Jerusalem dentist, 96, may be worlds oldest

He was a child in World War I.

He has been through the horrors of the Holocaust, and then lived under communist rule.

He became eligible for senior discounts more than three decades ago.

But Dr. Vladimir (Zeev) Lencovski is still open for business. The nearly 97-year-old is likely the world’s oldest practicing dentist.

More than six decades after he began working in his native Romania, Lencovski continues to receive patients in his small central Jerusalem clinic, where he fills cavities and does root canal work.

“My hands do not shake and my legs are good, so why not work?” he asks.

Lencovski was born on Sept. 15, 1910, in Romania. He survived the Holocaust despite three years working in a forced labor camp just over the Romanian border in Ukraine, first for the Germans and then for the Romanians.

After the war, he returned to Romania and began his practice as a dentist, where he worked for the next 18 years.

In 1963, he immigrated to Israel, using an exit visa to France as a guise to get out of the communist-controlled country, which, due to Arab pressure, had clamped harsh restrictions on Jewish immigration to Israel.

For the next four-and-half decades, he would work as a city dentist, bringing to 62 the number of years he has served in his profession.

“I really like my work,” he said. “Is it better that I stay home and bore myself? As long as my health is good, why shouldn’t I work?”

The active nonagenarian begins his day at 5:30 a.m. By 7 a.m. he is out for his morning one-hour walk in a central city park near his flat, which he takes summer or winter, rain or shine. Then he walks another half-hour to work, even though he has a valid driver’s license.

He works in the clinic four hours a day, four days a week and then takes the half-hour walk back home. He goes to bed by 9:30 p.m.

Since suffering two heart attacks two decades ago, he stays away from sweets, fatty and salty foods. Years ago, he also survived cancer of the bowel after it was diagnosed at an early stage at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital.

His oldest patient is 80, and his youngest is 12 (the grandchild of another patient), although most patients at his second-floor walk-up clinic are seniors.

His Health Ministry dental certification was one of the first hundred allocated by the state, stunning ministry doctors who recently visited his clinic on a routine city inspection.

Lencovski allocates weekends to be with his five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His son serves as the chief medical officer for the Israel Police.

He visits his native Romania twice a year, and has a brother who lives in the United State (the rest of his family perished in the Holocaust). When his brother’s daughter became a pensioner, he began to think again about retiring, he says.

But just the thought of “pacing from wall to wall” in his small city flat made him push off the idea.

Health permitting, he hopes to be working at 100.