The Loyal Family

Three generations later, this patient-dentist relationship is going strong.

Among those who have experienced the phenomenon of love at first sight is John Group, a 59-year-old mechanic who found his forever love all the way back in the first grade and wasted no time acting on his instant attraction.

Russ and his mom Erica sitting in dental chair at DeLand Implant Dentistry.

Russ Kiel, seated in his mother Erica’s lap, is the third generation of the Group family to be treated by Dr. Patel.

As his reward for a cavity-free checkup at the dentist one day, John chose from a children’s treasure chest a plastic ring that he took to school the next day and placed in the pencil tray of Melinda Whitten’s desk.

“What can I say? I had moves even back then,” John says with a chuckle.

The rest of John and Melinda’s love story has played out like a matinee on the Hallmark Channel. The couple drifted apart during high school, when John took one path as a partying football player and Melinda took another as a “good grades, cheerleader type.”

But while growing up in Sherrill, New York (population 3,071), their families remained close, and John and Melinda found each other again a few years later after both returned home for Christmas, John on leave from the Navy and Melinda from college.

“I think it was the uniform that Melinda found attractive,” John suggests. “She was just exceptional, and by then I’d figured out that if I wanted her in my life, I was going to have to change my ways, which I had. We started dating after that.”

John and Melinda married two years later, on July 4, 1986. The couple moved to Florida a few years later after John was transferred to the Navy’s Pinecastle Range Complex in the Ocala National Forest.

When John got out of the Navy, he and Melinda decided to stay in Florida and raise their family. In doing so, they developed another relationship that has withstood the test of time, with Rajiv Patel, BDS, MDS, of DeLand Implant Dentistry.

“Shortly after we first came to this area, I went to a dentist for a regular checkup, and right away he started telling me how I needed to have six or seven fillings replaced,” John remembers. “I was like, What in the world is he talking about? So, I called up my old dentist back in New York and asked him what he thought, and he said, That’s not true. I just saw you not too long ago and you don’t need to have any fillings replaced.”

Melinda then learned of Dr. Patel from a co-worker.

“I give him a try, and I really liked him,” she says. “Back then, he was a one-man show, doing everything himself, and I found him to be such a fine man that we’ve stayed with him ever since.”

After Melinda went to Dr. Patel, John made an appointment.

“He said, No, no, no, no; those fillings are fine,” John remembers. “A sacred trust was developed during that visit because I knew I could trust him, and our relationship has grown ever since. And do you know that, to this day, I have not had one of those fillings replaced.”

All in the Family

Dr. Patel no longer runs a one-man show. His nephew, Jayraj J. Patel, DMD, recently joined DeLand Implant Dentistry, where they now treat three generations of the Group family.

“It was natural for us to have our daughters go to Dr. Patel for their dental care, and our daughter Erica made sure when her son, Russ, turned 1 that she made his first dental appointment with Dr. Patel,” Melinda reports.

“Our relationship with the Group family is how we want our relationship with all our patients to be,” says Dr. Jayraj J. Patel. “We want to know them as patients, but we also want them to feel as if they are members of a larger family.

“Our primary focus is on providing exceptional dental care, and we also want our patients to know that we care about what’s happening in their personal life and that we’re here to accommodate their needs in any way that we can. When a patient has a more personal relationship with their dentist, they’re more comfortable expressing their needs and are more apt to keep regular appointments. That naturally leads to better oral health.”

“Dr. Patel has done a great job establishing trust, maintaining our family’s teeth and teaching us to maintain them ourselves.” – John

Of course, a strong patient-dentist relationship can only be forged if the dentist consistently provides excellent care and personal attention. Melinda says that’s never a problem at DeLand Implant Dentistry, and “that’s helped us get through all those years with the girls getting extractions prior to braces and things like that.”

Melinda says those qualities are why her daughter Erica took Russ to DeLand Implant Dentistry. That first visit was designed to make her son comfortable
with a dentist.

“When we have a very young child come in for their first dental visit, we usually let them sit in a parent’s lap, and we let them touch and feel some of the instruments we use for cleaning,” the older Dr. Patel explains. We then see if they’ll let us have a look around inside their mouth to check for any major problems that need to be addressed. It’s all about making the child comfortable, establishing a personal relationship and trust.”

Melinda says Dr. Patel has done a “great job establishing that trust, maintaining our family’s teeth and teaching us to maintain them ourselves.”
She sees the same qualities with the younger Dr. Patel.

“I really like him as well,” Melinda says. “He’s got a different personality than his uncle, but the level of care and personal attention is the same. They’re all really great people and we appreciate all that they’ve done for us and our family.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photo courtesy of Erica Kiel. mkb
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    • Deland Implant Dentistry

      Rajiv Patel BDS, MDS, has practiced general dentistry in Deland, Florida for more than 26 years. He strives to deliver the most advanced, personalized, comprehensive and professional dental care to his patients while building relationships b... Read More

    • Rajiv Patel, BDS, MDS

      Rajiv Patel, BDS, MDS, has practiced general dentistry in DeLand for more than 25 years. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Oral Implantology/Implant Dentistry, and Fellow of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry. With hundreds of h... Read More

    • Jayraj J. Patel, DMD

      Jayraj J. Patel, DMD, has been practicing general dentistry in the Central Florida region since graduating from the University of Florida College of Dentistry. His goal is to deliver comprehensive, compassionate care to his patients in a c... Read More