become a barrier to care because people might think they can neglect home dental care if they can just be sedated a couple times a year at the dentist.”
Drew is passionate about helping people overcome their fear of dental work and getting them to a place where they can walk in and not use sedation. He jokes that sometimes he feels like a lay psychologist helping patients navigate their oral health options, but ultimately he knows the impact that a healthy mouth has on overall health.
“One of the simplest, and most effective, things someone can do for their cardiovascular health is treat any gum disease and maintain optimum oral health,” he says. “It can add 10+ years to your life.”
Agnini and his team are committed to lifelong learning and investing in the latest technologies that can create better outcomes.
“We’ve become a full service digital dental practice using optical scans instead of those gooey impressions that you used to have to take,” he says. “We use digital imaging with our 3D printers and milling machines to create custom dental implants from a block of dental material.”
What the future of care looks like technologically at Agnini Family Dental is hard to say.
“AI will likely make its entry into dentistry, perhaps assisting in diagnosis. A learning model could be fed with millions of x-rays to more easily or quickly identify a crack or decay, for instance. Dentistry generally will be more efficient and automated,” says Dr. Drew.
But certainly the practice’s commitment to keeping patients’ health first–in a comfortable atmosphere–won’t change at all.