Gentle Dental Benson
Fitzgerald and Swartz, DDS
By Maria Harding
“I’m amazed if I get on a plane in Omaha and I don’t know a soul,” says dentist Dr. Richard Fitzgerald, and that should come as no surprise. After nearly 50 years in practice at the same location in Benson, Dr. Fitzgerald has brightened generations of smiles. His partner, Dr. Tom Swartz, is perhaps the finest example of Gentle Dental Benson’s legacy. Dr. Swartz joined the practice in 2011, years after he had been a patient at this neighborhood dental office, just around the corner from where he lived. “I went to Chicago after school, and then Wyoming, kind of knowing that I’d move back here in the end,” says Dr. Swartz. “Dr. Fitzgerald has done things for me I could never repay him for, and so I’m paying it forward. Every day at work is a joy.”
Meaningful connections extend to the other employees at Gentle Dental Benson. Dr. Fitzgerald’s daughter, Julie, has served as Human Resources manager for about seven years. Her exact number of years with the practice is a bit hard to pin down because she has intermittently helped the business since working the front desk as a high school student. Other staff members, though perhaps not blood relatives, are certainly like family. “When you treat your staff like ‘just’ employees, then work is work,” says Dr. Swartz. “Dr. Fitzgerald has taught me that if you care for the people that you work with, every day will be better because of it.” The turnover rate for staff is very low, so patients can expect to see familiar, friendly faces at every stage of their appointment. The staff regularly celebrates together at fish fry events, breast cancer walks in remembrance of one of their own, and Christmas parties.
When colleagues come together like family, that
affection flows over to the patients and to the community. One of their reviewers extols, “The dentistry is excellent, but the reason I keep coming back here is the humanity, the sense of care, and—most of all—the overriding sense of humor.” Both Drs. Fitzgerald and Swartz feel that what sets them apart is a genuine concern for their patients as people. The practice has an emergency after-hours number available for patients, but Dr. Swartz laughingly admits that his assistant had to caution him about giving out his personal cell phone number, as well. “I’d hate hearing that I wasn’t accessible if a patient really needed me!” he confesses.
Gentle Dental Benson lives up to its name. What does it mean to these dentists to practice “gentle” dentistry? Dr. Fitzgerald says, “Putting that name on the sign does keep us accountable.” It goes well beyond the availability of relaxation aids, which are indeed available. It means they take the time to listen. “We take our sweet time, so it’s not overwhelming,” says Dr. Fitzgerald. “When a patient is experiencing pain, it is often more effective to make incremental changes over time, to see what actually helps.” For patients who need extensive treatment, not all of the work has to be done in one visit, nor does the work need to begin on the first visit. That first appointment can just be a planning session, Dr. Swartz points out. “They’re not signing a contract that says it all has to be done right now.” The patient sets the pace.
Sometimes, procedures necessitate outside referrals to specialists such as orthodontists, endodontists, and oral surgeons. Because Gentle Dental Benson has the advantage of many years of experience, they have built a superior network of partnering specialists in the area. They also listen to patients’ feedback about newer professionals in the area, to keep their contacts current. “I want good resources for my patients, so I keep my ear to the ground,” says Dr. Fitzgerald.
Dr. Fitzgerald appreciates how much dentistry has changed in the years he has practiced. “So many more things are possible now, or easier,” he marvels. He enjoys keeping abreast of the latest developments in cosmetic dentistry that can aid in the repair of broken, crooked, or poorly spaced teeth. He gleefully shares before and after photos of his patients as if he were showing off pictures of his grandchildren. “I just love this job!” he asserts.
Gentle Dental Benson doesn’t go overboard with advertising. Most of their business comes from repeat customers and from word of mouth. Generations of patients have trusted Drs. Fitzgerald and Swartz, knowing that all of their concerns will be heard, that their oral health will be masterfully maintained, and that they will always be welcomed like family.
Gentle Dental Benson is located at 5709 NW Radial Highway, in Benson. You can reach them online at drfitzgeralddds.com or by phone at 402-551-1757.
Dr. Tom Swartz and
Dr. Richard Fitzgerald