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Time Flies When You’re Cleaning Teeth

Many of you read Stephanie’s recent post about the history of Pike Lake Dental. As she mentioned, she began her employment there in 1998, and Dr. Matt purchased the practice in 1999. BUT … long before that … 1984, to be exact … a young, fresh out of school, wide eyed hygienist burst onto the Pike Lake Dental scene ready to save the world one mouth at a time!

I remember the first day I walked into the office. At that time, it was located in the geodesic dome. (How many of you know that Pike Lake Dental started its life on the same side of the road that it is currently located?) As I entered the atrium-like lobby, I was greeted by a mustachioed man with wire rimmed glasses enjoying his newspaper. I recall being impressed with the bright sun streaming in through the large triangular windows overhead, and the whole concept of the dome building, in general. I had never been in a dome before! The man with the newspaper was Dr. Carter Johnson. Over the years, the dome would come to represent, for me, the fact that Carter was clearly a man who thought outside the proverbial box! He was a delight!

Dr. Carter with Deb’s son at his first dental appointment.

So speeding through this part:

-I get the job!!!
-I work for Carter for 16ish years
-Sadly, Carter falls to cancer
-Matt buys the practice (lucky guy gets this really awesome hygienist in the deal!)
-We grow to the point that we burst the seams of the dome
-We build and move across the highway
-And here we are today, still growing! Part of the reason for that is that Dr. Matt doesn’t let any grass grow under his feet! Pike Lake Dental is “state of the art”!

A lot has happened since 1984. In the time that I have practiced hygiene, we have gone from “wet finger” gloveless dentistry, wearing street clothes at the office, and wearing no protective eyewear or masks, to being fully enrobed in barrier protection and wearing scrubs that get washed in-house at the end of the day. Protection for us, protection for the patient.

Another change our office made some time ago, was the switch to digital x-ray. Prior to that, we used films that left us blind as to our success until that film took a five minute ride through the automatic processor. Now we see our results instantly! And speaking of the automatic processor -the old AT-2000- it was a machine that was filled with chemicals that needed changing on a regular basis, and the chemicals required special testing and disposal. It was also filled with a series of rollers and gears to carry the films through the chemicals. With all those moving parts, as you can imagine, it broke down on a regular basis. Needless to say, we don’t miss it, and are loving our updated equipment. In addition to digital bitewing x-rays, we also have a digital panorex, or full mouth machine. This machine can also take 3-D images to help Dr. Matt and Dr. Meaghan in some procedures they perform, such as dental implants.

That brings up another amazing advance in our in-office technology. When I first started at PLD, crowns were sent out to a lab to be produced. A patient would come in to have the tooth prepared, the doctor would place a temporary crown, and the patient would return two weeks later to place the lab crown. Actually, one of the dentists that we worked with made his own crowns in the office. It involved waxing up a model, putting it in plaster, heating it to melt the wax, and then melting a gold alloy, and casting it by putting it into a hand-spun centrifuge to force the gold into the mold! Super cool and crafty, but a ton of work … not to mention that it was time away from patients! Now, although there are occasional reasons to send out for a lab crown or bridge, most are done in-office and are typically completed within 1 1/2 hours! AND, beyond that, our office is trained and equipped to offer dental implants!

When I began at PLD, the thought of doing a dental implant as a routine in-office procedure was just a futuristic glimmer in a general dentist’s eye! In the past, when a patient lost a tooth, it would likely have been replaced with a partial denture or a bridge. Then implants came onto the scene! I remember our first implant cases. They had to be very committed patients, as they would have to travel to the Twin Cities to have much of their work done!! When this procedure made its way north, it still required the patient dancing between the oral surgeon and the dentist. Now, technology and training have brought implant placement right into Pike Lake Dental! I was talking to Dr. Matt a few days ago about a conversation I’d had with Dr. Johnson many years ago. When we started seeing so many patients coming in either having had, or aiming toward hip/knee/shoulder replacement, Carter told me that within short order, having a joint replaced would be as common as having a crown or a root canal done … and he was right! Now, that same story come true with dental implants Dr. Matt feels the procedure is going to become even quicker and easier in a very short time! Our CAD/CAM technology is an amazing thing, and our highly trained staff allows PLD to offer our patients cutting edge treatment! I see and work with these advances every day, and I am still astounded by them!

Now, moving forward … literally … even our front office staff members are riding the technology wave! I remember when scheduling was done in a binder with paper pages (and a fair amount of eraser leavings)! Our receptionist would flip through the pages with her pencil in hand, looking for appointment times for our patients. As you might expect, after six plus months of flipping through them, adding and erasing names, the pages became quite tattered! I also remember when it was time to move the scheduling to the computer. It would be so much more tidy and efficient to schedule this way! Our receptionist, however, was not convinced! The thought of all those patients helplessly floating in a computer instead of being safe in a book in front of her was daunting! I swear to you, it was like a child giving up a pacifier! The switch was made, and it did, indeed, prove to be just as tidy and efficient as promised … most days!

Gone are the days of hand writing insurance claims and trying to read patients’ accounts off a tiny microfiche that might be a month behind in it’s information. Our computer system keeps staff quite up to date to answer patient questions. Gone, also, are the days of calling every patient (which, currently, could easily be up to 50 individuals, or more) to remind them of their upcoming visit. Patients are phoned automatically, as well as having the option of an email or text message.We have also gone “paperless” with patient files. It definitely does not mean less work … I can vouch for this … but, again, it is a much more efficient and secure way to manage our patients’ information!

There are so many more things I could write about, but I think the point has been made. In 33+ years, Pike Lake Dental has seen me change from a single work force neophyte, to a wife, a mom, a seasoned vet, and, hopefully in a few years, a retiree! I, in turn, have watched Pike Lake Dental grow into a formidable, yet comfortable practice. It has been fun to see the evolution and innovation! And what’s even better, is that there’s more on the horizon! I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Written by Deb Trethewey, RDH at Pike Lake Dental Center

2 Comments
  1. Reply
    Linda Sundquist

    I enjoyed this article and the writer!
    As a new comer too Pike Lake Dental this year
    I must say, I am so impressed by the technology,
    the atmosphere and the friendly and funny staff I have met.
    Dr. Matt definitely seems too know his stuff!
    And his sense of humor is refreshing.
    Sandy did such a great job cleaning my teeth and making me laugh .. thank you!
    It’s been many years since I’ve visited the dentist so I was nervous. But in a short amount of time being there, I was put too ease and felt welcomed..
    Thank you all !!

  2. Reply
    Wilma Challstrom

    Hi Deb: So good to see you on here and congratulations for a long wonderful career in dental work. I love the new technology here in Proctor too – it almost makes it fun to go to the hygienist and dentist!! Carry on your good work. Love, Wilma Challstrom

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