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Kyle Heuer joins father in Albion dental practice

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 August 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Kyle Heuer is pictured with his father Karl today at a dental practice Karl helped start 38 years ago.

ALBION – In his junior year of college at Notre Dame University, Kyle Heuer knew what he wanted in a dream job.

His fellow accounting majors were relishing careers in Chicago, New York City and other major metros in the country.

But Heuer wanted to come back to Albion and work as a dentist alongside his father, Karl.

The dream came true last month when Kyle started as a dentist in his hometown. He and his father work out of 313 South Main St. Karl has been a dentist in Albion for 38 years. His son joined him in the practice on July 22.

“I definitely wanted to be here,” Kyle said today. “I wanted to be with my family and friends. I still have a lot of close buddies who live in Albion.”

Kyle earned an accounting degree from Notre Dame, and then attended the University at Buffalo Dentistry School. His father is a graduate of both schools. Kyle completed a residency at the VA Medical Center in Buffalo. There he learned the art of pulling teeth, performing root canals and other oral surgery. And this for a kid who fainted at the sight of blood in biology class.

Kyle’s skill at oral surgery has allowed the Heuer dental practice to do more extractions and surgeries. Patients sometimes had to have those procedures done in Lockport, Batavia or Rochester.

“Now we’re doing them all here,” Karl said. “People don’t have to drive out of town anymore.”

Kyle enjoys the science behind dentistry and he said there is an element of art in reshaping a tooth that has a filling. He likes to see patients leave pain-free and often smiling.

It has taken some getting used to, working on the teeth of his former teachers and parents of friends. But Kyle said he is grateful to be home, working in a small town where there is a sense of connectedness.

When his father moved to Albion 38 years ago, Karl said the community was declared an underserved area because there were so few dentists. Karl and his friend A.J. Monacelli worked together at a site on Hazard Parkway. They were there for four years until moving to the site on South Main Street. Monacelli would later start his own practice at the corner on Main Street and Allen Road.

Heuer said the community’s dental health is “drastically better” these days. When he started, he was pulling decayed teeth on people in their 20s. He believes the public is much better educated about dental health, and they brush their teeth and floss, helping to ward off decay. He also credits the vast expansion of public water lines for improving dental health because of the access to fluoridated water.

One other contributor: Sesame Street. Children’s shows often feature kids going to dentists and that has helped children to feel more comfortable sitting in the big dental chairs and having their teeth checked, Heuer said.

Karl has witnessed another major change in his career: dental insurance. Many of his patients used to work at Kodak, Rochester Products and Harrison Radiator, major companies with generous dental insurance coverage.

There are less high-paying jobs for his patients these days, and many companies don’t offer dental insurance, or the insurance only pays a portion of the costs.

Karl and Kyle say there is a shift in dentistry, with more clinics opening where dentists are employees and often the owner of the business is not on site and isn’t known to the public. The clinics often operate multiple sites, given them buying power advantages for equipment and supplies.

“You’ll probably see less and less family dental businesses down the road,” Karl said.

His wife has worked with her husband for years. She is the receptionist. There are four other employees in addition to the Heuers.

Karl six years ago was diagnosed with colon cancer, a disease that kept him out of work for nine months. He praised Sandra Chang, a former dentist at the site, for keeping the practice going during his illness.

Karl said he has no plans to retire anytime soon. Right now the father and son are enjoying work together, and sharing lunch breaks.

“I can’t picture working anywhere else,” Kyle said.