2012-11-16 / People


Dentist generous with time and services
Tracy Orzel
Staff Writer

Dr. Jim Trentalange spent eight years in the Navy before opening his practice, Trentalange Family Dentistry, in Arundel. (Courtesy photo) Dr. Jim Trentalange spent eight years in the Navy before opening his practice, Trentalange Family Dentistry, in Arundel. (Courtesy photo) ARUNDEL – By 8 a.m. a line formed out the door of Dr. Jim Trentalange’s practice, Trentalange Family Dentistry in Arundel.

By 3 p.m. Nov. 2, nearly 30 people received a variety of services including fillings, cleanings, checks, cancer screenings and extractions, all free of charge.

That’s because Trentalange was the only dentist in York County who participated in the fourth annual Dentists Who Care For Maine program.

Sponsored by the Maine Dental Association, the program gives people who can’t afford dental care access to 13 participating practices one day of the year.

According to Trentalange, there are three different groups of people when it comes to dental care.

The first group of people have health insurance and see their dentists for regular check ups. The second group doesn’t want to spend money on dental care and/or doesn’t value dental services. The third and final group of people are those who need to see a dentist but don’t have the finances to access one.

Trentalange, who sometimes works pro bono, said some days are frustrating.

“As a younger dentist when I first came to Maine, I worked at some of the community clinics. Some of them are run well, others are not.”

Trentalange said he had a child in the chair one day who told him he just got a new four-wheeler. The child’s mother had been in to see Trentalange five minutes before and complained about the family’s financial hardships.

“Your heart goes in your stomach and you feel like you’ve just been had. I said when I did the Dentists Who Care For Maine thing, I said I wanted to take care of those people who really need it,” said Trentalange.

The program is for people who don’t have dental insurance or are enrolled in MaineCare.

Trentalange also helps at the wellness clinic in Biddeford twice a month for three hours.

“You have to love it or you’re going to burn out pretty quickly,” Trentalange said of dentistry.

Trentalange comes from a long line of dentists and attributes his interest in dentistry to his father and grandfather. He grew up on Long Island in the house where his grandfather practiced.

However, it would be years until he finally pursued dentistry.

Trentalange graduated in 1989 from Stetson University in Florida, where he studied sociology and history. After working on Wall Street for two years “moving papers around all day,” Trentalange began to rethink his career.

“I realized that what my dad did every day, taking care of people and being a part of the community, he had something to show for at the end of his day,” said Trentalange.

He enrolled in University of Kentucky’s dentistry program and graduated in 1996.

After graduation, Trentalange sold all of his possessions, got in his car and traveled west.

“I thought, I’ve got to find a place to settle down. I don’t want to go back to New York and I’ll go look for a home,” he said.

After six months his father called him to tell him his loans were going to come due and he needed to start working. He suggested Trentalange call the Navy.

Within 10 minutes of calling, there was a knock at the door. It was a recruiter.

Trentalange was stationed for five years at Camp Pendleton in California with the Marines. “It was tough to be stationed in Southern California,” joked Trentalange.

“I learned a lot with them. I did a residency program. I did a lot of different types of surgery and different types of dentistry. They throw a ton of patients at you right away. It makes you, long term, a better dentist,” said Trentalange.

He added, “You’re a physician first and you’re a dentist second. And a lot of people don’t understand that and don’t get that.”

During his time in the Navy, Trentalange worked closely with physicians and surgeons, helping with pre- and post-op, suturing patients and even assisted with a vasectomy once. Likewise, Trentalange invited the physician to assist in the dental clinic.

“That’s what medicine and dentistry can do together. We’ve been separated for awhile, but I think together we work very well,” Trentalange said.

After five years in the Navy, Trentalange and his wife, a former Navy nurse, were thinking about having children. He had planned on leaving the Navy for good until the service made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Trentalange told the Navy he would consider staying if they stationed him in Europe. They gave him a choice of Italy or England and he and his wife chose to live in Cornwall, England for three years.

After Trentalange left the Navy, he and his family relocated to Maine, where he opened up his practice and now sits on the executive board of the Maine Dental Association.

Trentalange said every few years a new crop of legislators are elected who try to make dentistry less expensive “by getting people that we can train quickly and teach how to put a filling in.”

Trentalange said he was concerned about fast tracking dentistry in the name expense and cited the cost of training, dental equipment, and running a successful practice.

“You can’t do good dentistry cheaply,” he added.

“I think after 20 years of doing it I think I’m starting to get pretty good at it, but you know what, in another 20 I’ll say, hey, now I really got it,” said Trentalange.

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