When you enter the waiting room of Dr. Tirdad Fattahi on MacArthur Boulevard NW, you notice the multiple awards that honor this dentist. One of those awards came from his peers. Many of the others are based on the opinions of patients, who are interviewed about their experiences, Fattahi explains.
For all of his popularity, Fattahi did not have an easy journey to get to this point. He and his parents left Iran in 1979, a few months before the hostage crisis shuttered the doors of the American embassy there. Having started 10th grade in the United States not knowing English, he had to take special English classes for half of the day. It also didn’t help that his peers didn’t really accept him at the high school he attended.
“It was a bit tough at that time,” he said. The lack of friends did not stop him from making something of himself, however. “I really wanted to move forward,” he recalled.
Fattahi’s parents created a supportive home for him and his younger siblings here. Before the family left Iran, his father was a retired military man and his mother a high school teacher. When they moved to the U.S., they had to take a variety of jobs that weren’t in their previous fields. His father worked in a shipping company and as a taxi cab driver; his mother worked in hair salons. Both parents taught him a set of values that stays with him today, including patience, respect, honesty and forgiveness.
Fattahi graduated from high school one year early and attended Howard University, where he received scholarships for his undergraduate studies and for dental school. Because the scholarships, especially for dental school, did not cover all his financial needs, his parents provided the rest. Fattahi completed the combined academic program in six years, then found work as an assistant to a dentist. When that dentist retired, Fattahi decided to open his own practice.
After taking out a start-up loan from his bank, Fattahi found that it took around two or three years before patients were coming back on a regular basis. “All of that took time,” he said.
Fattahi encourages what he calls “home care,” which means brushing and flossing one’s teeth regularly. He also says to stay away from processed foods — especially sweet ones — as much as possible, as hard as that can be to do. “We have an affinity for sugar,” he said.
Regular checkups are essential, according to Fattahi, because an unhealthy mouth can lead to all kinds of problems, including gum disease, heart problems, bacteria, cavities, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure and problems for the unborn fetuses of pregnant women.
One of the signs in his office space says: “Each one of us has our own smile.” And that’s just what Fattahi has been helping his patients achieve painlessly for many decades.