Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Conversation With Dr. Eric H. Schroeder - KISS Fan

Dr. Eric H. Schroeder wanted to be a dentist since he was an 8-year-old boy growing up in Lancaster. He credited his family dentist for planting an interest that Schroeder could not shake. He worked for two years as a dental technician before entering the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, where today Schroeder teaches a course in gum assessment.

Schroeder was 13 when he discovered KISS, the white-faced metal band that formed in the ’70s. It didn’t take long before he became a passionate fan. Today, Schroeder is 51, and his dental office is a KISS shrine. So is his home behind it.

People Talk: Do they call you Dr. Love?

Eric Schroeder: They call me Dr. Kiss.

PT: Why did you turn your dental practice into a stage?

ES: Because I learned a lesson from the band KISS. They were told many times that their idea for a band was stupid, that it’s never going to work and they were wasting their time. Their response was: “Nobody tells us what we should do. We will succeed.” Thirty-six years later they’re still cranking away.

PT: What do you do best as a dentist?

ES: I’ve been told by a lot of people I’m a real good crown and bridge dentist, but then again I made thousands of crowns as a dental technician. There’s so much more to it than just making a crown. Not everyone can do it, though it’s not as intense as extracting a tooth.

PT: Do you need strength to pull out a tooth?

ES: It’s physics. You use the tooth against itself. You don’t fight the tooth; force does not work.

PT: How are your teeth?

ES: I was gifted with beautiful teeth. Even though candy bars were six for a quarter when I was a kid, and every time I had a quarter I ate six candy bars. And I still have all my teeth.

PT: So how was dental school?

ES: Like I said to the director of undergraduate education after I graduated, it was a real pain in my neck. You had to go through a baptism of fire. There was nothing easy about it. It wasn’t meant to be easy because not everybody can walk out of there a dentist. But I was not going to leave that university without a dental degree.

PT: What do you teach at the dental school?

ES: I call it “gum gardening.” They evaluate people’s gums, the health of the bone, the health of the gingiva.

PT: Do you treat people with your KISS makeup on?

ES: The makeup would be one thing but the full costume? I can not sit down in a regular chair because the boots are 8 inches high. I can’t get up out of the chair. Plus I can’t wear my dental mask.

PT: How do patients react to your passion for KISS?

ES: People like it. It’s a nice way to bond with people because there is no pretension. I am not better than them. I am just a dentist, a normal guy who can fix teeth. I think it’s an icebreaker, really. When the younger kids come in, they kind of get a taste of KISS and they get into it – maybe get some albums or watch Gene Simmon’s “Family Jewels” show.

PT: Have you ever talked to Gene Simmons?

ES: Oh yeah. I met them all. Gene Simmons has my office sign on his Website. I have a stack of tickets 6 inches thick from all the concerts I went to see.

PT: What are your other passions?

ES: I want to preserve my country the way I grew up in it instead of having it change fundamentally to something I don’t like. I am a proud American.

PT: Does your KISS obsession give the profession a bad name?

ES: Not in any way, shape or form. As a matter of fact, I am applying to be on the forensic dentistry staff at the Sheriff’s Department. I was an anthropology major, and it fascinated me.

PT: You live behind your office. Don’t you miss the commute to work?

ES: Nowadays absolutely not. There are too many nuts on the road. I’m safer walking to my office. I really didn’t want to live behind my office, have people banging on my door when they have a toothache but it all worked out perfectly.

PT: When was your last vacation?

ES: I was just in Hawaii. I go there once a year. That’s what I save my stipend from the dental school for.

PT: How else do you pamper yourself?

ES: I’m really not a pamperer, so my pampering is a good shot at the chiropractor and a good massage. They both make me feel good for a long time.

PT: What’s the first thing you do after a hard day at the dentist’s office?

ES: I go home and pick up my cat and tell her I love her. She’s 17. Her name is Hooligan, but I just call her friend.

PT: Where do you think you’ll be 10 years from now?

ES: Hawaii, but the cat is 17 and we can’t go anywhere until she is on her settled ground.

PT: Are you happy?

ES: Sure. Everybody gets their melancholy moods, but I know I’m where I’m supposed to be in life. When I need to move, I’ll get the signals and I’ll rush along. I go with the flow.

PT: Do you think perhaps you were born in the wrong generation?

ES: I have been told many times by my elderly friends that I am wise beyond my years. So I was born in the wrong generation but I am in this generation trying to preserve and cultivate the generation before mine, the one I should have been born in.

PT: Do you have many elderly friends?

ES: I’ve hung out with older people my entire life. I was gifted with the treasures they have, their understandings and the way of life that they lived. Older people are more enriching. There is no nonsense. Today, they’re not talking about “American Idol.” They’re talking about important things. They’re talking about life, responsibility.

PT: You are intense.

ES: Thank you, and I have very low blood pressure, too.