909 Story

We are so proud. Dr. Denine Rice shared her personal story for the 909 magazine.

Sometimes adversity is necessary to bring out the best in a person. Adversity can be a gift that will forge a person into a unique being. Such is the case with Dr. Denine Rice, of Rice Periodontics and Implant Surgery.

Located in Riverside just off Arlington, Brockton and Tibbetts, Dr. Rice’s office exudes a warmth. When I enter I’m immediately greeted by name and told Dr. Rice will be right with me by the friendly and attentive staff. Muted colors make up the décor while next to me a fountain burbles.

“Welcome.” Dr. Rice, a petite woman with a calming voice and cheery smile takes my hand and I sense her inner strength. “Can I get you something to eat or drink?” she asks as she leads me to her private office. I decline and we sit.

“I guess we can start at the beginning. I was born in Saigon, South Viet Nam in June of 1971.” During that year, the United States launched heavy air strikes to close the Ho Chi Minh trail.  In Saigon it was a time of uncertainty. “My father, a medical doctor, served in the armed forces alongside U.S. troops.”

“We were a happy family until the sudden coup of April 30th, 1975.” On that morning, South Vietnam was invaded and overrun by the communists from the North. Dr. Rice’s family had no choice but to leave their country.  “I remember the excitement as we only had hours to prepare. I also remember the despair. My mother, older brother and I would be the only ones leaving that day. My father needed to remain behind with the troops. It was a sacrifice he was willing to make for our future. We didn’t know if we’d ever see him again.”

Dr. Rice understands fear and despair. “I recognize it on my patients’ faces. Many times fear causes people to not seek help for their condition. Or they feel there is no hope. My job is to help these same people realize wellness. Eighty-nine percent of the adult population has periodontal disease and most do not know it. Not only that, but currently it is the number one most contagious disease.”

When Dr. Rice’s family came to America and arrived in Northern California they were immediately overwhelmed. “We had only one bag of clothing for all of us. It was all we were able to bring.” Once here they had to learn English and begin a new life. Thankfully they had families and friends who sponsored them during that frightening time. Always they hoped their father and husband would join them. Years passed.

“I understand time flies. Many patients do not realize how long it has been since they were last seen by their dentist, or that seeing your dentist twice a year was based on a toothpaste advertisement. In reality, many adults should be seen much more frequently. When patients are seen three to four times a year, periodontal disease can be maintained.” As a specialist in Periodontics and Dental Implants, Dr. Denine Rice sees patients of all ages. “People think you have to have a referral to see me, but usually you don’t. My patients come from all over the Inland Empire region and I have a few that even visit from out of state and even, sometimes, the country.” 

Three years went by before Dr. Sang Van Chung was able to leave South Viet Nam.  After Dr. Rice’s father joined them in America, he studied day and night. “It took him two years to learn English and pass the medical tests required to recertify and obtain his medical license to practice in the United States. He is a Board Certified Family Medicine Physician still practicing medicine in Highland, California,” she says with pride. “He was an inspiration to my brother and me. Both of us went into medicine. My brother, Dr. Andy Chung is a board certified Otolaryngologist who specializes in the surgical treatment of head and neck cancer in Texas. For me, dentistry became my passion and focus.”

 “I can treat patients either by non-surgical or surgical means. Most prefer the non-surgical and so we frequently start there,” Dr. Rice explains. “When I first graduated from dental school, I worked as a general dentist for a couple of years. I understand how important it is to work closely with your dentist so that patients receive the best care possible.”

Dr. Rice’s family settled in the Inland Empire. “I attended high school at San Gorgonio High School in San Bernardino and was a great student. I was a member of the student council, played tennis and participated in a number of clubs including the Rotary Club. Being active is something that is very important to me and my family. Even now we spend our weekends and vacations snow skiing, hiking or camping.”

When Dr. Rice excuses herself, it is to see a patient who recently had implants placed. “Soon her general dentist will create her final crowns and an upper denture. Implants are amazing. Improved chewing allows patients to eat the right balance of carbohydrates and proteins.  People who can’t chew efficiently tend to eat more carbohydrates which can lead to problems with diabetes and make gum disease worse. It’s like a dog chasing its tail.”  Dr. Rice truly cares about her patients overall well being and is a firm believer that oral health is a window to overall health. 

After high school, Dr. Rice attended the University of California, Riverside. Then she went on to Loma Linda University, School of Dentistry. “Upon graduating I received the Academy of General Dentistry Student Award. This meant so much to me. Given to one female and one male in each class, it honors the dental students who portrayed the best overall patient care.”

The idea of providing excellent patient care is one of the things you notice upon visiting Dr. Rice’s Riverside Periodontal Practice. “We offer pillows, blankets and even lavender-scented bags filled with, yes, rice. Whatever we can do to make the patient’s visit better.”   

Dr. Rice practiced general dentistry for two years in Rancho Cucamonga, before she decided to go back to school and specialize in Periodontics. So in 1999, she returned to Loma Linda University and finished a three year residency program.

“People sometimes forget how important the foundation is. That’s what I focus on, the foundation of the mouth. And current research shows links between dental health and respiratory problems, heart disease, diabetes, pancreatic cancer and many other systemic diseases. While this information has been getting a lot of media attention lately, what isn’t spoken of enough is that periodontal disease really can be managed.”   

“Finishing my residency program wasn’t the only major occurrence of 2002. It was also when I married the love of my life and bought my Riverside periodontal practice. Yes,” she says laughing. “I was busy that year.”

Clifford and Denine Rice were married at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite National Park. The wedding photos, lovely black and white images, very reminiscent of Ansel Adams’ works, grace each of the treatment suites of her office. “Occasionally a patient will remark on the photos. Is that you? They ask. I always laugh and let them know, yes. Of course, I have a few photos of my children around too.” Dr. Denine Rice and her husband, Clifford both attended Loma Linda University. It was there that Clifford received his doctorate in Physical Therapy.  He currently works as a commercial real estate broker with Century 21 specializing in medical office development, leasing, and sales.  Together God has blessed them with two darling boys, Adam and Joshua.  “I always knew I wanted to be a wife and mother,” she tells me.

Dr. Rice is a member of the ADA, California Dental Association, Tri-County Dental Society, California Society of Periodontists, and the American Academy of Periodontology. As a faculty member of Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, Dr. Rice is proud to help educate the next generation of dental professionals

“Many of us are so good at taking care of those around us, but forget to take care of ourselves. I believe that by investing in your health it will pay a dividend that will last a lifetime. Taking care of yourself is the best gift you can give to yourself and your family.”

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