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Making History in Woodbury: Dresen caters to the individual

Dr. Tom Dresen, a Woodbury dentist specializing in dentures and reconstructive oral surgery, emphasizes the importance of building relationships with patients over the years. Maureen McMullen / RiverTowns Multimedia 1 / 4
Woodbury dentist Dr. Tom Dresen has traveled to Lima, Peru, with Programa San Francisco De Assis to offer free oral surgery for more than a decade. Photo courtesy of Tom Dresen2 / 4
Dr. Tom Dresen, a specialty dentist in Woodbury, trims down a mold taken of a patient's teeth for fitting. His practice on Radio Drive specializes in custom partial and full dentures as well as re-fitting dentures. Maureen McMullen / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
Woodbury dentist Dr. Tom Dresen poses in 2014 with a girl from Lima, Peru, whom he has treated several times during mission trips there with Programa San Fancisco De Assis. Photo courtesy of Tom Dresen4 / 4

The intensive oral surgeries Woodbury dentist Dr. Tom Dresen performs allow him to build a relationship with patients over several years.

A third-generation specialty dentist, Dresen's repertoire includes treating cleft palates, reconstructive surgery after throat and mouth cancer treatments and prosthetics at Dresen Restorative Dentistry.

For more than a decade, Dresen has been able to form bonds with families in need through mission work with Programa San Francisco De Assis.

Each winter, the program sends a group of surgeons from the Twin Cities to spend several weeks in Peru offering free treatment to children born with cleft palates.

The country's poverty means many families could not otherwise afford the corrective surgery.

Untreated cleft palates can affect a child's appearance as well as speech and nutrition. Treatment typically requires multiple procedures over several years, each of which can last from about a half-hour to two hours. Surgeons with the program typically try to start treatments at an age when children develop speech and eating habits.

"It was very rewarding to be able to work with the families; they're very grateful, very generous people to work with," Dresen said. "It's fun going year after year because now we've started seeing families who will come back year after year to make sure things are taken care of."

That similar familiarity with patients, Dresen said, is also what sets apart his full-service practice in Woodbury, which specializes in prosthetics including dentures and partial dentures.

Dresen's father moved his practice from downtown St. Paul to Woodbury 15 years ago as the growing city's development opportunities flourished.

The practice moved to a rented office in Cottage Grove for several years before opening their new Woodbury location on Radio Drive last spring. A satellite office for the practice also moved from Duluth to Forest Lake this summer.

The new location, Dresen said, significantly extended his practice's patient reach. Although about 200 area dentists referred patients to Dresen, the new location has drawn in patients from as far away as the north metro and Wisconsin.

Also new to the practice is Dr. Lynda Bangtson, a prosthodontic of more than 30 years who previously worked with Maplewood Prosthodontics.

Despite the growth over 15 years, Dresen said the amount of time dedicated to each patient distinguishes his practice from others.

"We really focus on the individual patients and cater to the individual," he said. "It's not a really high-volume office, so we're able to spend more time with each patient."

For many patients, the dramatic changes Dresen's surgeries offer is a life-changing experience.

Seniors, he said, will often think uncomfortable, ill-fitting dentures eliminate prosthetics as an option before visiting his office for a re-fitting.

Others will come to his office ashamed of their smiles.

"A lot of it has to do with the patients' self-esteem," said Carla Wolf, office manager with the practice. "We have patients who come in and cover their mouths, but then they're all of a sudden able to smile. It affects them finding a job and day-to-day life, so, that part's really rewarding."

Dresen Restorative Dentistry is accepting new patients. Appointments can be made by calling 651-735-1585 or visiting www.dresendentistry.com.

•What: Full-service dental office specializing in oral reconstructive surgery, custom dentures and denture fitting.

•Hours: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesdays, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m Wednesday, 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. Thursday

•Address: 1000 Radio Drive, Suite 110, Woodbury

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