Technology Improves the Dental Patient Experience
A visit to some of our area's dental professionals showcases a depth of services
By Jonathan Scott » Photos by Diana Matthews
Our 2020 roundup of a few featured dentists and orthodontists sheds light on the capable practices in the Sandhills area.
Amy Moubry, DDS
The Monday morning I had scheduled to interview Dr. Moubry she was dealing with an emergency. One of her patients had broken a crown at breakfast. Not that many years ago, an unfortunate incident like that might have involved taking tooth impressions, allowing them to set, and sending them to an out-of-town dental technician. It would have meant a long time in the dentist chair, a fitting with a temporary crown, and waiting for another appointment — hoping the crown would have the exact look the patient wanted. That's not the way it works at Dr. Moubry's office.
Moubry isn't part of a large practice in a prestigious university. Her patient-friendly, relaxed office in downtown Southern Pines is equipped with a CAD/CAM device that takes 3D images inside a patient's mouth. Connect those digital images to a 3D printer, such as Moubry has, and a crown can be made and fitted to the patient in the same day. And, the patient has the peace of mind that it's his or her own dentist—and not a technician in another city—who is crafting the crown.
Laura Wellener, DDS
When you walk into the Pinehurst office of Dr. Wellener, the warmth of her personality pervades the atmosphere in an almost palpable way. “I love what I do,” she says. “I love my patients. I love my team.” Her demeanor is so genuine, it's clear she isn't saying this just for the sake of an interview. “I have a really good team,” she continues. “They all love what they do, too. They're the best I ever worked with.”
Wellener took over the long-established practice of Larry Baucom in 2008. “What drew me here was the fantastic group of dental specialists. For such a small area, the Sandhills has the finest specialists you can find anywhere.”
Wellener remembers an incident that illustrates what she values in her associates. “It was late on a Saturday,” she recalls. “A young man had chipped a front tooth so badly, I knew it would require an emergency root canal. I called Dr. Jim Corcoran of Pinehurst Endodontics and he brought his equipment, met us in my office, and treated the patient right there. That's top notch care.”
Michael Henry, DDS
Orthodontic patients who are lucky enough to be in the care of Dr. Henry receive treatment in what has to be the next best thing to an outdoor office. Dr. Henry's office in Turnberry Wood in Pinehurst features huge windows that flood the patient stations with
Openness to the world beyond is one of the many aspects to Michael Henry's personality. Since opening his practice her nearly 18 years ago, he's been extremely active in our community. Professionally speaking, he's proud of his work with Dr. Steven Van Scoyoc in founding the Sandhills Symposium Dental Educational Forum. Through it, professionals hear speakers and discuss ways to improve their practices and care for their patients.
For us laypeople, however, we might be more impressed finding out that Michael Henry, along with two of his buddies, started Southern Pines' immensely popular First Friday Event and helped run it for its first 10 years.
Of course, Dr. Henry is first and foremost an orthodontist with a practice that has about 40% adult patients. He's glad to be associated with First Friday, but he is deeply serious when he talks about his passion for his profession.
“I've had cases where patients self-confidence has been restored—or even built for the first time—from what we do with their teeth. Those cases can make your whole career.”
John Mark Griffies, DDS
Dr. Griffies is a popular pediatric orthodontist. We could visit him in his office in Raeford but, to stay in the Sandhills, we visit his recently opened Seven Lakes office. Griffies' personality is perfectly suited to his profession. In his interview, he immediately made me feel as if we were BFFs, and I can see how this gift would put at ease the most cautious child.
The waiting room has a cozy fireplace that's framed on either side with bookshelves filled with children's literature. Teeth make up only a small part of a young person's head, and Griffies and his wife have a passion for promoting literacy for the sake of their patients' minds.
When I asked him to recall a special case, Griffies spoke about a boy who came to him at about the age of seven with a severe jaw deformity. Treatment required a bone graft and a return to Griffies eight years later for more work. “There was a girl he liked,” he recounts. “But he was too embarrassed by his looks. Right after the braces came off, though, the two came together like magnets. They're getting married in April.”
Terry Anne Sams, DMD
While we're in Seven Lakes, let's drop in at the office of Sandhills Weekend Dental. Dr. Sams is another dental professional who has the uncanny gift of making you feel you've known her forever. If you're Tarheel born, you just might be right. She grew up in Durham but spent her summers with grandparents in Rockingham. That meant many trips right through the Sandhills.
What makes Dr. Sams special isn't apparent when you walk into the office with the white shake siding. To understand better, you would want to talk to either Kelly or Tammy, her dental hygienists, or Annie, her dental assistant. Terry Anne Sams' resumé includes working in both these positions before getting her DMD degree. She knows a dental practice from both those perspectives.
“At one time, I was thinking about becoming a surgeon, like my stepfather,” Sams says. “But he told me, 'Terry Anne, you like to spend time with your patients. Surgeons can't do that but, as a dentist, you can.' He was right. It's something I love about being a dentist.”
Before we wind up, let's make a quick trip back to SW Broad Street in Southern Pines. Dr. Pratt, whose practice is in a neat brick building on the west side of the street, believes in a “family” practice model for two reasons. “First,” he explains, “we treat people of all ages, and we treat them like family. Second, my wife, Ashley, is a dental hygienist, and Tiffiani, my sister-in-law, also works with us.”
Paul E. Gauthier, DDS
Our final visit is just across the street, in another neat brick building, to the office of Dr. Gauthier. He is one of those dentists whose legacy extends even farther than the patients he's treated in his career. In the world of healthcare innovation, the name Paul Gauthier is recognized for his pioneering work in the use of laser technology as used in cosmetic and surgical dental procedures. He was influential in training other dentists how to incorporate laser procedures into their treatments.
That's our quick tour of just a few dental professionals in the Sandhills. We hope you've enjoyed meeting some of these extraordinary folks in a way that didn't involve novocaine, drills, or even lying back and opening your mouth just a little bit wider, please.