The art of dentistry

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 2, 2006

By Adam Hammer, staff writer

Dr. George Lundstrom flew planes at supersonic speeds in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, but flying supersonic wasn’t really a big deal, he said. He makes a bigger deal out of practicing dentistry.

&8220;I’m not here just to put in my time,&8221; Lundstrom said. &8220;I really enjoy doing this. I hope to be doing this 10 years from now.&8221;

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Lundstrom has operated his dental practice in Albert Lea for 30 years. Lundstrom, now 60 years old, has no intentions of retiring soon. In fact, that’s one of the reasons he took up dentistry instead of seeking a career as a pilot following his term in the Navy.

Airline pilots have to retire by age 60.

&8220;I couldn’t imagine that,&8221; he said. &8220;I’d have had to retire last summer.&8221;

Lundstrom never started dentistry thinking of a date when he was going to retire. He said if he retired, he wouldn’t know what to do with his time.

Lundstrom graduated from dental school in March 1976. Six weeks later, he moved to Albert Lea and opened his own practice.

&8220;Some work options are to practice for somebody else, buy a retiring dentist’s practice or open your own,&8221; Lundstrom said. He chose starting a practice in Albert Lea because of the economy of Southern Minnesota, and there appeared to be a lot of dentists nearing retirement.

Within five to 10 years after opening his practice, Lundstrom said about 10 dentists retired.

&8220;When we moved here, we didn’t know a soul other than the Realtor and the banker,&8221; Lundstrom said. &8220;We have no regrets &045; good town, good people.&8221;

His first practice was located across from the Albert Lea Public Library for 20 years. He moved his practice to 209 9th Ave., where it is currently located, in 1996.

His favorite part about the move was getting into a location with a parking lot and lots of windows, he said. At the former location, Lundstrom said the lack of windows would cause him not to know when it was raining some days.

In 30 years of dentistry, Lundstrom has witnessed the industry make some major changes. The days of gold crowns, fillings and composites in front have made a shift to more composites used in back and porcelain crowns. The materials as well as the bonding compounds have changed.

Technology has paved the way for more computers that are used for data, images and digital X-rays.

&8220;There are no chemicals. You can get your pictures right away,&8221; Lundstrom said.

Past X-ray processes required small chemisty labs for processing the X-ray film. Having small film labs in the office prompted many dentists, including Lundstrom, to try their skills at amateur photography.

Lundstrom’s clients have gone through changes as well.

&8220;I see parents who were kids when I first started. If that doesn’t make you feel old,&8221; Lundstrom said. &8220;Kids grow up to be parents and then I watch their kids grow up. Looking back, it goes by so fast.&8221;

Much of Lundstrom’s satisfaction from his work is self-generated, he said. Successful dentistry is a matter of meeting professional and patient standards, as long as they’re realistic.

&8220;You have to satisfy your own standards of quality and balance it with what patients see as a good job,&8221; Lundstrom said. &8220;You can do great technical dentistry, but if a patient is uncomfortable they’ll feel it’s bad dentistry.&8221;