Clark The doctors are IN
NORTH LIBERTY— The city’s first full-time orthodontic office has opened and is currently accepting new patients.
Drs. Sarah and Tanner Clark, DDS, MS opened the doors to Clark Orthodontics on Wednesday, Feb. 15. For the husband and wife dental team, having their own private practice is the realization of years of hard work and dreaming.
Sarah, a Sioux City native, graduated from the University of Iowa with a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree in 2003. She then served in the Air Force, completing an Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) residency before a four-year assignment to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Following her Air Force service, Sarah practiced general dentistry in Cedar Rapids and joined the faculty of the UI College of Dentistry, Dept. of Family Dentistry. She entered her orthodontic residency in 2009 and completed the program last summer with a master’s degree and Certificate in Orthodontics. Working for an orthodontist in Sioux City, and having been on the receiving end of orthodontic care, is what attracted her to the field.
“To see the change in a patient’s appearance and self-esteem drew me in,” she said.
Tanner hails from Hillsboro, Wis. and has an uncle who practices orthodontics. A 2000 grad of the University of Wisconsin– Madison, he went on to study dentistry at the University of Iowa, earning his DDS in 2004. While at Iowa, he met Sarah. The pair would endure separation, however, as Tanner joined the Army, serving as a general dentist for four years. Like Sarah, he also completed the AEGD residency and served as the Officer-in-Charge of the dental clinic at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Following his military service, he returned to Iowa for orthodontic training, completing the program in 2010 with his master of science degree and Certificate in Orthodontics. Tanner stayed at the university for one year, joining the clinical faculty in the Department of Orthodontics.
“It’s (orthodontics) something that really interested me. It’s fun and rewarding to see the changes in the patient,” he said.
The couple felt a vibrant, growing community like North Liberty needed an orthodontic practice. Tanner said when they saw the commercial development under construction last August, they not only liked the looks of the building, but also the location (650 W. Cherry St., Ste. 5, along Hwy. 965).
“The location and the appearance was something that when we saw it, we knew it was where we wanted to start our practice,” said Tanner.
Primus Construction of Cedar Rapids worked closely with the doctors to develop the floor plan and layout of the office, and handled the build-out.
“They’ve done a really nice job,” Tanner said “It’s convenient for the patients and it has a warm feel when you walk in.”
“It’s a very family-friendly atmosphere,” said Sarah. As proof, the littlest member of the Clark family, Drew, rested comfortably in his carrier. Drew was born in September, and regularly accompanies Mom and Dad to work; quite possibly starting his orthodontic education early.
An orthodontist is a dental professional who has received an additional two to three years of specialized training beyond four years of dental school. Orthodontists specialize in correcting tooth malocclusion which is an abnormal alignment of the teeth, often from an overbite or underbite situation. Orthodontists also straighten crooked teeth and help in the treatment of cleft palate patients. Their work is most commonly seen in the form of braces, the dreaded teenage rite of passage for many.
As with many other things, technology has evolved how orthodontists correct conditions such as crooked teeth. Metal bands which were placed around the individual teeth have by and large given way to smaller fixtures applied to just the front of the tooth. INVISALIGN® appliances use a clear plastic aligner for a more subtle appearance. The doctors said this option is often preferred by adults. While it is more aesthetically appealing, it doesn’t always give the same results as more traditional methods. There are also Temporary Anchorage Devices (TADs) that can be used to provide better control of tooth movement. Braces can also be placed on the back of the teeth, a procedure known as lingual braces. The time-honored plate retainer remains in the orthodontic arsenal along with newer invisible retainers.
To determine the correct plan of attack, a first-time visit includes photographs, digital X-rays (which transmits far less radiation than traditional X-rays), and impressions of the teeth. A consult reviews the various images and options for treatment are provided. The doctors are quick to point out that orthodontic correction not only can improve physical appearance, but often boosts the patient’s self-esteem in the process. “We often see a growth in confidence with the improvement in their appearance,” Tanner said.
Modern orthodontics is a blend of science and art as well as a mental exercise not unlike a chess game. The practitioner needs an eye for detail and the ability to envision desired results, and modifications to the treatment months down the road. The average length of orthodontic treatment is nearly two years, with life-long follow-up by the patient required to maintain the improvements.
“It’s a life-long investment with long-term benefits,” Tanner said.
The Clarks believe finances should not be a limiting factor in orthodontic treatment and offer a variety of flexible payment options including working with a client to maximize their insurance benefits, cash, credit cards and even financing arrangements.
“We realize orthodontics is an investment, and we try to accommodate that,” said Tanner, who added they submit claims to all insurance providers electronically, part of their goal for a paperless office. All records are stored electronically using cloud-based computing and storage to complement their laptop based charting. “We’re trying to be as efficient as possible,” he said.
Going from staff to their own practice has brought challenges to the Clarks, challenges they openly embrace.
“It’s a huge adjustment, having your own practice,” Sarah said. “There are lots of details and responsibilities not dealt with in a military clinic.”
“We know orthodontics, but business is a whole new world. It’s exciting, there’s a lot of great things about it,” Tanner said. “We’ve always wanted to get to this point.”
Helping the doctors is Heather Weibring, who staffs the front office and provides clinical assistance. The office is open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. and from 7:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Fridays. To set up an appointment, call 319-626-3161. For more information, go to www.stclarkortho.com.
“We’re excited to be a part of the community, and we’re ready to provide good quality care to the patients that come to see us.”