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Dr. Les Binkley Demonstrates Dedication in All He Does

A 1974 graduate of the UT Health Science Center College of Dentistry, Dr. Les Binkley currently serves as the college’s director of Laser Dentistry and Undergraduate Periodontics.

Lesley Binkley, DDS, a University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Dentistry graduate and longtime faculty member, embodies a life of service, laughter, and generosity that extends far beyond the dental chair. 

Dr. Binkley has practiced periodontics in Memphis for the last 45 years, but his roots in Tennessee run even more deeply than that. He was born in Maryville and raised in Cheatham County, where his father was the county sheriff. He often compares his hometown to Mayberry and his experiences growing up to the idyllic life of Opie. He spent much of his childhood working on the family farm, but an accident that sent him to the dentist redirected his path from the fields to dentistry. 

“The dentist in my hometown had a lot to do with it,” he said. “I liked him when he treated me, and the dentist’s office was cool, air-conditioned, and better than bailing hay.” 

Before delving into the world of dentistry, Dr. Binkley graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with a degree in food technology. He even played a role in history by running the first batch of Gatorade while working for Stokely-Van Camp in Newport, Tennessee. After graduating, he married his college sweetheart, Nancy Boggan, and the couple has celebrated 53 years of marriage. 

Dr. Binkley’s journey into periodontics began during his time at the College of Dentistry, where he worked on a research project with professors Jim Ross, DDS, and Jim Kimmelman, DDS. This experience fueled his passion for periodontics, leading him to The Ohio State University for further training in the specialty, along with a master’s degree in nutrition.  

When he returned to Memphis, he joined the College of Dentistry faculty, initially teaching full-time. After opening a private practice, he stayed on the faculty part-time, driven by his love for both periodontics and teaching. 

“Les is a born teacher,” his wife said. “When our children were growing up, he kept a whiteboard behind the couch. When they would ask me a question, I would tell him the answer, but when they would ask daddy a question, he would pull out the whiteboard and start drawing. And they would all shake their heads, but he just is a teacher.” 

Since closing his practice in 2019, Dr. Binkley is again a full-time faculty member in the college, serving as the director of Laser Dentistry and Undergraduate Periodontics. His engaging laugh and stories, coupled with a genuine sense of humor, make him a beloved instructor and colleague. 

“My favorite thing about teaching, I think, is the relationship with the students. I enjoy transferring the information that I’ve got in my head to their heads. And, you have to like what you’re doing, because if you like what you’re doing, they’re going to try to do the same thing,” Dr. Binkley said. “I enjoy the faculty, too. They’re enjoyable people to work with. Most of the faculty here are people I taught over the years, and going from teacher-and-student to now teacher-and-teacher has really been fun.” 

Dr. Binkley’s love of teaching is evident. He served as a part-time College of Dentistry faculty member while operating a private practice for over four decades, and since closing his practice, he has joined the faculty full time.

Dr. Binkley has been at the forefront of laser dentistry since he first became dedicated to it. He has studied and taught the subject across the U.S. and around the world, published eight articles, and has been involved in several other periodontics research projects. He has also given dozens of presentations and taught nearly 1,000 hours of continuing education courses. 

“He’s smart and he works hard,” Dr. Binkley’s wife said. “I think part of that is his background coming up on the farm. His father expected him to work hard, so I think that has a lot to do with it.” 

Beyond his professional life, Dr. Binkley has been an active participant in various community organizations. He served on the UT Knoxville Board of Athletics and acted as president of the local UT Knoxville alumni chapter and the Big Orange Club. Alongside his wife, has been active in the Memphis Dental Society and the Alliance to the Memphis Dental Society, and the couple played a role in establishing the dental exhibit Smiles, Inc., at the Children’s Museum of Memphis. 

Dr. Binkley’s dedication extends to his faith and community involvement. Through the years, he has served as a leader in Bible Study Fellowship, taught Sunday School, and attended mission trips to teach dentistry in Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Romania. 

Having raised three children and now kept busy by six grandchildren, one can accurately describe Dr. Binkley as a family man. A dedicated father, he spent much of his time coaching his sons in baseball and basketball while they were growing up. He would also take his daughter on monthly dates, which his wife referred to as one of his greatest joys. 

The Binkleys have been generous supporters of the College of Dentistry for many years. A testament to their impact on their community, their family, and the profession is the college’s Dr. Lesley H. Binkley, Jr., and Nancy Binkley Scholarship Endowment, established in 2019 by their daughter Beth in collaboration with alumni and friends. This endowment reflects the Binkleys’ commitment to training the next generation of dental professionals interested in periodontics. 

“We hope (the endowment) will enable students who are interested in periodontics to attend and give them some financial support while they’re going through the program here. We hope that it will also inspire them to stay in Tennessee,” Mrs. Binkley said. 

Dr. Binkley’s legacy is one of time generously given—to his family, church, alma mater, the students he teaches, and anyone fortunate enough to cross his path. His story is a tapestry of dedication, laughter, and a love for the state he proudly calls home.

This story was initially published in the Winter 2024 College of Dentistry Magazine.