Dr. Gabriel Bird celebrates 15 years of dentistry in Norman

·4 min read

Jan. 23—Dental care has become something of a family tradition for Dr. Gabriel Bird.

His mom is a retired dentist; his father is nearing retirement from his orthadontistry practice in Midwest City. But it was his older sister Kimberly who he says had the most significant influence on his career path.

"She finished dental school right before I started, and now she practices in Fairbanks, Alaska," Bird said.

When Kimberly gave Gabriel a breakdown of career benefits, Bird said he realized how rewarding it could be and decided it was the career for him.

In his 15 years of practice, Bird said it's highly rewarding to be able to help the community that he has grown so fond of.

"You have the potential to own your own business and the work you do benefits the wellbeing of the people that come to see you, which is something to take pride in," Bird said. "You get a good work and life balance and you can set your own hours."

Bird is not only the fourth dentist in his immediate family but also the fourth dentist in the dental practice he took over in Norman. He's practiced since graduating from OU Dental School 2007 — he got his start at Main Street and Berry Road under Dr. Jonathan Randolph White, who would become his partner.

Predating Dr. White as the head of the practice was Dr. Jack Sullivan, from 1974 to 1984, and Dr. William Dobson, who started the practice in 1960, retiring in 1974.

In his first year in the practice, Bird moonlighted at the now-closed Diamondback Correctional Facility in Watonga.

On Sundays and Mondays, Bird would do dental work there, then work in Norman on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, building on his client base. A year later, Bird was practicing full-time in town.

Bird said his professional career has presented financial challenges, particularly during the great recession in 2008 and the pandemic.

"I started my trajectory during what was one of the worst years to start their new business or a new job because it was one year before the financial collapse," Bird said. "We endured that, and the prison gig paid a lot of the bills during that time."

In April 2019, Bird moved his practice to its current 5,500-square-foot home at 227 W. Main St., less than a year before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

"When I moved into my new building, I took on the single greatest professional debt that I ever will one year before the global shutdowns, but fortunately we endured that well also, and people have been excited about getting back to the dentist."

Now 15 years in, Bird said there's no other place he would rather be than Norman, working to continue the culture of providing compassionate community dental care like the dentists before him.

"It's exciting to be hitting these milestones and being able to carry on their legacy," Bird said.

Debbi Borgerding and her husband have trusted Dr. Bird with their teeth since his first year of practice.

"Nine dental implants later, the first one is still going strong," Borgerding said.

When Borgerding said she was told she needed a particular implant and may need an oral surgeon, Dr. Bird took continuing education classes to be able to provide that care.

"I couldn't imagine going to an oral surgeon when I could go to Dr. Bird," Borgerding said. "He's just a very special person, and he's also a great dentist."

Bird said he's seen his fair share of dental emergencies, one of the stressors of the trade, but they're all relatively manageable.

Practicing dentistry in his hometown means getting to help those that helped him along the way, Bird said.

"It makes me feel networked into the community at large as opposed to just being a citizen, and that feels wonderful," Bird said.

Bird's dentistry can be reached at the same number listed under Dr. Dobson's practice in phonebooks back in 1960: 321-2525

Jeff Elkins covers business, living and community stories for The Transcript. Reach him at jelkins@normantranscript.com or at @JeffElkins12 on Twitter.