Like Father, Like Son

Family Dental Practice Moves to its New Exeter Office

By Colleen Lent

Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Richard Miller and his father, Richard, pose for a picture in their Exeter dental office. [Photo by Jay Reiter]

EXETER — Orthodontists generally strive to close space – at least when it's in between teeth. However, an Exeter father-and-son dental team recently discovered sometimes extra space is a good thing. In mid-April Richard (Dick) W. Miller and Richard (Rich) W. Miller, II moved from their 1,200 square foot office at 49 High St., to a new 3,600 square foot building at 11 Hampton Road.

Although the former site was Dick's professional home since 1968 — a year after he first entered the field — he said the benefits of the larger site outweigh nostalgic sentiments.

"It's exciting going into a newer office," Dick said.

Meanwhile, Miller's son says patients are applauding the move, as their primary complaint in the past related to the lack of parking space.

"It was never about treatment issues," Rich said, referring to written survey responses and conversations with patients.

The new lot accommodates 33 vehicles in lieu of eight.

"We have room to go and expand now," Rich said.

In addition to the main open treatment area, the new site includes sterilization, X-ray, private treatment, consultation, and waiting rooms.

As the Millers sat in the waiting room, which includes 14 cushioned chairs, a children's alcove with a mermaid mural and toys, and a lineup of magazines for kids and adults, they reflected on their experience working together.

After completing his orthodontic residency at Tufts University in Boston, also Dick's alma mater, Rich joined his dad's practice full time in 1999.

"It was a dream come true," the senior Miller said.

The younger Miller said it took some time adjusting to the relationship with his new colleague.

"He was always just my dad," Rich says. "It's really kind of an eye-opening experience. It really put a new awe and respect on it."

The partners, separated by 35 years, share ideas in treating patients spanning several generations in age. Fifteen percent to 20 percent of the Millers' clients are adult, higher than the national average of 10 percent.

Although the Millers said few patients are nervous, as the orthodontists aren't scraping tartar or inserting needles of Novocain, exchanging small talk with patients about sports, school, or vacation plans is the best sedative for occasional appointment angst.

"They stop seeing you as a doctor and more as a person," Rich said.

As the Millers treat patients, they're noticing dental health on the Seacoast is improving. Dick said increased education and insurance coverage are contributing factors. Although there are a host of new products on the market, ranging from berry-flavored toothpaste to battery-operated flossers, Dick says the old fashioned techniques shouldn't be disregarded. He said Americans are picking up the pace in all facets of their lives, a trend exacerbated by automatic teller machines, e-mail, and drive-up windows.

"The thought is you can get in and get out fast," Dick said. Patience in getting the job done is still a virtue.

Dick and Rich are excited about the new advances in the construction of braces, as they're more comfortable and durable. Brackets are smaller and some wires are as flexible as rubber.

"You can still break them," Rich said. Generally, children are the more adventurous when it comes to inadvertently testing the elasticity of braces by chewing on pencils and candy the size of small golf balls. However, Rich said sticking to the four basic food groups is the best guarantee against unnecessary repairs and adjustments.

As the Millers amble toward the front lobby, they stop at a wall graced with a raised image of the Old Man of the Mountain, crafted of butcher's paper. Several vases of fresh flowers adorn the neighboring reception area, leading out to the front entrance, where the Millers stop to check on the garden. They're hoping the new site will allow their plants and customer base to grow. The father and son plan to continue using teamwork as fertilizer.