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Husband and wife team up on teeth

KENT — Kent residents — and dentists — George and Jill Hetson are perfect examples of the old adage, “Life takes unexpected turns.”

As a young man, George lived in New Jersey and commuted to work as a paint chemist in a New York City paint factory. His future wife’s father was a chemical salesman who came to the paint factory, and as George says, “sold me ethylene glycol, propylene glycol and his daughter, in that order.”

At that time Jill had just graduated from college with a degree in animal science but was working for an ophthalmologist, teaching patients how to wear contact lenses.

As they became a couple, George realized he wanted a profession to  “get me out of the city. There are no paint factories in the country.”

Jill also realized her passion for animals would be better served living in the country.

The past

Discussing his desire to find a profession that would be more suitable to country living, a friend of George’s, who was an orthodontist and knew his passion for woodworking and other handicrafts, suggested George go to dental school. At age 28 he entered dental school and, as another adage goes, “The rest is history.”

George returned to Tufts University in Massachusetts to attend dental school, the same university where he had earned his bachelor’s  and master’s degrees in chemistry.

While George attended dental school, Jill worked for an orthodontist. As George said, “One of us had to earn a living.

“When I graduated from dental school, Jill wanted to earn a professional degree and was torn between veterinary and dental school.”

She finally decided on dentistry with the idea that one day they would practice together.

The first year after earning a dental degree, George completed a residency in implants and bio-materials at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y.

After the residency, George worked for other dentists while Jill completed her dental degree. And then the husband-and-wife team moved to Kent and opened their practice together.

In 2006 the Hetson’s moved from a rented office on the Kent Green to a building they had purchased, at 70 Maple St. Being a person who delights in fixing things and “tinkering,” George did much of the renovation work on the former package store himself.

And, appropriately for a former paint chemist he did all of the interior painting.

The future

When asked how dentistry is changing, George mentioned several innovations: technology changes such as digital radiography (X-rays), digital record keeping and new drive systems for drills.

The Hetsons’ office was the first dental practice in Connecticut to use digital X-rays.

“There are many benefits to digital radiography,” George said. “For the patient, there’s no waiting and they use only one-twelfth the level of radiation needed for films. We can see the X-ray results amost immediately.

“Patients like sitting in the chair and being able to see their X-rays on a computer screen right in front of them.

“For us, it eliminates the need for a darkroom to develop films and there’s no need for storage space for film X-rays.”

Digital records are enormously helpful, the Hetsons said. Dentists no longer have to maintain large paper files of their patients’ histories. No time is needed for an employee to physically locate a paper file and bring it to the dentist.

The Hetsons said it takes less time for them to type up chart information than it did for them to write it in long hand. And when they’re working with a patient,  it takes just a few seconds to pull up a patient’s chart on the computer.

To ensure that their patients’ privacy is protected, the Hetsons’ office computer system is not connected to the Internet.

Another innovation: a dental drill operated with a micro-electric motor that is virtually silent.

“Patients no longer hear the drill,” George said. “The sound of the suction is the only thing they hear.”

He explained the new drill operates at the same speed as the old turbine drills, but without the stress-inducing sounds.

Other changes in dentistry include a move away from silver fillings to composite materials; crowns created using computer technology and crowns made out of materials such as cubic zirconia, the material used to make artificial diamonds.

Two for one

Jill Hetson said their patients get a “two-for-one bargain in our office: They get two dentists for the price of one.”

She and her husband/partner  discuss their patients with each other, and talk about unusual situations they come across.

Though the Hetsons practice together, they usually work separately.

“Patients like my room better,” Jill said with a laugh. “It’s decorated with a woman’s touch.”

They have other differences that make them a complementary couple. George takes care of technology issues in the office, Jill handles personnel matters. Both are responsible for ordering supplies. According to Jill, George is better at root canals than she, so he takes care of that while she loves working with pediatric patients.

Working with children over time helps them become good adult patients who are not afraid of dentistry, she noted.

Outside of the office, the Hetsons have a full home life. Their  daughter Rachel, 16,  is a junior at the Kent School.

“This year we will begin visiting colleges with her,” Jill said.

Jill is also an avid quilter and equestrienne. George plays golf and delights in tinkering with and fixing almost anything.

The Hetsons’ dental office can be reached at 860-927-3577.

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