Ask someone about the difference between a dolphin and a porpoise and they may point to the two species closest to us here in Sacramento. The San Francisco Bay is home to both bottlenose dolphins (Turciops truncatus, above) and harbor porpoises (Phoecoena phoecoena). Looking at them, you notice that our local dolphin has a long beak, and the harbor porpoise does not. Is the identification problem solved? Not so fast, Junior Ranger, because the real solution belongs to dentistry, and here’s why.

The harbor porpoise is the closest type of porpoise to Carmichael.
Harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)

The Curious Counterexamples

There are other local dolphins with long beaks, like the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis). Search a little more, however, and you also find dolphins in our area with no beak at all, such as Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) and the Pacific white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens). If you judge a dolphin only by its beak, you miss these counterexamples, identified by zoologists as dolphins.

As for porpoises, the Dall’s porpoise (Phocoenoides dalliis) is also seen in our Pacific waters and likewise has no beak. The vaquita (Phoecoena sinus) of the Gulf of California, between Baja California and the rest of Mexico, is also a porpoise without a beak. Yet, there are examples of a porpoise with a very long beak, such as the extinct species Semirostrum ceruttii, known only from fossils.

The killer whale has teeth shaped for eating fish.
Killer whale (Orca orcinus) with conical teeth.

It’s the Teeth!

The key to identifying a porpoise or a dolphin actually lies with its teeth. Admittedly, it’s hard to ask cetaceans to open their mouths wide while we sail off our shores. When examined close-up, however, the teeth of a dolphin are shaped like cones, with a wide base and narrow top (think killer whale, Orcinus orca, the big member of the dolphin family). The teeth of the porpoise are spade-shaped, since they look like little shovels, with a narrow base and wider top (see image below).

Why Is It Important?

In the grand scheme of things, dentists can take care of human teeth without knowing anything about porpoises or dolphins. But dentists tend to be curious about all things involving dentition, whether human or animal. We study animal teeth to learn things about repairing enamel and improving tooth durability for humans. And sometimes we do it just because it’s interesting!

Like humans, porpoises have teeth made of enamel.
The spade-shaped teeth from a porpoise jawbone.

We hope our clients here in Carmichael feel the same way. The more interest you have in teeth, the better care you tend to give them. Our dental team is here to help you in that goal.

Schedule your appointment

Dr. Fischer

Dr. Fischer comes from Sandy City Utah, where he graduated from the University of Utah with a background in Medical Biology. Dr. Fischer then was awarded his DDS degree from Loma Linda University here in California. Prior to that, Dr. Fischer worked alongside his father for several years as a design engineer at his father’s dental company. Dr. Fischer has a strong passion for dentistry, he believes in providing his patients with the most modern and up-to-date procedures, and he truly enjoys the variations of procedures he gets to perform daily.

When not practicing dentistry, he can be found spending time with his family. Dr. Fischer and his wife Brittany have twins Kaitly and Kyle, and son Johnny. Outside of his professional activities, Dr. Fischer is also a true adventurist. He has travelled to many countries and enjoys backpacking, scuba diving, para gliding, camping, and hunting just to name a few.

Headshot of Dr. Y. Vinny Huang at Marconi Dental Group

Dr. Huang

Dr. Y. Vinny Huang received his Degree in Dental Surgery in his hometown of Taipei, Taiwan and then went on to receive his Masters in Science and Postgraduate Certificate in Prosthodontics from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA.

He has been practicing dentistry since 1992 and his area of specialty is Prosthodontics, the treatment and handling of dental and facial problems. Prosthodontics involves the restoration of missing teeth and jaw structure. Dr. Y. Vinny Huang is also a Diplomate of the (ABP) American Board of Prosthodontics and an active member of the (CDA) California Dental Association and the (AAFP) American Academy of Fixed Prosthodontics, and a fellow of the (ACP) American College of Prosthodontists. He is also fluent in Mandarin!

Dr. Y. Vinny Huang was fortunate enough to find his calling at a young age. He grew up watching his grandmother struggle with her dentures on many occasions and has been determined to help others just like her ever since. He is truly passionate about his work and finds great joy in creating beautiful smiles for his patients whether it be on their own or with the help of dental implants. Dr. Y. Vinny Huang makes it his personal mission to educate his patients and community on the importance of oral health and does so with honesty, professionalism and care.

When Dr. Y. Vinny Huang isn’t practicing dentistry or assisting the community, you will find him spending time with his wife and two daughters. He also enjoys being outdoors and staying active whether it be swimming, golfing or playing tennis.

Headshot of Dr. Visage of Marconi Dental Group

Dr. Visagé

Dr. Visagé graduated his dental degree from University of Pretoria in South Africa (1999). He practiced general dentistry in South Africa and England until 2002. He went on and completed a residency program in Periodontics and Oral Medicine, in South Africa to attain his Masters degree in 2006. He established a successful private specialist practice in Periodontics and Dental Implants. During that time he also served as secretary of the South African Society of Periodontology and still holds specialist registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa.


In 2014, Dr. Visagé and his family relocated to California, and he was invited to the prestigious Program for International Dentists at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). In 2015, he received the OKU Dental Honour Society Dr Kramer S Award from the UCSF School of Dentistry. In 2016 he received the Dental Honour Society Membership Award and also the Award for Clinical Excellence & Mentoring (UCSF).  He obtained his American Doctorate of Dental Surgery (UCSF) in 2016.


The most enjoyable part of his work is getting to know the patients and being able to play a role in improving oral health, which contributes to quality of life. He is truly passionate about dentistry, but strikes a balance between his professional and personal lives.  He maintains his fitness through running, biking and hiking with his family. 

Dr. Visagé and his wife Karlien, have  a  daughter and a son.  When time allows, he and his family enjoys travelling and spending time together. They travel to South Africa as often as time allows, but also enjoy road trips in the USA.