Smiles we remember
Dr. Hilton Israelson, a well-known periodontist and longtime faculty member at Texas A&M University School of Dentistry, passed away May 19, 2023, at the age of 73.
A passion for helping people, along with his brother’s example, led him to dentistry where he treated patients in the greater Dallas area for more than 40 years. Israelson opened a practice in Richardson in 1981, and from 1979 to 2020, he was a faculty member at the dental school’s Department of Periodontics. Outside of his work with the school, he volunteered his skills as a dentist with Texas Mission of Mercy.
Throughout his professional career, Israelson held various leadership roles in the Texas Dental Association, Dallas County Dental Society and the American Dental Association, among other groups. His work also garnered several awards, including the DCDS Dentist of the Year (2006), the TDA President’s Award (2006 and 2011), the Texas Society of Periodontology President’s Award (2008) and the ADA Presidential Award (2014).
While Israelson and his family planted their roots deep in Dallas, he never forgot his homeland. Born Nov. 5, 1949, in Germiston, South Africa, to Abraham and Rose Israelson, he grew up in the city of Witbank with a large and close-knit family. He attended the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where he earned his degree as a general dentist and while at the university, met his wife, Maureen. They married in 1973 and left South Africa, coming to the United States where he completed his specialization in periodontics at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston. He and his family moved to Dallas in 1975, but they regularly returned to South Africa to stay in touch with family and the country’s natural beauty.
Dr. Jacqueline Plemons, clinical professor in the Department of Periodontics, said Israelson was an incredible mentor and friend, and she described him as someone who never quit what he loved.
“He never really retired; he’s always been in some degree of practice,” Plemons said. “He worked right up until he passed working three days a week, still at full blast.”
Plemons knew Israelson for many years, first as a clinical instructor when she was a graduate student, then later as an employer at his private practice and also as a colleague at the school. He made a significant impact on the periodontics program at Texas A&M, she said, overseeing the graduate periodontics program and guiding residents throughout their clinical training. In the late ’80s, she added, he was one of the first instructors at the school to train students in the placement of dental implants. He took his class on “field trips” to the hospital, she said, and in the operating room showed them how to place root-form dental implants, a new technology just coming on the market at the time. His forward thinking in this area helped her and other residents become better prepared for the future of periodontics.
“Hilton was an amazing mentor,” she said. “Little did we know that implants would be one of the main things periodontists now do in practice.”
What Plemons remembers most about Israelson was his ability to teach others in a positive, constructive way. If she ever made a mistake or did something in a way other than what he expected, he’d walk her through things without getting upset and made sure she better understood the underlying principles of the procedure.
“He taught me about periodontics, that’s for sure, but he also taught me about things like the business side of a practice,” she said. “He introduced me to organized dentistry and got me involved in what would eventually be a career in organized dentistry. He took me to my first dental society meeting. He was a very kind, patient man; he just loved to share his time, knowledge and skills.”
Israelson is survived by his wife, Maureen; his three children, Alana Unterberg, Carla Weinstein (Benjamin) and Justin Israelson; seven grandchildren; sister Sharon Cane (Joel) and sisters-in-law Gillian Sher (Hylton) and Desiree Massad (Doron); several nieces and nephews; extended family and many friends. Donations in his honor can be made through the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation at https://www.djcf.org/donate. All proceeds will be directed to the Dallas County Dental Society Foundation.