By Ardeana Hamlin
Of The Weekly Staff
BANGOR — A toddler wearing a heart-themed pullover shirt, which echoed the festive Valentine’s Day decorations and served as reminder that February is Children’s Dental Care Month, pushed a bright yellow car across the carpeted floor in the waiting room at Stillwater Dental Associates.
Since the practice was established by Dr. Ron Bailey on the corner of Pine and Penobscot streets in 1975, its employees, said Carole Bailey ( sister of Ron and human resources manager who has been an employee with the practice for 22 years) have always given special consideration to the needs of children.
In the early years of the business, the staff consisted of Ron, a dental assistant a dental hygienist, and a secretary who happened to be Ron and Carole’s mom, Marion Bailey.
Ron Bailey recalled the day a patient brought her 4-year-old-son with her to an appointment. “The little boy wanted to see what I was doing, so I put a small pair of glasses on him to protect his eyes, and I put up on my shoulders and told him to look where the light was,” he said.
“He sat there with his arms folded on my head and watched while I filled his mother’s tooth. Twenty years later that little boy returned to the office with his own children to remind me of that day,” Bailey said.
“We love kids here,” said hygienist Rhonda Walker of Hermon, who has worked at Stillwater Dental Associates for 20 years. In commenting about alleviating the fears a children may have about receiving dental care, Walker said, “We try not to rush them. Some want to sit in their parent’s laps, and that’s OK. We take our cues from them. We show them what will happen. We start bonding with them as early as possible.”
“We encourage parents to bring their children [for dental care] after they are a year old,” said Carole Bailey. “We show parents how to brush the child’s teeth, talk to them about tooth development, give the child a ride in the chair.”
The hygienist also might turn the experience into a game, asking the child if it’s OK to count his teeth. A friendly-looking monkey and a bright green dinosaur, each one equipped with a full set of realistic-looking teeth, and a giant-size toothbrush are used to demonstrate how to brush one’s teeth. Or in some cases, if anxiety seems persistent, the monkey and the dinosaur can be hugged securely.
Of his years at Stillwater Dental Associates, Ron Bailey said he has seen a lot of change. For example, when he moved the practice to Stillwater Avenue in 1985, it occupied a part of the top floor. Now it fills the entire building.
The staff has grown to include six hygienists, including Marty Burke, who has been an employee with the practice since 1975; two dentists; five dental assistants; eight administrative staff, and several adjunct staff.More than half the employees have been with the practice for 15 years, and five have been with it for more than 20 years, Carole Bailey said..
The practice has 10 operatories, which make it possible for staff to schedule appointments for entire families so they can receive dental care all at the same time on the same day. It also provides a transportation service for some of its elderly or sight-impaired patients who don’t have a way to get to an appointment.
The Bailey family, said Carole, grew up in Brewer with parents who were involved with children, organizing neighborhood parties, and other fun events. Ponies even figured in the Bailey family equation. She recalled the time Ron came into the waiting room on all fours and told an especially anxious child the he heard there was a someone who needed a pony ride to the dentist’s chair. The child got on Ron’s back and rode away in style.
Carole Bailey said that while children make up one-quarter of the practice’s 7,000 patients, Stillwater Dental Associates is a general practice serving those of all ages.
Stillwater Dental Associates has been the recipient for the last three years of Bangor’s Best of the Best Award, established in 2010. The practice embraces new technology and can text or email appointment reminders, and provides free wi-fi connection in the waiting room. It also uses computer-assisted design technology to create, in-house, the 1,000 tooth crowns the practice needs each year.
“We like to be on the cutting edge of new technology,” Ron Bailey said. That attitude also extends to Expanded Function Dental Assisting training, which takes a year, and when completed allows a dental assistant to, among other things, place a filling in a tooth after the dentist has done the necessary preparation on the tooth in question and use the CAD technology to map a tooth being prepared to receive a crown.
“It allows me to place, smooth and polish fillings, clean children’s teeth and apply sealants,” said dental assistant Crystal Brackett of Lincoln, who has taken the EFDA training. “It gives us a broader range of what we can do. Before I could only assist.”
Dentistry apparently runs in the Bailey family since all three of Ron’s sons are in the profession and are part of a practice Bailey owns in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“The thing I most enjoy,” Ron Bailey said, “ is the relationships — seeing and appreciating patients as friends rather than just patients. I like to think they appreciate what we do.”
Stillwater Dental Associates is located at 778 Stillwater Ave. in Bangor. For information, call 947-0717.