10 Under 10: Maine periodontist aims high in early career

Partners: Adam Saltz, D.M.D., and his fiancée, Natalie, visit Lisbon, Portugal. Photos courtesy of Dr. Saltz.

Zig Ziglar famously said, “There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” Adam Saltz, D.M.D., of Scarborough, Maine, had hoped to instead take a roller coaster.

“Before I wanted to be a dentist, I thought I’d be a structural or mechanical engineer,” he said. “I loved theme parks and roller coasters. Growing up in Maine, it snowed a lot. We had a hill right by my house, and I worked with my friends and neighbors to build long, winding sledding courses. You never just ‘went down the hill.’ There were twists, turns and tunnels, and some even went through the woods. It’s something I’ll always remember.”

He also mimicked the rides at Disney World and other amusement parks. His friends, lucky or not, tested his version of Tower of Terror.

“I re-created the ride with a rolling chair in my room,” he laughed.  “I made a near-exact replica of the ride using whatever materials around my house, like a broken mirror, glow-in-the-dark ceiling stars and static TV. At the end of the ride, I lifted my friends up and down to simulate the famous drop.”

But perhaps DNA, or just an ancestral wish, rerouted his destiny. Although he wasn’t one himself, Dr. Saltz’s great-grandfather declared inexplicably that he wanted a family full of dentists.

“When my great-grandfather, on my dad’s side, emigrated from Poland in the early 1900s, he wanted a dental family,” he said. “No one knows exactly why. Though his son, my grandpa, never became one, my dad is a dentist. My uncle is a periodontist. I’m a periodontist. And my cousin just started dental school. It’s a trivial little Saltz fact.”

His great-grandfather might be proud to see how in a short run Dr. Saltz has distinguished himself in his dental career. For one, he is a 2023 ADA 10 Under 10 Award recipient.


Photo of Dr. Saltz in Greece
Adventure: Adam Saltz, D.M.D., snorkels in Greece while studying abroad.

Prior to choosing dentistry — and leaving roller coasters behind — Dr. Saltz thought he might choose medicine, particularly surgery. That ambition stemmed from watching medical TV shows as a child.

“Anytime we had downtime, we would put on cartoons,” he said. “But my dad would come home from work and insist that we ‘turn on something educational.’ Whenever I did that, I put on ‘Discovery Health.’ It repeatedly captured my interest. The thought of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon and performing life-altering, sometimes lifesaving, surgery fascinated me.”

His father reminded him of the cool benefits of becoming a dentist.

“Ultimately, what got me into dentistry was my dad saying, ‘Look at how I can come home and truly spend time with you,’” Dr. Saltz said. “I had friends whose parents were hospital-based surgeons. They were on call and struggled personally. I knew there were still surgical specialties in dentistry.”

He took a somewhat unusual academic route to dentistry when he enrolled at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida.

“I went there as part of a combined program, so I was actually accepted into dental school from high school,” Dr. Saltz said. “It’s become an increasingly popular path, but back then, there were only a few programs that offered these accelerated programs. When I applied to undergrad, I knew that I wanted to be a dentist. I completed undergrad in three years before starting dental school.”

He entered Nova Southeastern with enough Advanced Placement credits to finish core undergraduate classes effectively in two years, so he took a detour, a year abroad living and studying in Paris, where he immersed himself in the culture, mastered the language and took elective courses.

“It was incredible,” Dr. Saltz said. “I was out of my element in the best way. My French fashion and culture course attended Paris Fashion Week. I took other courses on French history, cinema and phonetics. I could take the metro to Versailles for the afternoon, a bus to Belgium on the weekend, and a plane to virtually anywhere in Europe for a fraction of a flight here. It was a surreal experience.”


Photo of Dr. Saltz and family
Giving back: Adam Saltz, D.M.D., spends time with his parents at the 2016 national kickoff event for Give Kids A Smile at Nova Southeastern University. He served as co-director of the event.

He finished at Nova Southeastern in 2017, earning both a dental degree and a master’s degree in public health. In San Antonio, he earned his certificate in periodontics and master’s degree in dental sciences from the UT Health Science Center in 2020.

He returned to his Maine roots to private practice at Corey + Then Periodontics and Dental Implants and continued his foray into organized dentistry, which began in his dental school years when he served as editor-in-chief of the American Student Dental Association and student consultant to the ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention. These days, Dr. Saltz is president-elect of the Maine Dental Association and whip of the First District Caucus. He chairs multiple committees at the state and regional levels and is excited to serve on the ADA New Dentist Committee this year.

His home state has been an apt proving ground for his academic and career choices.

“While I was growing up in Maine, water fluoridation was a contentious issue,” Dr. Saltz said. “I helped resolve a dispute last year in the Boothbay region to further allow fluoride in the public drinking water. Another county is now attempting to remove fluoride from theirs. There’s hardly a dull moment, but it’s rewarding to apply my public health background in real time.”

Maine has also been receptive to his contributions in organized dentistry.

“I’m 31 years old and the next president of the Maine Dental Association,” he said. “I feel so fortunate to live and work in a progressive state that genuinely wants to recruit and engage younger dentists. I’m proud of what our association continues to do and strive to maintain that leadership pipeline from dental school.”

Dr. Saltz is still aiming for exhilarating heights, hoping someday to breathe rare air as a leader of organizations at the top of his specialty.

“There are only six periodontists who have done this, but I hope to become the president of the American Academy of Periodontology and its foundation and chair the board of the American Board of Periodontology,” he said. “I want to be the seventh periodontist.”


Photo of Dr. Saltz in Amsterdam
Travel: Adam Saltz, D.M.D., visits Amsterdam during study abroad.

Lest one thinks he is all work and no play, Dr. Saltz remarkably also teaches. But not just academically, as a former assistant clinical professor at the University of New England and current faculty consultant to Kansas City University. As he proved with his sledding courses, he loves a good curve, so in his “spare” time, he teaches indoor spin cycling.

“I taught spin in college, and then when I moved back home, there was a studio here,” Dr. Saltz said. “They are known for rhythm-based riding. It’s so much fun. I grew up playing tennis and swimming, but this is the first workout that I could totally disengage and let loose for 45 minutes.”

There’s no telling where the road will take Dr. Saltz next because he has an open mind about the journey. He realizes he takes on a lot — he just became the managing editor of Decisions in Dentistry.

“One of my mentors told me that when you’re young and hungry, just say yes to everything because in the future, you can be more selective about saying no,” he said.

Oh, and he is looking forward to starting a family someday. Step one: a wedding.

“I just got engaged,” Dr. Saltz said. “I proposed to my now fiancée, Natalie, and she said yes.”

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