In praise of, yes, a dentist

In praise of, yes, a dentist

I often hear people say they HATE going to the dentist. I’d much rather go to a dentist than a doctor, who probes you in more places than one.

And I especially liked going to my dentist, Dr. Mary Ellen Grilly, who recently retired. She was my dentist for nearly 20 years. After I moved from Danville to Urbana in 1993 I continued to drive to Danville to have my choppers cleaned, drilled, filled, capped and crowned by her.

I felt comfortable with her and trusted her implicitly to do the right thing.

During the two decades she was my dentist, I never had to return to ask her to do something over, or with complaints of pain.

Sure, once I had to go back because a temporary crown she had placed on a front tooth had come off. But that was my fault and other than that...

I appreciated her strength and skill at her trade. She did everything but orthodontics and oral surgery. She did root canals — a few of them in my mouth, while a dentist I had when I was younger sent me to a Champaign dentist for that procedure. A couple of years ago, when I was totally stressed out and someone had recommended that I get a set of mouth or teeth guards to wear at night. Dr. Grilly fitted me with a set and didn't charge me for them.

Dr. Grilly, who is smart, unassuming and down-to-earth, had a range of patients, from all walks of life. They included Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman and her husband, Gil, a lawyer, whose law office was once in the Adams Building, where Grilly had her office on the fifth floor.       

Because of ethical reasons, Dr. Grilly never identified her patients — for example, she wouldn’t tell me the name of an elderly patient who had lace-tatted Grilly’s last name, framed it and given it to the dentist, who displayed it in one of her treatment rooms.

But once I encountered Rita Garman leaving Dr. Grilly’s office. Judge Garman and I go way back, to the start of my newspaper career in Danville, so I called her for a comment on the dentist we shared.

Rita Garman had begun seeing Dr. Grilly more than 10 years ago. Like me, Justice Garman said she never had to return for further treatment after seeing Grilly.

"I liked her approach, which was thorough but not alarmist," Garman said.

Justice Garman also was shocked to receive the letter from Dr. Grilly announcing her retirement, effective Jan. 8. Her office manager, Donna, said quite a few patients were upset to receive the letter, even though it was a nice one in which Dr. Grilly said she didn’t want us to think she no longer cared about our teeth. She also offered to refer us to dentists she thinks would be compatible.

Though Dr. Grilly likes Danville, she will move to North Carolina to live with her mother. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago dental school, Grilly had practiced in Chicago a couple of years before setting up her practice in Danville some 30 years ago.

I hope she enjoys retirement, and that my next dentist will be as good as she was.

Her retirement, though, has had an impact on more than her patients. With her gone, the Adams Building has only two tenants left, on the second floor. The manned elevator, one of the few remaining in the state, or anywhere, for that matter, is no longer needed. So the elevator operator lost his job, with all its ups and downs.

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