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Technology, updates finished

Technology is taking over at medical facilities all over, and now one more can be added to the list.

In addition to other remodeling and expanding, Dental Associates, located on Washington Avenue in Detroit Lakes, has completed an update of their systems in order to better serve customers.

The project broke ground in January 2007 and was completed this past March.

Although they pushed out the wall on the north side of the building, Dr. Elizabeth McCauley said the expansion still stayed within the original footprint of the building, which hasn't been updated in over 30 years.

The columns that were formerly in front of the building were removed, and that's where the new lobby area is now.

Most of the changes, she said, were internal reconfiguration of rooms and offices.

Each of the 12 operatory rooms now have television and computer monitors so doctors can pull up images of x-rays and photos of cavities.

"The way it's going is to digital x-rays," said business manager Shallene Stephenson, in regards to why the update was needed. "And even a lot of doctors now are wanting to go paperless so everything is computerized. We just want to stay current for the patients."

She said it allows patients to better understand what the doctors and hygienists are talking about, too.

"People can see what we're talking about when we say they have a cavity or something," Stephenson said. She said each room also has intra-oral cameras, so patients can automatically see a digital image of their mouth.

Another big change in the remodel was to move all of the hygienists exam rooms up to the main level.

Prior to the construction, they did their work in the basement, which was particularly difficult for handicapped or elderly patients, Stephenson said.

Hygienists can now do scheduling in the exam rooms, too. If a patient is in for a simple exam, they can make their next appointment without having to go back to the front desk.

"It's like one-stop shopping," said Stephenson.

Other changes include a new laboratory for making dentures, so they don't have to be sent out, and the x-ray machine was moved upstairs, with it's own developing room in case the computers aren't working.

The construction process was slow going, too, she said, because it all had to be done in sections so patients could continue to come for checkups and other dental work.

"Construction was tough," she explained, as an on-looking patient in the waiting room nodded in agreement. "It was all sectioned off. We had to direct air flow to certain areas, but we couldn't close down completely because we wanted to keep our patients and our staff. The whole project had to be done in sections."

Despite the inconveniences, Stephenson said the customers were very understanding.

"We had contests and giveaways from time to time," she said. "They knew it would be a good thing when it was done, and now it's much more comfortable."

The building itself was started in the 1960s and completed in 1973.

The original four practicing dentists were Dr. Rogstad, Dr. Cherry, Dr. Hesby and Dr. Fritz, who is still at Dental Associates, but is semi-retired.

Currently, Dr. Zunich and McCauley are the two full-time dentists, and a third, Dr. Kivi will begin on Aug. 13, at which time Dr. Fritz will cut back his time even more, said Stephenson.

When Kivi begins in August, Stephenson pointed out that the office will then be the only dental office in town that is open on Friday afternoons, something they decided to do to accommodate certain business travelers and college students that can't come home during the week.

Dental Associates is located at 1136 Washington Ave. For more information, call 847-2624.