Animal Instincts

Pewee Valley dentist Clark to be honored at Oldham County Day

He treats all sorts of animals at the Louisville Zoo

LA GRANGE, Ky. (July 2016) – Known for his big smile and generous heart, Dr. Thomas Clark is the perfect candidate for this year’s Oldham County Day Parade Grand Marshal. Having devoted his life to dentistry and teaching others, Clark will soon be getting his own time in the spotlight.
Clearly puzzled by why he was chosen as the 2016 Grand Marshal, Clark said there were many others who were more deserving of the honor than he. He alluded to the fact that there are often individuals within the community “a lot of people don’t know who they are, but they work behind the scenes to improve the quality of life.”

Photo provided

Dr. Thomas Clark of Pewee Valley, Ky., will serve as grand marshal of the Oldham County Day Parade on July 16.

Even though he doesn’t think of himself in this way, many others do. He will lead the Oldham County Day Parade on Saturday, July 16. In honor of Clark, this year’s theme is “Creating Smiles, from Molars to Polars.”
Clark was born in Louisville but raised in Pewee Valley. “I grew up here. Pewee Valley has always been home,” said Clark, 66.
As for his choice of occupation, Clark said he “never really planned to do what I do.” When he was younger, he considered being a physician rather than a dentist.
“Doors are either opened or closed. The door opened to do dentistry. It wasn’t planned.”
Clark attended Kentucky Southern College for two years until it was taken over by the University of Louisville. He completed all requirements to become a dentist in 1976 at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry. The following year, he completed a General Practice residency at the Veterans Administration Medical Center-Louisville.
Entering into private practice, Clark opened his first office in his home in 1977 in Pewee Valley. His office remained there for 27 years until he moved to his current Crestwood location at 5805 Hwy. 22.
All along, he continued with the faculty at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry. He was instrumental in establishing the Pain Control and Anxiety Management Course for second-year dental students where they learn to give shots. He estimated that 2,500 to 3,000 students went through the course. He also aided in establishing the Local Anesthesia and Nitrous Oxide Course for Dental Hygienists.

Photo provided

Clark is a dental consultant at the Louisville Zoo, where he treats all sorts of animals.

“I’ve worn a lot of hats at U of L,” said Clark. He also participated in the national learning service program for 15 years and traveled all over the world with students.
Beginning in 1978, Clark took on a new aspect of dentistry, one in which he has become very well known. He became a Dental Consultant to the Louisville Zoo due to the encouragement of one of his colleagues who was also a vet for the zoo.
This friend invited him out to the zoo to take a look at a leopard who it was thought needed a root canal. “In those times, no one was writing textbooks on this stuff and vets didn’t have a lot of training in dental stuff,” said Clark.
He went on instinct even though “I didn’t know if anybody had tried certain things.” He reasoned that if certain techniques were used in a human environment then tried on an animal with a similar problem, the results might work quite well.
Clark has been instrumental in developing techniques for the treatment of various dental conditions in animals, in addition to being widely published and referenced in veterinary literature. In the late 1990s, he and several U of L colleagues launched the Exotic Animal Dentistry Senior Selective Course. This was the only course of its kind offered by a School of Dentistry.
“I work with several vets in the area,” said Clark. When performing a dental procedure on an animal, “I look at it as a quality of life thing,” the same as he would for a human patient.
When it comes to working with more exotic animals, Clark said he recently extracted three teeth from a wallaby. The animal had lumpy jaw, or an infection of the bone.
Clark conducted a course in Fairbanks, Alaska, where he made a presentation on veterinary dentistry. He was disappointed when only four students showed up. He asked one student how they expected to make a living out of dentistry in such a remote place. Her simple answer was, “You wouldn’t believe how much money is spent on sled dogs.”
Over the years, Clark has been very involved in his community, being a firm believer in giving back. “Everybody has a responsibility to a certain extent if they are able to the community they came from. There are all kinds of talents out there.”
He said a lot of people are unaware of how things work in a community, not realizing there is an overwhelming majority of operations that must be carried out. For that reason, he has been involved in many organizations, such as being a member of the EMS board, treasurer for the Mallory Taylor Foundation, spending 19 years on the Board of Heath, city councilman and police commissioner for Pewee Valley, and the county’s Civil Air Patrol. All of these positions were volunteer positions “as they should be,” he said.     
For 47 years, he has been married to his wife, Betty, a nurse. She was born in Ohio but moved to La Grange as a small child.
“We dated in high school and all through college.” The couple has two daughters, Carrie, a physical therapist, and Courtney, an attorney.

He said he “never dreamed this practice would grow into what it is. I’ve enjoy all of what we do. I love my patients and don’t see myself retiring any time soon.”

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