Joseph Opray '77: A community of smiles

By LiAnna Davis '04

Getting a root canal isn’t exactly fun, but for Joseph Opray’s patients it can be educational, thanks to an informative DVD that plays on the flat-screen monitor above them during the procedure.

Opray—Doctor Joe to his patients—wanted the best when expanding his Vancouver, Wash.-based Dentus Dental Center, blending an emphasis on people with the latest technology.

“The whole ambiance starts from the moment a patient walks in the door,” Opray explains. The soothing wall colors, comfortable patient chair, lighting, and technological aids—like the dentist being able to view a problem tooth on a large computer screen rather than in a compact mirror—makes going to the dentist as pleasurable as possible. “We tried to make the treatment room patient-friendly, while presenting the best care available.”

Business observers say he’s accomplished that goal. Dental Economics magazine named Opray and his business partner, Andre Kaindl, winners of the 2002 Matsco Dental Office Design Competition and put them on the cover of the 100,000-circulation publication. Now others are calling Dentus a standard for new dental technology.

Opray, who describes his Puget Sound experience “in one word—awesome,” entered as a chemistry major. He spent the winter break his sophomore year observing a pedodontist, general practitioner, and orthodontist, which piqued his interest in dentistry. Opray left UPS after three years to begin dental school; he graduated with a D.M.D. from Oregon Health and Science University in 1980.

He began his own practice in 1983, with his wife Marilyn as a hygienist and one other employee. Over the years, the business grew, adding Kaindl seven years ago. Dentus’s staff now numbers 15.

“We came up with the name ‘Dentus’ to put an emphasis on ‘us,’” Opray explains. “The ‘us’ represents the relationship of patients, staff, and doctors all working together to improve quality of life, dentistry-speaking.”

The 3,400-square-foot building includes space for eight chairs and the most advanced technology developed in dentistry over the last five years. For example, Opray says, his practice for doing a crown includes taking a photo of the tooth and transferring it to a computer. Three-D imagery software determines the necessary shape, then Opray makes the crown and cements it on, eliminating the need for a lab. The office also gives patients glasses that allow them to view informational movies in 3-D.

“When we built this office, we tried to look to the future and push the envelope,” he says. “When the patients come in, they say, ‘Wow.’”

Dentus’s Web site (see Related Links), is pretty high-tech, too. The site features online forms, e-mail confirmation of appointments, a 360-degree virtual tour of the building, directions to the office, and a monthly e-newsletter with information on dental health. Opray is proud of this information, but his favorite part of the Web site is the beginning sequence, where photographs of people blend into dots that form Dentus’s logo, demonstrating the practice’s motto: A Community of Smiles.

“A community of smiles is made up of individual people,” he explains. “The thing I like most about dentistry is the people. They trust me with their most important thing—their health.”

Opray has about 3,800 patients, but some of his favorites are his old Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers. He enjoys the professional and private relationships he’s maintained with many alumni from UPS, and even counts a handful of current students among his patients.

“My best friends today are people I met at UPS,” he says. “The people that impacted me in college have been with me my whole life. The long-term relationships are invaluable.”