WESTFIELD, NJ – Sparta resident Dr. Philip Geron is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who has practiced in Westfield  for 20 years. He helped pay his way through college and graduate school at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey working as a private detective.  Later, spurred by an interest in anatomy, visited a Newark morgue to observe autopsies.

Today he has a successful practice at Westfield Oral Surgery on Lenox Avenue and a thriving career in forensic dentistry. The only oral surgeon in New Jersey who is certified by the American Board of Forensic Odontology, Dr. Geron, 59, has helped federal investigators, state police and local prosecutors identify criminals by bite or tool marks on human skin.

“As a maxillofacial surgeon, it’s made me really a much, much better surgeon,” he said of his forensic experience, adding that this work has helped him ask better questions about patient history. “I enjoy doing that because it’s investigative.”

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Sitting in his office dressed in cowboy boots and a blue-checkered shirt, Dr. Geron recently recalled his early forensics cases.

His work in a landmark New Jersey rape-homicide case in 1983 identified the perpetrator using bite marks left on the victim, and he was part of a team who helped identify about 500 victims of the September 11 World Trade Center bombing.

Currently, Dr. Geron is investigating nursing homes in the state where dentists appear to be billing inappropriately. He also works on behalf of insurance companies to determine the medical necessity of various procedures and looks into potential fraud cases where treatment is billed but not actually done.

“I do find there are individuals, though few, who take advantage of the system,” said the Union native.

In his Westfield practice, Dr. Geron specializes in wisdom tooth extraction, snoring, sleep apnea, dental implants and temporomandibular joint disorders, or TMJ. He takes pride in asking patients proper questions to help uncover underlying problems.

“I have a rewarding day every day of the week,” Dr. Geron said.

He lives in Sparta with his wife and stepdaughter. When weather permits, Dr. Geron enjoys riding one of his Harley Davidsons to work.

Music also keeps Dr. Geron busy.

“I play drums and bass. I have a band I play with about once a week,” he said, noting that the group, Twelve Past Dawn, plays blues, country and rock.