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Mike Ruffatto

Mike Ruffatto at his dental office in Savoy.

Looking back now, 18 years and one small business purchase later, the most beneficial college course future dentist MIKE RUFFATTO ever took had nothing to do with fixing teeth.

“Marquette University. Introduction to Biomedical Engineering,” he says. “This was the only class pertaining to my major my freshman year.

“I went into biomedical engineering because I learned in high school that a degree in that major would provide me with opportunities to work in various different fields. While in that class freshman year, I came to the conclusion that I did not want to be an engineer.

“At the request of my faculty advisor — and my parents — I ended up finishing the engineering program as a backup in case dentistry didn’t work out. As a dentist, I haven’t used too much of what I learned from my engineering degree but I am glad I had that class freshman year to help set my career path.”

That was then. This is now: Last month, Ruffatto’s Savoy practice was singled out as the area’s top dental office in The News-Gazette’s People’s Choice voting.

The outdoorsy Wheeling native — who’s married to a fellow dentist, Kara, of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District — took time out to answer questions from Editor Jeff D’Alessio in the 96th installment of our weekly speed read spotlighting leaders of organizations big and small.


I can’t live without my … loupes — magnifying eyewear. I started using loupes in dental school and I probably couldn’t work without them.

I have upgraded since my first pair and now have stronger magnification and a light to illuminate my field of view.

My one unbreakable rule of the workplace is … be honest. Be honest with me, be honest with coworkers, be honest with patients.

Sometimes, it is difficult to be honest with patients but their health will benefit in the long term from honesty.

The hardest thing about being a leader is … knowing that every action, activity or comment is seen by those I lead. So to always be “on” when I am at work is difficult but also rewarding.

When it comes to my philosophy on meetings … my staff and I meet every morning to discuss that day’s patients. We talk about any treatment needs or concerns the patient may have.

This meeting lasts only about 10 minutes but helps everyone in the office get on the same page.

My favorite moments in this job happen … any time we are able to restore a patient’s smile in a short appointment that changes a patient’s appearance to the point they are speechless.

Some patients feel like they will never like the way their smile looks, so to be able to make a small change to his/her tooth, which changes their perception of their smile, is very rewarding.

My business role models are … two dentists I worked for when I was in high school and college during the summers. They both showed me how dentistry could be a rewarding field to work in that allows you to both help people and also have time for family and friends.

They were always kind, courteous and professional with their patients and I try to follow their example every day.

I’m frugal in that … we shop around when buying our supplies for the office. There are many different dental suppliers and we are constantly looking for the best prices.

The biggest business risk I ever took was … taking over my own practice almost seven years ago. I’d only ever worked as an associate so it was a new experience.

But looking back, I’m glad I took the risk.

When it comes to the last luxury I splurged for … I’m not too big on luxury, but I recently purchased new radiograph equipment for my office, which will be beneficial for patients and our staff.

That may not be considered a luxury for most, but when we’ve had to watch expenses for the last 18 months due to the pandemic, it felt like a luxury to make that upgrade.

I’m up and at ’em every day by … 6:30. I am not at all a morning person so I try to squeeze in every extra minute of sleep I can.

As far as my exercise routine goes … I have a treadmill and small weight set at my office. I try to work in about 40 minutes or cardio and weight training during my lunch hour.

The oddest job I ever had was … my very first job after turning 16, at a big and tall men’s store. At the time, I was 5-foot-10 and weighed 160 pounds. I knew nothing about being big, tall or a man, so I wasn’t too great of a salesman.

But it was a great experience and I got to cash a paycheck, which is all that mattered at that time.

On a 1-to-10 scale, the impact of the pandemic has been … an 8. This pandemic has caused my office to undergo changes that affected our workflow.

But in the end, I’m glad with the changes we made and will continue to keep the new protocols in place.

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