In the early 1980s, Woodinville was a rural community, not yet a city. But, it was the perfect location for a handful of men dedicated to making the smiles of thousands of citizens around the Northshore area brilliant.
Those men — dentists Dr. Jerald Bates, Dr. Daryl Eckland, Dr. Thomas Natale, Dr. Daniel Ryan, and Dr. Dale Travis, along with orthodontist Dr. Michael Wagner — have dedicated 30-plus years to improving the dental health of tens of thousands of patients since opening their independent practices in Woodinville.
Bates wins the prize for practicing in Woodinville the longest of the six men. He opened his practice on July 2, 1971.
“Woodinville was pretty rural at that time, in fact, right next door to my office was a family residence with pigs and chickens. Mi Tierra was Henning’s in the Woodgate Center, which was about the only restaurant in town. Small houses lined both sides of the street,” Bates said by email, adding, “I moved in next door to Dr. Terry Kelly and we were the first two dentists in town.”
“I remember the Woodinville Weekly was in an old house across the street,” said Travis, who opened his practice 35 years ago. “The first person I met in Woodinville was Carol Edwards. I went into the Weekly to get some information on promoting my new practice. It wasn’t long before she talked me into putting together an entry for ‘Woodinville All Fools’ Day Parade.’ My staff and I had a lot of fun building our ‘float’ and being in the parade. We even won a trophy three times!” he said.
Eckland opened his practice in 1980, becoming the fifth dentist in town. “My early years I not only treated new patients, but also went to many of the elementary schools in the district educating the young children on the importance of good oral health care,” he said by email.
Three of his sons have followed his footsteps and become dentists.
Wagner opened his orthodontic practice in July 1983. “I did what is called a scratch start. In other words I opened my doors and had no patients! The bank was kind enough to give me a business credit card so I took every dentist within a five-mile radius to lunch to introduce myself. Within six months my practice began to grow,” he said by email.
All had similar reasons for choosing Woodinville to start their practices. Woodinville was a perfect area for raising a family and growing a practice. Some grew up on the Eastside, so locating to Woodinville kept them close to their own families.
All are active members in the community, helping found and serve the Rotary Club of Woodinville, coaching many youth sports teams, and Ryan and Wagner each remember participating in and winning Chateau Ste. Michelle’s grape stomping contest in the early 1980s.
Through the years, all have seen changes – not only in the growth of Woodinville into a vibrant suburban town, but in their practices as well.
“There has obviously been an aging of the population which goes along with all communities. Woodinville has been fairly stable for some time, and because of the land limitations will most likely stay as is unless something changes to expand the business area,” Natale said.
Ryan noted changes in the dental care business. “Many of the newer offices are owned and operated by corporations whereas in 1983 each of us dentists bought and owned our own offices, building them from scratch. In 20 years, the population has increased about 19 percent yet the dentist/dental office population has increased about 400 percent,” he said.
Travis thrives on the improvements in dentistry. “Dentistry has so many exciting new techniques being developed. With new techniques in implants, cosmetic and sedation dentistry we can help so many more patients with a wide range of problems,” he said.
When asked what has been their favorite part of their jobs, all of them said sharing their lives with their patients and staff who they feel are like a large family.
“The favorite part of my job is watching a young person come into my office with teeth they are not happy with, and at the end of braces having someone that smiles with confidence. There is only one chance to make a first impression and it’s usually with a smile,” Wagner said.
Ryan added, “Our Woodinville area is home to some pretty famous people. Some have been very surprising. I have also learned that everyone, no matter who they are, has a life story to tell, and helping them with their mouths and teeth while listening to them tell their story is a favorite of mine.”