After nearly six decades of dentistry, Dr. Florentino Priede is retiring
By B.C. Manion
The drills were slower and the needles were duller when Florentino Priede took up dentistry nearly six decades ago.
Those were the days when drills turned about 50,000 revolutions per minute and needles had to be sterilized before every use, explained the dentist, who is laying aside his drill at his Lutz office sometime in June.
These days, high-powered drills turn at about 500,000 revolutions per minute — and disposable needles are now routine. Instead of being poked by a big dull needle, dentists use needles that are small.
And, the use of disposable needles is now routine, giving patients a fresh needle with a sharp tip every time, Priede said.
“There was a lot more trauma. Now, you can do the work much easier,” the dentist said.
At one point, Priede said he had considered a career in medicine. But he met a friend’s father, who was a dentist, and decided to change his path.
Priede, known by the nickname of Tino, has no regrets.
“I love dentistry. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Priede said. “I was four years in dental school and 56 years of practice. Sixty of my 80 years have been involved with dentistry.”
After growing up in Tampa and graduating from Jefferson High in 1947, he was off to Tulane University where he graduated in 1951 and then, to dental school at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1955.
“At that time, they were still drafting physicians and dentists, so rather than start my practice and be called and drafted, I went ahead and decided to join,” Priede said.
He joined the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“It was a wonderful place,” Priede said. “It was a very small base. I was the only dentist. Actually, it was like an internship for me. It set the stage for what I could expect in private practice.”
There was never a doubt in his mind that he would return to Tampa after his stint in the military, because his family has deep roots in the city.
For decades, he had his dental practice in South Tampa. After he sold it, his nephew, William Geyer, invited Priede to join his practice in Lutz.
That was 15 years ago.
Now, as Priede approaches his 81st birthday, he’s decided it’s time to finally call it quits.
He can’t believe how quickly the decades have flown by, or how much has changed in the world of dentistry.
“We started with the dinosaurs really and we ended with the space age.”
Besides faster drills and sharper and smaller needles, the aesthetics of dentistry have changed enormously, too.
The introduction of fluoride in drinking water has reduced tooth decay and people have a much higher dental health IQ these days, he said. There’s also much less gold in dentistry and sophisticated ceramics.
Some things, such as extractions, are much the same as they were when Priede got into dentistry.
Over the years, Priede has had his hand in all sorts of dental procedures.
“When you start, you do everything. You did your own extractions, your own root canals,” he said. In recent years, however, he’s adopted a more leisurely pace.
“I don’t work too hard. I work three days a week. I work the hours that I want and have unlimited vacation time. I can’t believe that I’ve been here 15 years.”
As he looks ahead to life beyond dentistry, Priede said he’s not sure how he will fill the suddenly free hours.
Undoubtedly, he’ll spend more time with his family, Rosemary, his wife of 60 years; their son, John; daughter, Leslie; and three grandchildren, Allison and Matthew Priede and Trevor Gruber.
Priede expects to do some traveling, to read more and to play more golf.
The most difficult part about retiring, he said, is realizing he won’t see his patients, including some he has known for decades.
“They were little girls and now they’re mothers, and they’ve never seen another dentist.
That’s the hardest part about quitting. You make so many fantastic friends.”