LoveLakeland’s October 2018 CityMaker

Dr. William Nerestant

By Jonathan Camargo

Pictured: CREATE at Catapult, Gillian Fazio

There’s a certain, special feeling you get when the things you love come back to you. Like a parent in May after their college-aged child’s first year away at school, a toddler finding that lost toy they stuffed in the couch not even five minutes earlier, or – after days of searching and deeming it gone forever – discovering your wedding ring under a pile of laundry, there’s an indescribable feeling of glee that never fades with age. Take a second and imagine you’re the person who can restore that very feeling in someone who hasn’t smiled in months – someone whose smile is the cause for their lack thereof.

Now, imagine being able to make that someone smile by giving them their smile back.

Lucky for us, our October CityMaker Dr. William Nerestant, does just that. And he isn’t just in the business of fixing smiles – he’s giving members of our community a chance to live life again, on their terms.

An Upbringing

Dr. Nerestant’s been calling Lakeland home for just under 15 years. His journey getting here started much earlier than that, though.

Originally from Haiti, Dr. Nerestant moved to the U.S. when he was 14. Over a decade later, he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from the University of Detroit Mercy, but he wasn’t ready to put his roots down just yet. Instead, Dr. Nerestant joined the Air Force and was stationed at Tampa’s very own MacDill Air Force Base. He’d go on to serve a tour and be awarded the “Air Force Achievement Medal” in the process. Seeking yet another change of pace, he sought a job in a quiet town, only to stumble across Lakeland right next door.

“It seemed to be a nice place, right in between Tampa and Orlando. Just a quiet, nice little area,” Dr. Nerestant said.

After over a decade of calling our city home, Dr. Nerestant’s settled into life here quite well. He credits the people and the community at large for embracing him as well as they have.

“It’s been very welcoming to me as a dentist and a business owner. [Lakeland’s] small enough where you can get to know people, but not lost in the big metropolitan area,” Dr. Nerestant explained. “My hobbies and interests are well supported here, my business is well supported, and it’s a nice, welcoming, family-oriented place.”

If he’s not in the office or playing in either his soccer or tennis league, he might just be off on one of his international dental mission trips, where he’ll share his gift for dentistry with those in need of it most. It goes without question that some of those in need aren’t countries away, but mere driveways.

The Practice

Away from the hustle, bustle, traffic, and noise, Midtown Dental lies peacefully tucked away under a canopy of trees just a street over from South Florida Avenue. It’s almost as if Dr. Nerestant’s office itself mimics the very principles he puts forth each and every day in his practice.

According to WebMD, around 9 to 20% of Americans abstain from going to the dentist due to fear or anxiety. This disconnect from quality dental care can worsen preexisting dental conditions while allowing new ones to form. It’s in this regard that Dr. Nerestant’s practice is different.

Although it specializes in everything from cosmetic to implant dentistry, Midtown Dental is known for its ability to help transition patients’ from feelings of nervousness and fear to those of confidence and security in the dental care they receive. Dr. Nerestant wouldn’t want it any other way.

“The highlight of the day is when you see the after effects of the transition that a patient goes through from a state of disease, or a state where they’re unsure, or their self-confidence is down, to seeing them blossom into a confident person that becomes more active,” Dr. Nerestant shared.

The Dental Day

As a boy, Dr. Nerestant looked up to his uncle for guidance and advice. His uncle, a priest, instilled within him a sense of responsibility to both himself and his family. In turn, this sense of responsibility would branch far beyond the scope of just those he shared familial bonds with.

“Certainly you want to take care of yourself and you want to take care of your family, but there’s quite a few people in the community that need help,” Dr. Nerestant explained.

Dr. Nerestant’s successes inspire members of his family and our community alike. It’s just in his nature to share his acts of goodwill with those he holds dearest. Fortunately enough, Lakeland lies close to his heart.

Looking around at the immediate need in front of him, Dr. Nerestant saw an upsetting, yet all-too-common occurrence: many people in our community were forced to forsake their dental health because of the high costs generally associated with it.

“Every day we come across patients with tremendous needs, but they can’t afford it,” Dr. Nerestant said. “Obviously we’re a business and we can’t take on everybody without exchanging anything at all. So, we took note of it and said, ‘Ok, how can we help the community?’”

Dr. Nerestant and his team pondered the predicament until one solution was crowned champion.

“My staff and I sat down and we said, ‘Ok, how about we open the practice up one day and see as many people as we can and offer them some immediate relief?’”

“My staff and I sat down and we said, ‘Ok, how about we open the practice up one day and see as many people as we can and offer them some immediate relief?’”

“My staff and I sat down and we said, ‘Ok, how about we open the practice up one day and see as many people as we can and offer them some immediate relief?’”

That was just over a decade ago. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary just later this month, Midtown Dental’s Annual Free Dental Day helps over a hundred patients get the dental care they’ve been so desperately going without. This year, Dr. Nerestant aims to treat a record number of patients, but he knows his work is never done.

“Even though we’re expecting to see and service 200 patients, which is the most we’ve ever done, there will still be people that are in need that we won’t be able to service,” Dr. Nerestant shared.

But that doesn’t mean that he won’t try. Free Dental Day is just one of the ways Dr. Nerestant gives back to his community. Dr. Nerestant has previously volunteered his services with both the Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine (LVIM) and Woman to Woman Magazine, the latter of which he served as a Smile-Makeover Dentist for the winner of the magazine’s Total Makeover Contest, all free of charge.

Behind the Scenes

Dr. Nerestant isn’t one to showboat his accomplishments. His calm nature is only rivaled by his humility.

“I think the community needs to be more aware of what a kind, humble dentist he is,” said Veneis Little, local real estate agent and philanthropist advocate. “I think Lakeland needs to be introduced to him again, if they’re not already aware.”

Not one for the limelight, nor one to readily accept the credit for his work, Dr. Nerestant often cites his team at Midtown Dental for the magic that happens both in and outside its doors.

“I know I, as an individual, was chosen for the award, but I stand on the shoulders of my team because I wouldn’t be able to do that without their contribution, without their level of service, and without the level of dedication and passion they bring day in and day out,” Dr. Nerestant said. “I’m appreciative of being chosen, but I also feel more indebted and grateful to my team for making it possible for me to do something that I’m passionate about, something that I love.”

From charitable donations to participating in breast cancer walks to taking international mission trips, Dr. Nerestant is more than willing to share what money, time, and ability he has for the betterment of our community and beyond.

In terms of Lakeland, Dr. Nerestant hopes that we continue to grow and thrive amongst the other major cities of Central Florida. It’s this element of communal thriving that Dr. Nerestant strives for in each and every one of his projects, be they personal or business.

“If the community is thriving, then you also thrive,” Dr. Nerestant explained.

For the Future

Although he champions whatever causes he affiliates himself with, Dr. Nerestant wants to fundamentally remind others that, no matter who you may be, “you’re part of something bigger than you or your immediate family.”

Being a member of our community means more than just reveling in the highs – it’s about offering a hand in the lows.

“You have to create an environment where the opportunities are there so those that who want to take advantage of it at least see that there’s a pathway towards growth and they don’t have to leave Lakeland to find those opportunities,” Dr. Nerestant shared. “You can make a difference, and the size of the difference does not matter, just the fact that you’re reaching out and acknowledging that there’s blessings within you that you can share with others.”

These opportunities to help raise our community up don’t have to be groundbreaking, rather, they just have to be there. Future CityMakers need not worry themselves with changing the entire world, but instead take what little gifts they have to offer, and simply start there. Thank you, Dr. Nerestant, for choosing Lakeland, caring for our community, and changing our amazing city, one smile at a time.