Dr. Neely and his team have created amazing smiles for three generations of families.
Text and photography by Kim J. Gifford
Clients, young and old, walking into Dr. Donald Neely’s Hanover Orthodontics practice in Hanover, N.H. may take one look at his whimsically decorated office and feel as if they may have mistakenly entered Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. The office is filled with southwestern art, tin toys, and a full blown train set that circles the treatment room. Tiny creatures from bunnies and ducks to miniature commuters and families line the track, and the train whizzes around overhead in a victory lap each time a patient completes his or her full dental regime.
High Tech as It Gets
But, while there may be something magical to the setting, there is nothing imaginary about the transformation Dr. Neely and his team evoke in the lives and smiles of their clients. The office may be riddled with colorful and decorative tchotchkes, trains, and art wherever one looks — “This is Navajo, this Pueblo, these are from New Mexico,” Dr. Neely points out the various paintings as he gives a tour, explaining how he knows the story of each one — but the truth is this practice is about as high tech as it gets.
It relies on digital scanners to take highly accurate impressions of the teeth and jaws, eliminating the old-fashioned uncomfortable process of using trays and putty to make digital impressions of the teeth. The result: 3D digital impressions. “We have computers, scanners, digital X-rays. It’s all digital, latex-free office, where everything is sterilized and very high tech,” says Dr. Neely.
Patients even check in on a computer monitor. Upon arrival, they type in their names and then each is assigned to a staff member, who is informed that the patient has arrived. While waiting, young people can play interactive, multi-lingual games on a wall unit in a colorfully painted waiting room lined with books. One book about Native American culture is written and illustrated by Christine Almstrom, treatment coordinator and expanded duty chairside assistant.
Traditional braces are not the only method of treatment. New and improved options are available such as Invisalign clear aligners. These are a series of clean liners that a patient wears full time for one or two weeks before changing up to the next set. Typically treatment is shorter than with braces, lasting between 12 to 18 months as opposed to 24 months. It is also more comfortable as patients may remove the liners to eat or brush and there are no emergencies such as a wire coming loose or food prohibitions.
Even traditional braces offer patients more options such as clear ceramic braces or even 24 Karat gold plated. Most treatment is two-phased — early and conventional with screenings beginning at age 7. “We might do some early treatment when they’re 8 and regular treatment when all the teeth are in, maybe at 12,” says Dr. Neely.
Dr. Neely and his present staff of five — all of whom have either had braces or the modern Invisalign clear aligners and received treatment at the practice — are well-schooled in the new innovations in dentistry. Dr. Neely has been practicing in the Upper Valley and surrounding area for more than 40 years. And, although that gives him years of expertise, he also remains educated on the latest techniques.
“Some people want to retire. I’m enjoying this. I like to be able to keep up to date. My staff and I go for dozens of hours of classes a year,” says Dr. Neely.
Dr. Neely, who never had children of his own, says his children “are here at the practice.” He and his wife moved to the Upper Valley in the 1970s to experience a different way of life than the urban lifestyles with which they were familiar. Dr. Neely grew up outside Philadelphia and his wife in New York. She served several years in the state legislature, and Dr. Neely had several offices in Vermont and New Hampshire before consolidating into their present space. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his Doctor of Dental Medicine with honors from the same.
Dr. Neely’s love of the field developed early, having had uncles who were orthodontists. Neely’s love extends to generosity through his Giving Back program that offers 10 scholarships for complete orthodontic treatment to patients in the CHAD Craniofacial Anomalies Clinic, which includes cleft palate patients who require extensive dentofacial orthopedic and orthodontic treatment from birth to age 18.
Dr. Neely loves to fly fish and read, but his greatest joy seems to be in helping his young patients. “They come in as children and leave as adults. Having good teeth even from an early age helps with social development, confidence, and self-image,” he says. “I really like seeing the children blossom. We get to see that, and they leave us as confident young adults with beautiful smiles.”
Kim J. Gifford is a writer, photographer/artist, avid dog lover and blogger. Her Bethel, Vt., home is always filled with nieces and nephews and her three pugs: Alfie, Waffles and Amore. Find her at pugandpics.com