City dentist sees her work as artistry

Dr. Jennifer Thomm of Great Lakes Dental. Jeff McCoy of Kaoss Studios

Year of Local

Laura Greaves

This is the fourth in a series of submitted stories produced by the Year of Local, a collaborative project highlighting businesses and not-for-profit organizations in Sarnia.

Dr. Jennifer Thomm is passionate about dentistry, as a visit to her Great Lakes Dental office soon reveals.

She proudly describes how a “Cerec” machine can rebuild a crown in just over an hour, much like a 3D printer. The machine creates a beautiful, durable finished product while the patient waits, an exciting new offering for her practice.

“I was always fascinated by the unique mix of health care, artistry and technology,” she said.

Thomm graduated from dental school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio in 2003 and soon returned home to Sarnia. She didn’t plan to run her own practice.

“Initially I thought I’d work for someone else. However, I built such strong relationships with my patients that when the previous owner of the practice indicated he was retiring, I felt that I had to take over. I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving my patients and having to start over somewhere else,” she said.

She was strongly encouraged to take on the challenge of running her own practice by her parents, her brother-in-law Timothy Chi, CEO of an international technology company, and local oral surgeon Dr. Harold Gretzinger.

When Thomm was starting out, Gretzinger’s practice was right across the hall. She often asked for advice.

“Whenever I faced a challenge, Dr. Gretzinger would hold up this dental book that he called the brick. He would say, ‘Stay the course, you know the theory, you know what to do,’” she remembers with a smile.

Her brother-in-law helped her mould the culture of the office.

“Our office culture has been built around demonstrating reliability, kindness and friendship with our patients. Dentistry is a business that requires a high-degree of trust and respect between the patient and the dentist. I knew early on that a career in dentistry would allow me to help people by improving their health and confidence.”

Owning her own practice has also provided the flexibly to take an active role in the community,” she said. Her entire team is involved in an array of local fundraising activities.

In 2013, Thomm relocated her practice to its current location at 1323 Michigan Ave. She spent six months planning the layout of the new office and hired a dental contractor to complete the work.

She had plenty of support and input from her parents and husband Kevin. Their backing was paramount.

“Dentistry is a capital-intensive business. Whether it was graduating dental school with student loans, purchasing a practice or subsequently building a new office and relocating, these were major decisions that required large investments and were full of risk.

“I’d be dishonest if I said there hadn’t been some sleepless nights along the way, but I’ve never felt that I’ve been on my own.”

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