If it hasn’t been made evident by now, we love people here at AAT! We love hearing about their stories and passions for our community, but we also love hearing about what our fellow locals do and why they do it! For example, we have some wonderful neighbors who own/manager some fantastic local businesses and serve our town tremendously by doing so! This fact is why AAT has partnered up with our good friends at B3 Glass, to bring you all “Small Business Fridays!” Each week, we’ll feature a different, local small business and talk with its owner and hear about their journey, their business in general, as well as their heart for their customers and our city!
For this week’s feature, we’re talking with a dentist. Usually, when I’m (Anthony Crosby) told that I am scheduled for an appointment at a dentist’s office, a sense of anxiety overcomes me as I’ve never been the biggest fan of sitting in those chairs. Even if I’m there for a simple cleaning, my heart would be rapidly beating for the majority of the time. However, this time was a different experience; I was happy to arrive at the dentist’s office because I knew I would have the opportunity to learn from and appreciate the person on the other side of the toothbrush.
Today, we’re joined by Dr. Jim Cruson of Cruson Dental Arts. For the last thirty years, Dr. Jim has been working hard to bring beautiful smiles to the Elko area. He and his excellent staff were gracious enough to have AAT stop by for a chat before they started their workday, so let’s jump right into our conversation with the good doctor!
Thank you for joining us today, Dr. Jim! Before we learn more about your practice, can you please tell us the story of how you got into the dental field in the first place?
“I was an Air Force brat; my dad was in the military. I lived in nineteen places by the time I was in high school. Somewhere along the way, my mom, who had been a receptionist in a dental office, asked if I had ever thought about being a dentist. I thought about it because back then, I thought they made lots of money and only worked two or three days a week; what a lie that turned out to be! However, I looked into it, and it combined a lot of the things I like. I enjoy continually learning, science, working with my hands, and artistry, which it does involves. Plus, I always hated people telling me what to do, so I wanted to work for myself; I didn’t realize, then, that you’re really working for everyone who walks through your office door. So, I decided that dentistry was what I was going to set my sights on.”
“I went to high school and college in Las Vegas; I went to dental school in Portland, Oregon, and went back to Las Vegas after I graduated. I was an associate at another dentist office for a while, but I wasn’t thrilled with the environment. I heard there was this place, called Wells, that was looking for a dentist. They were offering free office space, and I could get a bunch of equipment for next to nothing from an office in Twin Falls after its dentist had committed suicide. So, for a good six months to a year, I went back and forward between my practice in Las Vegas and Wells; I would spend a week at each. Finally, I just ended up moving to Wells, full-time.”
“While we were there was about the time of the big mining boom, so many of my patients in Wells were coming from Elko. Therefore, I was now going back and forward from Elko to Wells. One day, during the Winter, we were driving on the freeway, and we hit black ice. A motor vehicle transport truck hit us broadside, and we did two flips and landed in the median. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but it made us ask why we were doing that whole driving back and forward thing. Things were busy enough in Elko we decided just to move here. It all seems just like yesterday.”
Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Dr. Jim. So, after decades in the field, what do you still love most about your work, and what is the hardest aspect of your job?
“One of the reasons why I went into dentistry is because I am a person who likes to do a lot of different things. This is why I became a general dentist because dentistry can comprise of several different specialties. Anything you can think of when it comes to dentistry, you can specialize in and then sit and do that all day long. The thought of doing one thing all day, every day, is difficult for me. I like being able to learn new things all the time; I’m sure I get over a hundred hours of continual education every year. I think what people know about dentistry is limited by what their dental experiences have been, like fixing cavities, yet it encompasses a broad spectrum of different things. One example is sleep apnea. I can look in someone’s mouth and get a good idea if they may have that or not. So, we offer home sleep tests and have found a boatload of people who have it that may not have known before.”
“One of the hardest things about being a dentist, for me, is when it seems like I care about someone’s health for their mouth more than they do. People are often focused on only what the insurance will pay to fix, but they don’t realize or remember that insurance companies are in business to make money; they need to take in more than they pay out, so they couldn’t care less what the state of your mouth is. So, when I recommend different things for their treatment plan, people may think I’m only trying to make my next boat payment or something. This can be discouraging, especially when I have the ability to fix everything I see. It’s like if you were a skilled mechanic and someone drove up in a broken down vehicle that needed everything fixed and replaced, but their insurance would only cover their oil change; you can point out all of these other issues to help improve their car, but they still only want the oil changed. However, it’s rewarding to help the people who do want it; you get to turn something that’s a complete disaster into something that looks nice.”
As someone who has traveled around throughout his childhood and went to school in Las Vegas and Oregon, what’s your perspective on the Northeastern Nevada area? What made living and working here so appealing to you?
“When I was starting out in Las Vegas, the mentality was to send patients to specialists when they needed specific kinds of care, but I liked doing all the things that was being sent out! So, I wanted to go somewhere that didn’t have a lot of specialists. So, I came up here, and I like Elko; there’s so much to do here. I love the outdoors, I like being able to ride my bike to and from work, I’m in the Archery Club, I like scuba diving in the South Fork Reservoir; there are all kinds of things to do in this area!”
Finally, Dr. Cruson, what would you ultimately like the people reading this article to know about you and your work at Cruson Dental Arts?
“I would like them to know that I try to offer people the same vision plan for their mouth that I would follow if I were them. I try to give them an option to fix everything I see, which is quite a bit more than most because I’ve had a lot of training over many years. Sometimes, I think people may get overwhelmed by that, but I want people to really know about everything I see just in case they do want to fix them. I try and take the time and do the best job I can; I don’t want to run a high-volume, low-quality type deal.”
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See you around, Elko!