Published on August 31st, 2018 | by Paul Chen, Publisher0
Fast, Pain free and Holistic: Dr. Norton Delivers It All
by Paul B. Chen
Eighty-one screens of patient reviews. More than 400 reviews spanning the last five years. The numbers are certainly impressive, but they are not as impressive as what patients say.
Dr. Al Norton has been practicing dentistry since the 1980s. His practice, Dentistry at Sugarloaf, has been located in Duluth since 2004.
Dr. Norton considers himself a holistic dentist—his ad in this magazine touts “mercury-free and metal-free”—but in a stack of patient reviews the themes that emerge are that his work is painless and quick, and he is unusually kind, patient and thorough.
Take, for instance, this comment left by Thomas K: “I had a minor cavity that was discovered during my cleaning and made an appointment for the next day. It literally took me longer to write this review than it took to do the laser filling. No numbing, and most importantly, no pain. Very pleased!!!”
In 2004, Norton made a significant investment in laser technology.
“The primary issue was to use the laser to provide analgesia to a tooth and thereby allow me to do procedures without giving shots,” says Norton. “Many people are just extremely needle adverse.”
In other words, Norton’s concern was less about gaining new capabilities and procedures and more about making patients more comfortable. How unusual is that? Although he is quick to point out that he does not know the actual percentage of American dentists who invested in and use lasers, Dr. Norton feels confident that it is under 25 percent.
Dental lasers have capabilities other than providing analgesia: They can detect very small cavities years ahead of the traditional “pick and poke” method. When Dr. Norton detects them, he can use preventive measures such as applying varnishes and sealants to prevent tiny cavities from becoming much larger ones.
While avoiding pain is a major consideration that affects all patients, Norton’s dedication to a holistic, biological approach is deep, even though it directly impacts a small portion of his patient population. His orientation to holistic practice started shortly after dental school and came about mostly through reading. Among his readings were the writings of Hal Huggins, a dentist best known for his campaign against the use of dental amalgams because of the mercury incorporated into them. Norton trained under Huggins and learned his protocol for removing mercury amalgams.
Norton stopped using mercury amalgams in 1991 for reasons of patient safety, but he says that the percentage of his patients that report potential symptoms associated with amalgam issues is in the single digits.
“A lot of people come to me with foggy brain, loss of memory, different neurological tics, things like that, that I’ve found can sometimes be eliminated, or at least lessened in their intensity, by getting all the mercury out of somebody’s body,” Norton says.
When patients report such symptoms, Norton recommends the Clifford Materials Reactivity Test, which tests biocompatibility with different dental materials.
Beyond focusing on patient comfort and holistic health, Norton received considerable training in the cosmetic aspects of his trade. That made up a larger part of his business prior to the Great Recession. Now that those hard economic times are behind us and time seems more at a premium than ever, that third theme from patient reviews comes to the fore: “no waiting time,” as one patient commented early this year.
“I value people’s time,” Dr. Norton says. “Sometimes I’ll take my wife to a doctor’s appointment and we’ll sit out there for two hours. When we see the person, there’s no apology for the loss of our time. I’m very time considerate.”
Dr. Al Norton, Dentistry At Sugarloaf, 6600 Sugarloaf Pkwy Ste 600, Duluth, GA 30097, 770-513-1312, DentistryAtSugarloaf.com
Image: Ashley Youngblood