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Smiles to spare: Fargo dental office’s hygienists have combined 99 years of experience

Dental hygienists Nancy Burdick, left, Janet Graalum, Rhonda Laddusaw and Bev Richards have been working with Dr. Paul Fredrikson, who has spent 40 years in practice as a dentist. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Fargo - When Linda Miles learned three dental hygienists at Smile Care in Fargo were approaching 30 years on the job, she knew there was something special about the practice.

“Dr. (Paul) Fredrikson must be one of the best bosses in dentistry,” she said.

Miles has worked as a speaker, consultant and author specializing in dental practice management and team development since 1978. She said the average longevity of a dental auxiliary is just seven years, so a practice with one hygienist serving for 30 years is commendable. Three is downright unheard of.

Nancy Burdick celebrated 30 years at Smile Care in April, Rhonda Laddusaw will do so in November, and Janet Graalum will celebrate the milestone in January 2016. The new kid on the block, Bev Richards, has been with the practice since 2003.

They all agree Fredrikson is one of the main reasons for their longevity.

“Obviously one of the reasons we’ve been here so long, besides that he does excellent dentistry, is that he’s really an excellent person,” Burdick said. “He’s got a lot of integrity. He cares about us as individuals, and our families, and the patients, too.”

Fredrikson is celebrating his own anniversary this year. This summer marked his 40th year in dentistry and the 35th for the Smile Care practice.

“I’m blessed to have longevity and am thankful for the patients we can partner with and help with their ‘smile care,’” Fredrikson said.

Secret of success

After hearing about the Fargo clinic’s milestones, Miles helped facilitate an industry article about Smile Care that appeared on modernhygenist.com.

Miles said dental schools teach students how to fix teeth. Few dentists actually learn how to hire and train employees. In fact, some never work a job before establishing their practice, so they do not know what it is like to work for someone else.

She said this is where Fredrikson is different.

“Dr. Fredrikson is a born leader,” Miles said. “He hires them, trains them, trusts them and he praises them.”

She said the No. 1 reasons hygienists give for leaving their job is because they felt unappreciated. No. 2 is that the dentist was not interested in learning new ways to grow and improve the practice.

Neither is the case at Smile Care. The women said one of the best things about working there is that Fredrikson listens to and values their opinions.

Fredrikson said he tries to give his employees ownership of their jobs.

“I try to empower the team to use their gifts and abilities,” Fredrikson said. “They all really have a heart for serving people. They have a heart for teaching prevention and for helping people become more health conscious.”

Fredrikson also strives to stay on top of new practices and technology. He provides continuing education opportunities for his employees as well.

The women also said their patients are another reason to stick around.

“It’s fun to see them every six months or however often they come,” Laddusaw said. “We’ve seen grandparents, parents, kids and now kids are having kids.”

They also simply enjoy each other.

“There is a good feeling around here,” Richards said. “We all get along, and I think the patients can feel that, too.”

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