A family dental practice is just what it sounds like – a practice that will treat your whole family. Whether that includes a toddling two year old, a tenacious twenty-something, or toothless Ted, your husband’s ninety-six year old father. But to us, being a family practice means more.
For us, being a family practice means we’re run by a family. Drs. Dana and Vicki, a husband and wife, and me, their daughter. Our IT guy is my brother/one of Dr. Dana and Vicki’s sons. And their other son, well, he’s not involved in running the office, but he still gets a piece of the family practice pie for putting up with endless hours of tooth talk during family get-togethers.
Beyond being a fun fact about our office, our providers being family has many benefits for our patients. For example, our doctors are always in communication with each other both in and away from the office. That means if you see me for a toothache but are a regular patient of either Dana or Vicki, they’ll flag me down ahead of time and let me know if they have any concerns regarding your dental health. And after the visit, they get a thorough run-down from me. We’ll discuss what I found and recommended so when you return to their care your treatment can proceed seamlessly. Furthermore, being raised by my parents, they passed on their values of attention to detail, never thinking that OK is ‘good enough’, and preferring conservative, non-aggressive treatment planning. So if you’re one of the many loyal patients my parents care for, you can feel safe seeing me when they’re gone because they taught me to treat as they treat.
For us, being a family practice means our staff is like family. As many of our patients know, Dr. Dana had one assistant for 32 ½ years – Betty. When Betty began working at the office Dr. Dana and Dr. Vicki were still starting out. They each worked half a day (one worked the morning and one the afternoon) and they both worked with Betty. When Dana and Vicki welcomed their third child – that’d be me, Kjersten – Dr. Dana announced he was going to start working full time with Betty; no way was he going to stay home with 3 kids! (thanks Dad). Betty then saw the whole Otterholt family grow up. When I became interested in dentistry Betty showed me the ropes during a summer I spent interning at the office cleaning rooms and instruments. And Betty was there when I joined the practice as a dentist this past fall. After 32 ½ years, Betty retired earlier this year. We were lucky to find an awesome assistant to step in to her shoes – Sandra – but of course, we continue to think of her often.
Though not as long as Betty, all our staff has all been with us for many years. Cheryl, one of our wonderful receptionists, has been with us for 15 years. Marilee, Dr. Vicki’s assistant, joined our practice 10 years ago. We are so grateful to have a family of long-term employees, who jive well with each other and work together as wonderfully as they do. Staff turnover can be jarring for a patient – if the people you’ve become used to seeing during your routine visits and exams are no longer present, or furthermore, if your visits have never been greeted by a consistent staff.
And yes, for us, being a family practice means we happily treat whole families. Dr. Dana and Dr. Vicki are coming up on their 40th Anniversary of opening Division Street Dental. When I joined the practice this past fall, I asked my folks why they aren’t ready to retire yet. They both replied, “I still love it [dentistry] too much.” Specifically, they said it’s the patients they’re not ready to let go of. Both my Mom and Dad have told me stories of families they began treating when they first opened the practice, which they’re now seeing the 4th or 5th generations of. They’ve treated Mom, Dad, Grandpa, and the kids who were in early elementary school when they met. Now those kids are in their 30’s and have kids of their own. Yes, we are a family that loves teeth and loves dentistry. But really, so much of what we love is forming relationships with our patients.
So anyway. No earth-shattering tooth talk for you to read today. Just some reflective thoughts etched out while I sip my morning coffee at my parent’s kitchen table… our practice is a family practice in every sense of the phrase – and that makes me happy.