IT BEGAN WITH A CHANCE MEETING. “CHRIS GOODELL AND I MET WHEN HE CAME TO INTERVIEW AT THE BUFFALO SCHOOL OF DENTAL MEDICINE WHERE I WAS A STUDENT,” DR. COLLEEN LACOMBE-SENECAL EXPLAINED. “OUR EDUCATION TOOK US IN DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS BUT AFTER WE FINISHED OUR RESIDENCIES AND STARTED WORKING, A MUTUAL FRIEND CONNECTED US. WE REALIZED WE SHARED A LOT OF THE SAME GOALS AND STARTED DREAMING ABOUT OPENING A PRACTICE IN OUR HOMETOWN.” THE OUTCOME OF THOSE DREAMS IS LAKESHORE PEDIATRIC DENTISTRY LAUNCHED IN THE SUMMER OF 2019.
One year later, the practice, with management help from Lacombe- Senecal’s husband, Adam, and office manager, Allison Russell, has over 1,100 patients and is growing. They currently provide comprehensive dentistry for children of all age and individuals with special needs. In addition to the care provided at their office in Peru, both doctors have hospital privileges at Champlain Valley Physicians’ Hospital (CVPH) where, if warranted, they can complete necessary dental treatment under general anesthesia.
ESTABLISHING THEIR PRACTICE BACK HOME
Lacombe-Senecal and Goodell both grew up in the North Country—Peru and Plattsburgh, respectively. Both went away for their educational training, and both were delighted to return and establish their professional lives in an area they deeply love. An alumnus of Seton Catholic, Lacombe-Senecal earned her BA in Clinical and Social Sciences from the University of Rochester before going on to the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine for her Doctor in Dental Surgery (DDS). In 2016, she completed her specialty training in pediatric dentistry at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.
Goodell was on a parallel course. After graduating from Plattsburgh High School, he earned degrees in Biological Sciences and French from North Carolina State University, and then went to Boston to earn his Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. He completed specialty training in pediatric dentistry at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2017.
“Initially I looked at careers in the medical field because of my love for the sciences and desire to help others,” disclosed Lacombe-Senecal. “After Dr. John Boule encouraged me to consider dentistry during my sophomore year of college, I shadowed a pediatric dentist and loved it! I like that pediatric dentistry has a large psychology component as well as a hands-on aspect. I enjoy the tangible results found in this profession. I naturally gravitated towards pediatric dentistry and have really liked the opportunities it gives me for education, prevention of disease and promotion of general health and wellbeing. Plus, working with kids is so much fun!”
Goodell appreciates that he can make a significant impact in someone’s lifelong health by focusing on pediatric dentistry. “When I treated adults in dental school,” he said, “I often saw a lifetime of bad habits. People expected to get cavities and to have teeth extracted. I felt like I couldn’t really make improvements. In pediatric dentistry, there is a strong focus on prevention of tooth decay, and children are much better at changing habits than are adults. With children, I can start them off right, teach healthy habits and keep their early dental experiences positive.”
Both doctors credit their families, friends and dental instructors for instilling in them a strong work ethic and desire to help others. Passionate about their profession, Senecal and Goodell are delighted to be able to share their expertise with North Country friends and neighbors. “The ability to move back home and make a difference in the community in which I grew up is my biggest professional success,” said Goodell.
NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL: EACH CHILD IS DIFFERENT
Both doctors cite the importance of an individualized approach to caring for each child, and the impact of patience, as the most important lessons they’ve learned in their careers so far.
“Children are all different,” observed Goodell. “How they react and respond to dental treatment will never be the same. It is our responsibility to identify ways to help them get through their appointment so they can have a healthy, happy mouth. Too many adults have a phobia of dental care and we don’t want that for any of our patients.”
The doctors practice patience with young children each day. “I like to think I’ve improved my patience with each year I’ve practiced as a pediatric dentist,” explained Lacombe-Senecal. “I love the quote: ‘Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.’”
One indicator that a dental checkup is almost over is when a patient is asked their flavor choice for the fluoride varnish application. Most popular flavors, in no particular order, among clients at Lakeshore Dental are marshmallow, bubble gum and birthday cake.
As with any new and growing enterprise, maintaining a work/life balance takes effort. At times, the Lacombe-Senecal’s three young children; Goodell’s wife, Lindsey, and their dog, Finn, are in the office after hours. Finn naps under the front desk, the kids raid the Treasure Chest (a collection of toys and trinkets) built by Goodell and his grandfather and Lindsey, the creative one, helps decorate for holidays and plan different office projects. Both Lacombe- Senecal and Goodell work hard to be present in the moment, whether with their families or patients and prioritize the most important things. “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life,” observed Lacombe-Senecal.
THE FUTURE OF THE PRACTICE
Living in the North Country, Lacombe-Senecal and Goodell recognize they have an important opportunity to make care more accessible for local children. They’ve worked hard to become board certified pediatric dentists, establish Lakeshore Pediatric Dentistry and maintain a good working relationship with UVM Health Network/CVPH to provide needed care to children. Despite the challenges of running a small business, negotiating with insurance companies and a global pandemic in their first year, they keep focused on the big picture — supporting local families and providing an exceptional experience to the little ones they see each day.
Lakeshore Pediatric Dentistry
2993 Main Street, Suite #2
Peru, NY 12972
As a mother of three young children, Lacombe-Senecal is especially interested in laser dentistry and the effects of oral ties on daily life activities in kids. “I work with many new moms whose babies are born with lip and tongue ties. (A tongue tie is a short, tight band of tissue that tethers the tongue’s tip to the floor of the mouth and restricts its range of motion.) These infants can struggle with breastfeeding, which results in less weight gained and significant acid reflux, gas, and colic. I am passionate about helping moms and babies.”
To help these infants, the doctors at Lakeshore Pediatric Dentistry use a state-of-the-art laser, the LightScalpeltm CO2 to vaporize tissue while CO2 seals small blood vessels. Since tissues are not torn or bruised, it is less invasive and recovery time is faster. Laser surgery results in less bleeding, swelling, and discomfort for the patient. (As of this writing, only a handful of practitioners in New York State have this technology.)
WHAT IS PEDIATRIC DENTISTRY?
What Services Do Pediatric Dentists Provide?
A pediatric dentist is a specialist trained in all aspects of general dentistry, and then studied for an additional two to three years in areas in the treatment of children, including pediatric medicine and child psychology.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), children should begin regular dental visits when their first teeth emerge. According to the American Dental Association (ADA) the mouth is “a window into the health of the body. It can show signs of nutritional deficiencies or general infection. The mouth is filled with countless bacteria, some linked to tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. Researchers have found that periodontitis (the advanced form of periodontal disease that can cause tooth loss) is linked with other health problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and bacterial pneumonia.” In short, dental health is crucial to overall health and, too often in the past, children experienced dental anxiety resulting from a dental visit gone wrong. Unsurprisingly, when these same children grew into adulthood, they avoided dental checkups, and experienced a myriad of preventable health issues.
Pediatric dentists provide comprehensive oral health care that includes the following:
• Infant oral health exams, which include risk assessment.
• Preventive dental care including cleaning and fluoride treatments, as well as nutrition and diet recommendations.
• Habit counseling (for example, pacifier use and thumb sucking).
• Early assessment and treatment for straightening teeth and correcting an improper bite (orthodontics).
• Repair of tooth cavities or defects.
• Diagnosis of oral conditions associated with diseases such as diabetes, congenital heart defect, asthma, hay fever, and attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder.
• Management of gum diseases and conditions including ulcers, short frenula, mucoceles, and pediatric periodontal disease.
• Care for dental injuries (for example, fractured, displaced, or knocked-out teeth). Children are not just small adults. They are not always able to be patient and cooperative during a dental exam. Pediatric dentists know how to examine and treat children in ways that make them comfortable, and they use specially designed equipment in offices that are arranged and decorated with children in mind.