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From Engineering to Dentistry

A Story About Life Changes and Finding Passion

Article by Sarah Knieff

Photography by Andrew Vick

Originally published in Edina Lifestyle

When Richard Anderson graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering, he never imagined that after a tour in the Vietnam War and a career switch, he would go on to own a successful, comprehensive dentistry practice for over 35 years and counting.

“Younger me was set on engineering, but a year out of college my deferment went away and I was drafted into the Air Force,” Richard says. “I spent two out of my four-year stint in Vietnam itself. I was a different person when I came back and wanted to change my life's focus.”

Deciding to combine his previous education with medicine, he earned a master’s degree in biomedical engineering and later, a doctorate in dental surgery in 1979.  He graduated top of the class.

“When I was studying biomedical engineering, I was fascinated that dentistry is basically oral engineering,” Richard says. “It fit well with my background and dentistry became my passion. It was a great transition because it allowed me to focus on something entirely different and put things in the past behind me.”

In late 1979, Richard began practicing dentistry, but his thirst for knowledge hadn’t stopped. He still wanted to learn more about orthodontics, cosmetic dentistry and all areas of care. 

 “I didn’t want to limit myself to one specialty,” he says, “but rather offer complete oral health care. So, I continued to work for another clinic and did a lot of post-graduate training.”

During this time, Richard was also a clinical associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry in the Advanced General Dentistry Program, a post-graduate residency for dentists to obtain additional experience and education beyond dental school. He did this for 10 years.

“Back then I was juggling so many things and it made me realize that it was time to solely focus on helping people feel better about their smiles,” Richard says.  “So, I chose to take a leap.”

In 1985, he opened Anderson Dentalcare at 50th & France in Edina and after over 35 years of business, it remains a community staple.

“We use an integrated approach that we call COR or Comprehensive Oral Restoration and I believe that is why people love us here,” Richard says.  “We do it all, including cleanings, orthodontics, teeth whitening, implants, full mouth reconstruction, TMJ therapy, and gum disease and root canal treatments.  This means we don’t have to send people all over town for different specialists. Everything is under one roof.”

But wait, what about that engineering degree?

Richard says this education didn’t go to waste, in fact, it has made his practice better because it enables him to understand the science behind the materials and techniques he uses.

“I tend to look at how teeth function mechanically,” he says.  “Our mouth is an apparatus that has to be stable, maintained, and working well for a healthy lifestyle.  If anything breaks down, then the whole thing starts to unravel, resulting in horrible pain, and difficulty eating, smiling and being around other people.

“So, when we first see a patient, we look at them holistically in all areas of dentistry. We come up with a comprehensive plan to get them smiling and feeling their best. For example, with children, we can intercept growth and development problems, helping them grow into beautiful smiles while eliminating tooth extraction for braces. For all patients, we want to keep teeth for a lifetime rather than having to get dentures down the road.”

From children to adults, every patient that walks through the doors of Anderson Dentalcare is made to feel comfortable and respected. 

“We try to be accepting from the very start,” Richard says. “We want to be open, receptive and encouraging. We offer conscious sedation for those who are especially nervous or fearful. All walks of life come to us, and we accommodate them as best we can. We want to provide hope for our patients.”

He continues, “Recently we finished full mouth reconstruction for our patient, John. He came to us with anxiety and fear from treatment in the Navy. He also had pain and broken teeth. We used conscious sedation for his appointments, so he slept through his treatments, and by using implants, oral surgery and crowns/bridges, we gave him a new smile, a new bite and a new outlook.  John wants to spread the word about modern dental care.”

Over the years, the Anderson Dentalcare team has grown and now includes associate Dr. Matthew Nahan, assistants Cathy and Shannon, hygienists Katie, Jordyn and Jamie, treatment coordinator and hygienist Danielle, and scheduling coordinator Laurie. 

“Our team is a family of co-workers that cares, supports and enjoys each other, bonding with regular staff meetings, continuing education sessions, birthday parties in the office as well as celebratory events outside the office,” Richard says. “We recently celebrated the births of two boys, one to Dr. Nahan and one to Katie. Soon we will have a third celebration for Jordyn’s baby due in June. We are growing the work family.”

Richard’s own three children are all grown up now, but he has eight grandchildren to make up for it.

“My wife Beth and I have been married for 53 years, which might give you a clue as to my age, but I stopped having birthdays long ago,” he says with a wink. “We are a very close family and enjoy being together a great deal.  We take family vacations skiing in the mountains, walking and playing on sunny beaches, and spending time at our cabin at Lutsen.” 

As the 40th anniversary comes up for Anderson Dentalcare, Richard says he wouldn’t have changed a thing about his career.

“I love what I do, and I love my business,” he says. “I get to help people smile and feel good about themselves – there is nothing more rewarding than that.”

3925 W 50th St Suite 104 | 952.926.0284 | rjandersondds.com

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