Smiles produce smiles. Those life-giving smiles need to be protected and preserved.

For 40 years, Jansen Family Dentistry has been producing, protecting and preserving smiles.

The Jansen family’s commitment to Kendallville and health care dates back to 1949 when Dr. Bernard Jansen married LaVon Carteaux and began his chiropractic career here.

“They met during the summer before their senior year in high school,” their second oldest son, Jim, recalls. “My mother from Avilla was working at the gift shop at Kneipp Springs and staying with family friends in Rome City. My father was a farm hand or bell hop that summer as his parents wanted him out of harm’s way in Fort Wayne.” Jim said that with a smile!

Six of the seven Jansen sons followed their father’s footsteps into health care: Thomas (Tom), a chiropractor; James (Jim), a dentist, and Gerard (Jerry), a chiropractor, all in Kendallville; Robert (Bob), a dentist in St. Johns, Michigan; Michael (Mike), a Systems analyst/developer-Computer Geek in Fort Wayne; Jon, a surgeon in Indianapolis; and Douglas (Doug), a dentist in Kendallville.

Forty years ago this week, Dr. Jim Jansen, who graduated with me and my husband Terry from East Noble in 1971, founded Jansen Family Dentistry on E. William Street. The “Family” refers both to the dentists — three family members (Jim, Doug and their niece Janaya Jansen) — and to the families they serve. Patients have ranged from a few days old to more than 100 years.

Jim and his wife Pam will be moving to Tucson, Arizona, within 15 months, but Jim will return to Kendallville to cover vacation time for Drs. Doug and Janaya and continue to be an examiner for the CDCA, the dental and dental hygiene initial license examination agency he has been part of for nearly 15 years.

He hopes to do part time dentistry or teaching in Tucson and also plans to become a Master Gardener, hike the desert and mountains and travel.

Twenty-two years ago, Doug joined Jim in the practice, now located at 230 S. Main St.

“Kendallville is such a wonderful community in which to live, work and raise a family,” Doug says. “It is a hidden gem with so many caring individuals, great natural resources and opportunities.

“I decided to become a dentist as a result of growing up in a family of health care providers,” he adds. “They were my role models showing me what compassionate care looks like and how it benefits a community.”

Their niece, Janaya Jansen, helped in the office during her early teens and that sparked her interest in dentistry. Like her uncles, she chose to return to Kendallville because of her love for the community.

“I feel my patients are friends,” Janaya says.

Health Occupation Education (HOE) students are welcome at Jansen Family Dentistry, and Janaya hopes the experience will inspire a few of the students to work in the dental field or become dentists. She predicts there will be more female dentists. “My graduating class was nearly 50% female,” she says.

A favorite memory that she shares — with a smile — is “Extracting my husband’s wisdom teeth!”

Janaya says she enjoys working for a practice that is part of a tight-knit community. For instance, they spend time traveling locally, treating local nursing home residents who are not easily transported to the office.

Doug says a favorite memory is working with “all the wonderful employees” (including his wife Susan).

“I often refer to our staff not as co-workers but as work family members,” he says. “You couldn’t ask for better people to be around.

“Our patients are the best. It is very cool to work on kids and now, the grandkids of patients I started seeing more than 22 years ago.”

He adds the technological changes brought on by the digital age of dentistry allow “a better, higher quality of dentistry for our patients.” And he expects continued technological advances in patient care.

Another blessing has been mission work in Mexico and Africa. “The best part of those experiences has been sharing it with some of my work family,” Doug says. “One memorable trip was with my niece, Dr. Janaya in Guanajuato, Mexico, shortly after she graduated from dental school. The care we provide to the individuals in the communities we visit is tremendous, but not comparable to the benefits it provides us as health care workers.

“When I joined Jansen Family Dentistry, it was my brother’s mission to have our dental office provide quality dentistry to our community for future generations. He should be very proud of what he started and with the addition now of our niece Dr. Janaya, that mission will continue for the next generation of our patients.”

Jim grew up wanting to be an architect but science courses during his sophomore year at East Noble changed his mind. In addition, he admired how his father “helped people in need on a direct and personal level” and he had an uncle, who he admired, who was a dentist.

And, dentistry has a slight similarity to architecture. Technically, dentists “design and build things” but for much smaller spaces!

Jim and his wife Pam chose Kendallville because of Jim’s roots here, the “kind, caring” neighbors, merchants and factory employers, and East Noble.

“My wife’s home area (Rockville, Indiana) had a lot of positive qualities yet it was much smaller than Kendallville and the school system was quite small,” Jim says.

One of the biggest changes in dentistry is that people are keeping their teeth for a lifetime.

“In the first year of dental school we had a five-hour day of class time devoted to how to brush your teeth ... We students of course mocked our instructors ... But I remembered it ... About 15 years ago I realized that improved and proper tooth brushing and other oral hygiene practices had changed dentistry. By adding fluoride to the toothpaste in the 1960s — with input from researchers at Indiana University — and regular brushing, people were keeping their teeth rather than giving up on their teeth (due to decay and gum disease) and having dentures made.”

Jim says among their biggest blessings are the joy that comes from being thanked by a patient and compliments by patients as they tell others about their positive experience.

In addition to people keeping their teeth, another change is that technology enables dentists to deliver care gently and easily, if the patient allows.

“The older dentists practicing 30-40 years ago knew all too well that every day they were going to help people but it could be painful,” Jim recalls.

From extensive medical missions in Mexico and Africa, to providing low-cost or free care locally to people in need, all three Jansens have been generous with their gifts.

In 2020, Jim was planning to go to Malawi and then to Uganda to join Doug on a medical/dental mission, but COVID-19 halted those plans.

Celebrating the success of a business with deep roots in the community always brings a smile to my face.

Grace Housholder is a columnist and editorial writer for KPC Media Group. Contact her at ghousholder@kpcmedia.com.

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