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What does it mean to put an emphasis on care? For Woodbury Dental Care, it meant moving their practice 3 miles away to give their patients the best care possible.
Dr. Michael Pelke
Michael Pelke, DDS, born and raised in Rochester, Minnesota, has always loved science. When he went to college his first undeclared major was meteorology. “I thought maybe I’d be a weatherman,” he recalled. “But the school didn’t have a program for that, so after a while they said, ‘Just take biology, and we’ll figure things out.’”
His academic advisor introduced him to a dentist he later shadowed. “He was a great guy and I thought this would be a job I can do,” Dr. Pelke said. So, he went on to the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. He entertained the idea of specializing in oral surgery, but soon realized he loved the diversity and pace of general dentistry.
After dental school, Dr. Pelke practiced in Shakopee, Minnesota, for a year, and worked as an associate in Monticello, Minnesota, for another year. Then he had an opportunity to work in a high-end cosmetic office in Woodbury with Dr. Kyle Edlund, whom he’d heard about through a family connection.
“So that’s what brought us out to Woodbury in 2003 and I’ve been here since,” he said. “Our office has grown steadily. We’ve grown from 12 staff members to 28 and are looking to add more. By the end of the year, we’ll hire another hygienist and possibly another associate doctor. So, we’re still growing.”
Customized linear A-dec sterilization console
The four dentists at Woodbury Dental Care (their logo emphasizes “care”) specialize in cosmetic, general and sports dentistry. “We try to be the one-stop shop for our patients while still relying on our specialists for more difficult procedures,” Dr. Pelke explained. “We do as many procedures ourselves as possible. We want to be the nice place that has everything. We want to be where families feel comfortable having their kids’ teeth done while mom feels comfortable getting veneers. That’s our niche and the way we’ve accomplished that is to be a fun place. Our staff are all great. They’re personable and it’s a happy environment. I try to make this office as enjoyable for patients as it is for us to work here. The patients see that everyone’s comfortable and laughing with each other. That’s my practice philosophy. When I get up in the morning there hasn’t been a single time I’ve thought, ‘Oh, I just don’t want to go to work.’ I enjoy being with my patients and staff; it’s an enjoyable environment.”
Waiting area at Woodbury Dental Care
Woodbury is a suburb of St. Paul, and the dental office is about 10 miles outside of the city. “It’s a great location; Interstate 94 runs right next to us,” Dr. Pelke noted. “We’re far enough away from the stuff that people don’t like about the big city, but we’re close enough that if you want to go to a show or a restaurant, you’re right there.”
The practice’s previous location, about 3 miles away, needed updating – a lot of the equipment dated back to 1989. “A lot of the equipment was 20-plus years old,” Dr. Pelke recalled. “We decided to move to a more modern location with better parking and to update the equipment. We brought with us only three chairs and our sterilization units, which were fairly new. So, we’re completely outfitted with new equipment and have a completely new layout.”
Dr. Pelke said that the pandemic clearly demonstrated one of the flaws of having an open-concept office when they realized how hard it was to separate patients. The new space has a more walled-office design for privacy and distancing. “It was always a big complaint how noise traveled, like having a conversation in one room about needing an extraction or a root canal, while the people right next to us were talking about spring break vacations,” he said. “So, we made this a bit more enclosed and also more resilient in case something else like the pandemic comes up again.”
Dr. Michael Pelke
The new location has more visibility to passersby, which has led to an increase in new patients. The office is located on the second floor of a medical building, which also houses a Shriners Children’s Hospital and an OB/GYN office. Other popular stores are located right across the street.
The office footprint went from about 5,500 to a little over 8,000 square feet with 17 operatories. “The interesting thing is, we only added two more operatories,” Dr. Pelke said. “But we felt like we were always running into each other at the old office. So, we widened the hallways and made a bigger break room for the staff. They have a locker room and their own bathroom. The doctors have bigger offices. We intentionally made it better for the employees because of the amount of time we all spend here.” It’s obvious how much thought went into the new location for both patients and employees.
Dr. Pelke started meeting with the architects and putting ideas together in June 2021. The completely open space gave them flexibility for the design. The actual buildout started in December 2021 and they began moving equipment in the last week of March 2022. “We thought we would be able to move in sometime in January, but there were delays that had more to do with supply chain and some of the red tape encountered getting permits,” Dr. Pelke noted. “Still,” he said, “it was a pretty fast turnaround from empty to up and running.”
Dr. Pelke said that Scott Mans, his Patterson Dental equipment specialist, understood exactly what equipment they needed, their different options and the availability and pricing. “Because we’ve been such a loyal customer to Patterson, we definitely got the best prices,” Dr. Pelke said. “And when it came to putting it all together, they were great about getting everything in time despite the supply chain and permitting issues. They were super flexible and made sure the time that we had blocked off to be closed was going to work.”
Dr. Pelke noted that once the sterilization equipment was moved out of the old location, they were “essentially dead in the water. There was no way we could work at the old office. So, once that die was cast, we had only one week to get everything ready to reopen.”
Not only did it all work out, but a couple of the Patterson Dental service techs were on site the first few days after Woodbury Dental Care opened to make sure everything ran smoothly. “Bryan Lomax, our territory representative, was there as well,” Dr. Pelke recalled. “It was great. They were hands-on and there when we needed them. It really made us feel comfortable when we came in.”
Considering the changes in technologies, Patterson’s support was important for the staff. “Yeah, it was a big deal,” Dr. Pelke said. “Plus, these are major investments, and those are checks that aren’t easy to write. The equipment alone was just under a million dollars. But when I look at the style and durability of it all, the way it looks and operates, it’s definitely worth it.”
Woodbury Dental Care has 14 new chairs, and all the operatories are decked out with A-dec cabinetry, shelving and lights. They installed TVs on the ceilings for patients, with the ability to adjust lighting and sound levels in each operatory. “If someone is a little more affected by the light, we can dim the lights down, and we can modify the radio station coming in as well,” Dr. Pelke noted.
The practice team decided to go with an upscale chic hotel décor that still feels homey. “We wanted it to feel fancy but also inviting,” Dr. Pelke explained. “Overall, it has a little bit of a woodsy Minnesota feel to it, too. We hung a canoe in the area where the cone beam scanner is as an homage to my previous partner [Dr. Kyle Edlund] who passed away suddenly in 2020. We had canoes in the previous office, so it’s like we’re new but we’re not forgetting the past.”
The canoe hanging from the ceiling is in memory of Dr. Pelke’s previous partner, Dr. Kyle Edlund
The new operatory equipment includes rear delivery units and rear counters for the dental assistants. They also have accommodated individual doctors’ needs (two are left-handed and two are right-handed), so the chairs are designed specifically to address the different ways they handle instruments and approach patients.
“The rear delivery has been nice because it takes a little bit of weight off the electric handpieces, which we’ve been using for a long time,” Dr. Pelke said. “They tend to get a little heavy. This makes it feel a little lighter. It’s also better from an ergonomic standpoint. I’m not having to turn as much because the handpieces are right there. My arm doesn’t get as tired. That’s made a big difference.”
Having more room and two more operatories has allowed the doctors to do more dentistry as well. “I knew there would be a little bit of pain in growing because you have to pay for the space first, before you need it,” Dr. Pelke said. “It’s nice to have it, but is it always full? No. But if someone comes in with an emergency, you always have an operatory available.”
Other dental practices are within sight, not to mention walking distance, of Woodbury Dental Care. So, what sets it apart from others in the area? “We’re definitely one of the bigger offices,” Dr. Pelke said. “However, when it comes to size, you won’t find a privately owned office of this size. Here you still get a lot of individualized care, and there is also more appointment availability for patients because of our size. Another thing that sets us apart is that we really put our patients and our staff on the same level as far as delivering care. We’re delivering care to our staff in terms of what we provide for them and the amenities they have working here. That turns into better care for patients.”
Operatory outfitted with A-dec equipment
It also doesn’t hurt that Dr. Pelke is famous for being the team dentist for the Minnesota Wild NHL team. He performs a lot of comprehensive and emergency dentistry for them and their visiting rivals. “I think patients are comfortable coming here if they broke a tooth on a skateboard or their kid got hurt in the swimming pool,” Dr. Pelke said. “They don’t have any qualms about calling us because they know we see a lot of dental trauma and we know what to do with it.”
The relationship with the Wild began in 2003 when the team needed a new dentist, which is an NHL requirement. “Luckily, a couple of their staff had been patients of ours and threw our name into the hat,” Dr. Pelke recalled. “We went through a long interview process, meeting with the general manager and the training staff and in the end, they picked us. One of the biggest selling points was when they asked if we would be willing to see a patient on a Sunday morning if need be and both my partner and I said, ‘Yeah, absolutely!’”
Dr. Pelke said it’s been a great relationship ever since. A dentist is required to be at every home game, which is about 46 games per year including preseason. It makes for a long day when his regular practice starts at 8 a.m., and then at 6 p.m. he leaves for the hockey rink and doesn’t head home until 10 p.m. or later. This year, some of his associates are taking a few of the games, but Dr. Pelke still covers about 75% of them.
“I love being involved with them,” he said. “I love seeing the inner workings of a professional team and how they run. They become less of these icons on the ice, and you start to cheer from a personal standpoint. Instead of saying, ‘That guy scored a goal,’ it’s like, ‘Oh, he and his wife just had a baby!’ It’s fun when you start to know things and root for them on more of a personal level.”
The new Woodbury Dental Care has been open for a little over a year. Dr. Pelke said that both their existing and new patients love the fact that everything feels new and modern. “I think in healthcare in general you want to go into an office and know that the technology is up to date, and that the procedures are being done at the highest level possible. Patients comment if a handpiece isn’t as noisy as it used to be, or a chair is a lot more comfortable. Patients have also complimented us on how things blend really nicely and that the colors look great.”
Dr. Pelke said that he’s been working with Patterson for as long as he can remember. They were his and Dr. Edlund’s supply reps in the old office and did some modifications for them when they enhanced their sterilization center. “They’ve been fantastic,” Dr. Pelke said. “They’ve been there whenever we’ve needed them. When it comes to service, they’re always great as far as coming out and repairing things that need to be fixed. They’re also great about replacing things if there’s a newer version or something can’t be repaired. I’ve worked with them for the longest time, and we have a lot of trust in Patterson. So, when it came down to looking at how we were going to outfit the new office, it was an easy decision.”
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Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Winter 2023 Issue of Advantage by Patterson Dental magazine.