THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE SMELLY
I was born in 1968, in St. Louis, Mo. Today, we would call it a free-range childhood. We lived in an urban area (which is now a suburban), and, were lucky enough to have quite a bit of woods. It really was one of those childhoods where we would come home when we got hungry. Our parents would turn us loose and let us run through the woods, dig muddy holes and come back filthy. We’ve even been sprayed by skunks, came home and followed the theory of washing in ketchup to get the smell out. It worked. I don’t know how!
FINDING MY CALLING IN LIFE
I went to an orthodontist when I was a kid, my parents at one point had me in braces. I don’t remember my teeth being particularly crooked, but I’m sure they were. They were removed at about age 15. At that time, I was involved in a church group with the kids slightly older than I was. I was already watching them be aimless, and floundering, not knowing what they wanted to do in life, picking the wrong thing and having to redefine their curriculum. I thought that was kind of silly. I needed to pick something I knew would provide an income and give me a reasonably comfortable place to sit while I work. I thought the orthodontist gig looked pretty neat. I didn’t realize then what it took to become an orthodontist. But I had declared that’s what I wanted to do. I found a program at UMKC (University of Missouri-Kansas City) that was a six-year streamlined program. Most dental schools at the time were four-year programs, with a pre-requisite of having a four-year degree. So, I was able to shorten it by a couple of years. I applied and was accepted to that program. Before I went, I spoke with our family dentist Dr. Peter Rubist, from St. John, MO. He mentioned he was sending his own son to dental school right across the river in Alton, IL, SIUE (Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville). He recommended I look at that program before going all the way to Kansas City. We looked at it, and never looked back. They said they didn’t have a six-year program but if I took their pre-requisites for the first two years of my undergrad, they would consider letting me in. So, I do not have an undergrad degree like most dentists do. I do have two years of mostly science and math, and my dental degree. I am lucky, fortunate, or blessed. I don’t understand how it happened, it just happened.
LET THE JOURNEY BEGIN
I did a couple of big things in my career. The biggest one was, I qualified to work as a hygienist, although I wasn’t an actual hygienist. I had a dental degree and a license in Missouri. I went to work as a temporary hygienist. My ambition there was, not only to get some income rolling without a specific place to be locked in to, but also to poke my nose in to dental offices and see who was operating well and who was operating poorly. I wanted to emulate the best. I did that for about nine months. I purchased my first practice in Bridgeton, MO, my hometown. I was thinking that’s where I wanted to be. I was surrounded again by more good fortune and blessings. I had the right people there to steer me towards the right lender. A lender who would loan to a kid that had nothing, and no proven track record. I think my dad had to co-sign that loan. The lender allowed me to purchase a practice from a man who was retiring. I spent the first five years of my career (1995-2000) at the practice in Bridgeton.
ONWARD TO ILLINOIS
I had an accountant who was also a friend. I consider him almost to be a father figure, he was extremely helpful. At the time I was working in Bridgeton, towards the end of my stay there. The Lambert Airport flopped their runway right over the biggest part of my community, so a lot of my patient source moved out to places like St. Charles or Creve Coeur. My friend was watching from afar and he said, “Lance, I have a partnership in O’Fallon, Illinois, and one of the guys is about to leave. I really think you ought to look at it.” He talked to me about it for about nine months before I ever went out. When I finally did, of course, it was attractive to me. It was a bigger business, a partnership, and everyone seems to get along well, in a growing community. I went out to dinner with the previous owner, and there were no fewer than ten people that came by and said, “Hi Doc, how ya doing?” It gave me a home town feeling. This was in early 2000. Because of my accountant’s advice, being in a community that was in decline versus a community that seemed to be growing, it seemed like a good investment for the long term. I headed across the river to Illinois, and now embrace my practice in O’Fallon.
My wife has always been good to me! She likes the fact that we’re able to take care of folks. If something ugly happens, we can be there to make it a little less ugly. To any degree this is my mission, it’s her mission too. I really don’t see either of my kids following in my footsteps, I would encourage them to make their own way. I figure If that is their destiny, they will come to it themselves.
WHO ARE DR. MARTINS PATIENTS?
I have a broad spectrum of patients, from ages 18 months to 95 years old.
We have joked around about getting a second degree in Psychology, or some variant of therapy, because I really do have patients who come in and share life challenges. It’s not about them liking me so much. I genuinely like to present a positive side of something that is not pleasant. If there’s a way we can make it more comfortable by having an enjoyable conversation, we’ll discuss whatever they want to talk about.
DR. MARTIN’S GUIDE TO GOOD ORAL HEALTH
Every 6 months get in front of a dentist and get those teeth cleaned. Give them an opportunity to find the small nitpicky problems, before it turns in to a big project. We have people that really do enjoy coming here. They feel like they’re getting a massage and look forward to having their teeth clean. Some will say they love working with a certain hygienist. “Please don’t ever get rid of her!”
I’d like to put them on a megaphone out front and say; “You don’t have to hate this place, or what they do in here!”
Don’t only see your dentist when it hurts. I totally understand avoidance behavior, but you are ensuring that it’s going to be unpleasant experience.
For Senior Citizens: I would love for you to equip yourself with tools needed to keep bacteria at a minimum. Your hands don’t quite work like they used to. If you’re a person who loves to floss, you can’t always clean in between surfaces any more. People in your middle years,we sometimes don’t realize that you can have an extreme surge in the number of cavities, and severity of cavities as you get older. All you have do is neglect things a little bit, unfortunately. We see that regularly. Despite your best intentions, circumstances start to work against you. It can be minimized with the use of the right tools. A Waterpik, for example, is a great example,and is almost effective as flossing. We still love flossing, but you can grab a Waterpik for less than 75 bucks and it works for 10 years. Occasionally throw a slug of peroxide in the water, and let it fight bacteria and the food particles in your mouth.
MODERN DENTAL TECHNOLOGY
We have a good number of patients that feel like their mom and dad had dentures by the time they were fifty, so they just expect that to be the norm.The good news is that trend is changing and we’re now seeing less removable appliances and more seniors, even advance aged seniors, retaining their full completed teeth.
WORDS OF WISDOM TO FUTURE DENTIST
It is easy enough to figure out exactly what you’re getting into. You really need to experience what dentists are doing every day before you make that leap. I made that leap without having any idea what I was getting into. I really didn’t, and fortunately, I liked where I landed. I have at least one friend that has his dental degree but has never everpracticed Dentistry. Not everyone gets out of school and plugs right in and loves what they’re doing. I’m very fortunate. I’ve spoken many times to kids that thought they would be interested. It’s important to see all the other stuff you don’t normally think about. Like dealing with insurance companies that think you’re overtreating everything. An insurance company that will send my patient a notice which pretty clearlyindicates they don’t think something needs to be done based on an x-ray, without them being in the office. Patients are sometimes easily swayed, and they find that creditable sometimes. As for the cost of dentistry, I think people imagine their dentist is carrying a little black bag of money out of here at night. There was once a time when that was closer to the truth, but the way insurance has ratcheted down things, the material explosion and the associated cost of all materials it is not what people imagine. I think these are all things kids need to know before they launch into this as a career. It’s quite a commitment. Make sure it’s your mission too!
904 E. Hwy 50
O’Fallon IL, 62269
Dr. Martin is accepting new patients