How many of you like going to the dentist? How many of you loathe going to the dentist? Either way, it is one of life’s necessities and we probably all agree that finding a dental practice that we click with makes all the difference in the world. I had the opportunity to have my routine check-up done at the very friendly office of Chris Wood DDS in La Jolla in anticipation of his Deal Me In Today promotion. Dr. Wood and his wife Kathy, the office hygienist, recently took over a practice in the Village on Ivanhoe (pictured above). If you don’t live in La Jolla they are worth a drive in for. I owe Kathy for sending me to the get another health issue investigated that I had no idea about. Seriously, she’s the most thorough hygienist I’ve ever met.
I asked Dr. Wood a few questions about their practice and how they wound up in our little paradise. He says it best, but I inserted a few notes within his answers based on my visit. You’ll definitely get a feel for his personality and Kathy’s not to mention I think you’ll like what he has to say. There’s also a 4-legged office member you’ll love to meet.
Tell us about your background and what brought you to La Jolla?
I graduated from Univ. Of Nebraska Dental School in 1988 and have been in private practice ever since. My practice in Colorado was very large. I had a partner, and we shared 3 hygienists, 4 assistants, 3 receptionists and an in-house dental lab to make crowns. A big practice is fun and exciting, but all of my family lived in California, and I had an opportunity to join my brother-in-law’s practice in San Luis Obispo. But after I sold my office in Colorado, he became sick with colon cancer and died rather quickly. Not knowing where to go, we were very lucky to meet Dr. Calcott (in La Jolla) who had the right size office for me to handle with just my wife, Kathy.
What makes your practice different than others?
I like to think that almost everything is different. Sure we clean teeth and do X-rays and whitening, but we are unique in that we approach dentistry in a unique way. For example, today there is a dental arms race toward hi-tech everything. For example, today a robot can make your crown in about an hour while you wait. That has benefits, but one of the things that I don’t like is that it has taken the job of a human (the lab technician) who is incredibly skilled, and turned it over to a machine that makes everyone’s crown out of the same cube of white porcelain. A skilled tech will layer 6 or more colors and types of porcelain in a custom crown. I think people appreciate the human touch, and we lose more and more of that every day.
We try to diagnose comprehensively, meaning that if we see that you have wear on your teeth, it might mean more than that you grind your teeth, it might mean that you have sleep apnea, and we can help with both the worn teeth and the apnea. We make custom dentures and I do all the lab work. Not every person either wants nor can afford implants, so there is still a need for removable teeth, but few dentists that know how to make them. These days almost all dentists know how to do implants, but the real trick is understanding exactly where the teeth should go to make everything look right and feel comfortable. That’s what understanding dentures has taught me.
Additionally, most dentists schedule patients every 30 minutes or so. That means they might see 16 patients a day. I will normally see just 3 to 4 people a day, which allows me to spend more time and be more efficient. It also lets me work at a more relaxed pace and get to know people in a way I could not any other way.
Finally, I have had the good fortune to have trained with some of the most respected teachers in the country. I have learned to do many things well, like root canals, orthodontics, surgery and TMJ problems. This allows me to offer my patients many different paths to dental health.
What can people expect during their appointment?
In most offices, the first thing the receptionist does is hand the patient a bunch of papers to fill out. I never liked the feel of that, and I always felt rushed. So we usually greet the patient together (when possible) and introduce them to Jack, the office dog, if they care to meet him. Since we have just remodeled the office, we sometimes show the patient the office and where the restroom is.
Most often their first visit is with Kathy, the better half. She is terrific at making people feel comfortable, and explaining what needs to be done. First she goes over the health history form for anything that would be a problem for the patient. She needs to know about allergies, artificial joints and the like. She will also ask about their dental history and past experiences and what problems and concerns they might have. She starts by checking the patient for “lumps and bumps” – oral cancer and the like. She is especially good at this, and we have special tests we can run if we see anything suspicious that will tell us right then if we need to be concerned.
[I’ll interrupt here. Kathy noticed that my thyroid is swollen and urged me to see my Dr. She was totally right, and I will find a course of action next week when my blood tests are back.]
Next are X-rays, and we are careful to prescribe no more and no less than what the patient absolutely needs. Some patients are not used to even the minimum survey of pictures, and we don’t pressure them. After they get to know us better, they learn to trust our judgement about those kinds of risks. We will chart the gum pockets for every patient once a year. This is very important, even for patients with healthy gums. Now the cleaning starts. Kathy prefers to use the Cavitron to clean off the tarter and then use hand instruments to do the detail work.
[I prefer the Cavitron to pure scratch-and-scrape type scaling. Kathy is very gentle.]
There is no hygienist that I have ever seen that is so persistent at getting those teeth as clean and white as she is. I always tell her that she was born for this job. While she is cleaning each tooth she is also looking for any problems like cavities, cracks, wear, or other signs of problems. She always finishes by polishing and flossing the teeth. All this takes time. She spends 60-75 minutes at minimum. It can’t all be done in less time. I will come in to address any concerns and check for problems with the bite, cosmetic issues, fillings that are having problems.
Do you have any advice for people who delay their dental appointments? (Or, I guess, how do you comfort skittish patients?)
Skittish patients are just people that have not found the right dentist yet. Once they find someone that they can really connect with, who will go slow and earn their trust, they most often find their fears start to melt away. But I have learned that many dentists just don’t know how to get people profoundly numb. I pride myself on hearing my patients say, “Wow, I have never been that numb before. Didn’t feel a thing.”
I heard about your office dog! Does he like having his teeth brushed?
Jack is a great dental patient. He is a very calm Yellow Lab, and he just about falls asleep during his cleanings, which he gets about every 4 months. He also has a very calming effect on a number of our patients while they have their work done.
What do you and Kathy enjoy doing in La Jolla?
We are ocean people. Sailors, wooden boat owners, and outdoors enthusiasts. I enjoy bike riding and am about to ride across the State of Colorado. I also get together with a few patients to talk woodwork. The truth is that we just moved down here a week ago. Until now, we have been driving 3 hrs or more a day, 6 days a week. We just have not had much opportunity to stop and smell the roses yet.
I am pretty sure that Chris, Kathy and Jack are going to love La Jolla. Their personalities fit right in with our beach town. I think you’ll like them and you have an opportunity to schedule a visit for an unbeatable price that might even be less than your insurance co-pay.
But in all seriousness, go have your teeth cleaned and X-rayed. It’s a great deal, but a visit to this office is worth paying full value for.