Lakeland Family Dental’s new home at 116 River St. E. in Monticello features an open, modern feel that’s designed to put new and longtime patients at ease.
The former Monticello Times & Shopper building has been transformed into a state-of-the-art dental care facility that features scenic river views and plenty of interior glass.
“We wanted to stay in Monticello,” said Dr. Fu Wong, referring to his decision to make a one-block relocation from the practice’s East Broadway Street location.
Lakeland Dental moved into the heavily remodeled building in mid-December, Wong said. “I’m glad this building had high ceilings. We don’t have interior walls in the patient treatment areas,” he said during a recent visit and building walking tour. “This space was too nice of a building [to pass up] and now, we also have our own parking lot.”
Wong took over the Lakeland Family Dental in 1995. He said the historic practice’s multigenerational patient base reaches back well into the 1970s.
“We have a wide geographic spread of patients,” he said. “Most of my staff live here, and they see the same people all the time.” Wong also has a clinic in Maple Grove. “I work three days by myself in Maple Grove,” he said. “I’m in the Monticello clinic on Mondays and Fridays and work Saturdays once a month.”
Wong said many of his and Dr. Carrie Carlson’s patients travel a long distance. “That’s why I still maintain Saturday working hours,” he said. “They don’t have to take time off from work or their kids time off from school. We have been here for so many years and serve a number of families. I have a family of eight or nine that all come on a single day. We are really thankful of the trust and loyalty of all our patients, especially those who are retired and have grandchildren.”
Lakeland Family Dental’s patients are well served by the latest advances in digital technology. Each treatment area has two computer monitors, Wong said.
“We don’t use X-ray films anymore,” he said. “Our equipment is all digital. “You can immediately see the patient’s X-rays on the computer monitor. We can edit images and send them via email to specialists for referrals. The quality of the images is fantastic. We are also converting all of our paper patient charts to digital records that can be shared electronically.”
Dental radiology is moving from film technology involving a chemical developing process to digital X-ray technology, which is based on electronic sensors and computers. An orthopantomogram (OPG) or dental panoramic radiograph (DPR), also known as a “panorex,” produces a scanned dental X-ray of the upper and lower jaw. It shows a two-dimensional view of a half-circle from ear to ear. Panoramic images provide a better X-ray image coverage of a patient’s facial bones and teeth.
Computer monitors above each dentist’s chair allow patients to watch movies or listen to music, Wong said. “The screens are also connected to the Internet.”
Dental equipment has become smaller and much more precise, Carlson said. “We’ve gone to a more preventative, more conservative approach in dentistry as well.”
Carlson began working as Wong’s associate three years ago after working in a large clinic in Coon Rapids. Carlson enjoys being in a smaller office, she said.
“We see a lot of people from different backgrounds,” she said. “For example, Dr. Wong is seeing a lot of patients’ grandchildren. We have three generations of the same family as patients. We have some people who live in Monticello and work in the Twin Cities and vice versa. We have patients from all over the state.”
According to Carlson, Lakeland Family Dental’s top priority is getting patients into the office as quickly as possible and relieving their pain.
“There’s nothing worse than dental pain,” she said. “The only thing that might be close is having an ear infection, because it’s also in your head and hurts.”
Carlson said it’s great to be in a smaller practice where she can develop closer, personal relationships. “When I was with the larger practice in Coon Rapids, I didn’t always see the same patient every six months,” she said. “Having those relationships develop since I’ve been here is a really neat thing,” she said
“Dr. Wong owns the practice,” Carlson added. “I’m here four days a week and with Dr. Wong on Mondays. The rest of the week, I’m in charge of the three hygienists and two assistants and make sure things run smoothly.” Carlson is the clinic’s radiation safety officer and does staff training with the new X-ray equipment.
“The new digital technology is great,” she said. “The panorex shows us everything that’s going on, especially with kids. We don’t have to do full mouth X-rays.”
According to Carlson, the improved technology helps dentists fully and more efficiently document problems. “If you are working with a cracked tooth, you can take a picture of it and send the insurance company a picture,” she said. “That helps us explain why a particular patient might need a crown, and help prevent root canal work later on.”
Carlson said the practice of preventative dentistry brings other health benefits. For example, improving a patient’s overall gum health can lower inflammation markers in the bloodstream.
“I worked directly with geriatric patients for five years,” Carlson said. “We saw a lot of diabetic patients. There’s a huge connection between diabetes, blood sugar levels and gum disease and oral health,” she said. “And, there’s a big correlation between infection in the mouth, blood sugar levels and healing time. With someone who is diabetic, we can see in their mouth that they are not healing as well. That inflammation can also cause plaque that can reach their heart.”
Wong is confident Lakeland Family Dental has made its last move. “The city said it needed to acquire our former location because of road improvements. That’s the main reason we moved,” he said. “I thought the previous move from Cedar to Broadway was going to be the last, but I moved again from Broadway to River Street. This is our last move, because if we go one more block north, that puts us into the river. We have a very good spot now. We’re here to stay.”
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