New pediatric dentist at home at St. Apollonia

11 years ago

New pediatric dentist at home

at St. Apollonia

By Scott Mitchell Johnson
Staff Writer

    PRESQUE ISLE — Dr. Erik Johnson, the new dentist at the St. Apollonia Dental Clinic in Presque Isle, said he’s right where he wants to be.

Staff photo/Scott Mitchell Johnson

    DR. ERIK JOHNSON explains to Nicholle Tozier, 16, of Washburn, the importance of flossing following her recent appointment at the St. Apollonia Dental Clinic in Presque Isle. Johnson, who is the only pediatric dentist north of Bangor, has been at the clinic since July. He said he enjoys Aroostook County and has met a lot of wonderful people since being here.

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    “It’s been going great. I’ve been very busy, but that’s what I wanted,” he said. “I wanted to work in a small office where I would be able to learn the business side of dentistry. Dr. Norma Desjardins, the director of the clinic, helps out whenever she can with exams and provides helpful mentoring input. We also have a child-friendly team of hygienists, dental assistants and front desk customer service staff.
    “I’ve been here since July and I’ve met a lot of wonderful people here in the community. The other dentists in the area from Fort Kent and Fort Fairfield down to Houlton have been very welcoming, and I am very lucky to work with them and learn from them,” said Johnson. “There are a lot of very caring parents in this area, as well as a bunch of great kids. It’s important for me to make sure all the county’s children, even those with severe anxiety and complex medical conditions, have a place to come for dental treatment.”
    Before relocating to Aroostook County, Johnson, 35, was working at the Penobscot Community Health Center in Bangor.
    “I did some research on where my patients were coming from and found many of them were traveling 300 miles — roundtrip — and I didn’t think that was right,” he said. “They were driving from The County all the way down to Bangor for a filling or two and coming back for many visits. It’s hard for a lot of families to make it down for the initial exam, let alone follow-up appointments.
    “Kids that were in pain were having a difficult time getting appointments to be seen. I looked around rural Maine and tried to find what offices were looking for the skill set that I had, and this office seemed to fit,” Johnson said.
    Patients, Johnson said, come from as far north as Fort Kent and into Canada and as far south as Island Falls.
    “I have a few patients from Bangor that decided to stay with me,” he said, “so they drive up to Presque Isle for appointments, too.”
    A native of Manchester, Conn., Johnson graduated from dental school at the University of Connecticut in 2008.
    “I was a general dentist for three years at the Penobscot Community Health Center, and I started my pediatric dentistry residency in 2011, and finished in June 2013,” he said. “I looked for an area of Maine that needed a pediatric dentist and my wife, Denise, is from Van Buren, so we felt the move to The County would be a perfect fit for our family.
    “We have a 1-year-old son, Isaac, and baby No. 2 on the way. We felt Van Buren was a good place to raise a family,” said Johnson. “Her family has a potato farm — Marquis Farms — so I got to help out this harvest, which was great, but very hard work. I hope to do this every year.”
    Dr. Johnson said his goals are clear.
    “I want to make sure that kids always have a ‘dental home,’ especially kids with special needs,” he said, noting that he also treats mentally and physically challenged adults. “I am incorporating sedation dentistry as an option for families up here, and currently we’re working with a local hospital to obtain general anesthesia privileges. This way kids don’t have to travel all the way down to Bangor [for that service].”
    The St. Apollonia Dental Clinic, a non-profit organization that serves the needs of all children in the area, is open from 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and some Fridays. They accept all dental insurances to make access to care a reality for all. For more information, call 554-5045.