April 1, last Mon., was my 34th anniversary of practicing dentistry in Rohnert Park at 2 Padre Parkway. My father Gene was my first patient on April Fool’s Day 1985. For payment, he gave me a 2-dollar bill, which I have framed, along with a picture of him sitting in a dental chair from that day. My father came to the office last Mon. for a cleaning and dental exam and then we went to lunch to celebrate. I am happy to report my father is still going strong at age 93. Even though he has late onset type one diabetes (he began giving himself insulin injections at age 47, when his pancreas stopped producing insulin), my father still has all his remaining teeth. This is due largely to the fact that he has meticulous dental home care (good, frequent brushing and flossing) and religiously comes to the dental office every three months for dental cleanings. It also helps that he rarely eats any sugary foods.
On April 1, 1985, I began my dental practice from scratch with my wife Mary Alice, working Mon. nights, Fri. nights and Sat. while I associated and lived in Fairfield. By Dec. of 1985, we were living and working full time in Rohnert Park and working late hours and Sat. to see working patients.
Remember phone books with yellow page ads and land line phones that were attached with cords? When the practice began, my sons, Sam and Don, were 2 ½ and 1-year-old. I had a yellow page ad for the practice that had a cute picture of them together with the caption, “Come See Our Gentle Dad.” Time moves on. Sam is now 36 plus and lives in Rohnert Park with his wife Marina and my twin 3-plus-year-old grandsons, Ocean and Arthur. Sam is a college professor with his doctorate in psychology. Don turned 35 in March and has been traveling the world teaching abroad with his wife Kendra. He has a master’s in geology and she has a degree in architecture. They are returning this spring and planning on beginning a family in Portland. Mary Alice still works in the practice three days a week, doing bookkeeping, paying bills and helping my dedicated full time staff with office management and assisting. She has become an accomplished artist and her paintings adorn the walls of the office.
Much has changed since 1985. The original 70s burnt-orange colored walls with pink doors and orange shag carpet was replaced soon after I moved in and provided an initial dramatic improvement. Doubling the size of the office with numerous renovations has occurred over the many years.
When we began, scheduling was done by a handwritten book and billing done manually. A patient’s chart was a single page and notes were handwritten. Office music was a single cassette player connected to two speakers. Patients were given headphones with a Walkman individual tape player. Individual x-rays were taken and developed in an enclosed darkroom with a dip tank and a red light. Masks and gloves were not routinely used. Dental instruments were either cold sterilized or placed in a toxic chemical autoclave. Dental drills were not even designed to be sterilized. Silver/Mercury fillings were the best material available for use other than gold. Bonding techniques, ways of gluing white resin fillings and porcelain to teeth, did not exist. Tooth replacement implants were an unknown.
The computer age has changed everything. It doesn’t seem possible; things have changed so quickly. In 1985, computers, cell phones and microwaves were unknown in homes and the dental office.
Computer scheduling and billing was the first big change in the early 1990s. Now almost everything in the office is paperless, including charting, digital x-rays, digital Panoramic radiograph, digital photos, patient education, video viewing exams and signature pads. Now everything used in the dental operating room including dental drills is sterilized by computerized steamed autoclaves or the materials are disposable. Office music has evolved from cassette tapes, through CDs to iPod with Pandora and many patients use their own cell phones with buds. Glove change with every patient has been the norm for over twenty-five years with major improvements in comfort and dexterity.
Technological advancements have caused vast improvements in dental treatment. With new bondable white materials, the ability to make beautiful tooth-like restorations is a reality. Bonding is now strong, sensitivity free and predictable. Amazing cosmetic dental treatments are available with tooth colored fillings, porcelain veneers, esthetic crowns and invisible braces. Gold crowns were the standard when the practice began, evolving through many types of improved porcelain crowns to today’s standard of zirconia crowns. Zirconia crowns are scanned, computer generated, then milled to precision fitting and finally put under extreme heat and pressure to form a tooth colored crown with great strength like a fake diamond.
Now teeth are saved or replaced with dental implants which allow “teeth” to reappear where they have been missing for years. Dyes can detect decay so it can be completely removed. Dental lasers allow quicker, more efficient, less invasive and more comfort soft tissue treatment. Electric drills with more torque and even cutting have replaced my air driven drills.
Oral conscious sedation was a major change in my practice 15 years ago, allowing fearful patients to have comprehensive longer appointments in total comfort while in a relaxing sleep state.
For the past ten years, I have been using an Isolite which allows for quicker, safer, more comfortable appointments. This all in one, amazing device contains a bite block for the jaw to relax on, full retraction of the tongue and cheek for their protection, continual suction to prevent anything going down the throat and a bright light in the mouth for better visibility.
All the dental improvements over the last 34 years have made practicing dentistry more and more fun and rewarding, giving patients quicker, better and more comfortable treatment.
Enjoy Life and Keep Smiling!
George Malkemus has had a Family and Cosmetic Dental Practice in Rohnert Park at 2 Padre Parkway, Suite 200. Call 585-8595, or email info@ malkemusdds.com. Visit Dr. Malkemus’ Web site at http://www.malkemusdds.com