Reaching those in fear through sedation dentistry makes Barrett Straub a standout
Barrett Straub knows that dentistry is plenty technical, but it’s the people perspective that motivates him most. So much so, he considers it a true area of expertise.
“I’ve literally seen a new person evolve,” Straub, a dentist in Port Washington, said while referring to the outcome of much-needed dental work for those who avoided it for sometimes as long as 20 or 30 years. “There’s such a confidence boost and there are huge psychological effects associated with a smile. It’s a shame to think of someone having to cover their mouth with their hand, or being afraid to laugh.
“I’ve had people who used to come in with tears now coming in with a smile. And that’s really powerful.”
Thanks to Straub’s 12-year commitment to sedation dentistry, which relaxes a patient via a pill, he can not only ease their mind but get a lot done.
“Something that might have required 10 visits can get done in two,” he said. “You’re usually dealing with people who need a lot of work.”
And there are no nasty needles to be seen.
“No needles, no IVs,” Straub said. “And you can have a person here for a long time without them really knowing it. It has amnesia properties so a person won’t remember much of their visit.”
Requiring specialized training and licensing, it’s a step well beyond the nitrous oxide — or laughing gas — common to dentistry.
“It’s designed for people who are extremely dental-phobic, for people who can barely get in the door. It’s designed to break that cycle,” Straub said.
On Friday, Straub will be honored with the Young Alumnus of the Year Award from Marquette University’s School of Dentistry and the Marquette University Alumni Association. He is a 2004 graduate.
“It humbling and a great compliment,” said Straub, a Port Washington native whose practice is located at 1349 W. Grand Ave. “I’m envisioning seeing many of my colleagues and friends and tons of my mentors. What I love about the profession is we’re not as much competitors as we are friends. We’ll share our secrets knowing we’re all in it to help people.
“Everyone I’ll see has helped me, and now I’m serving as a mentor to young dentists at my office. It’s the culture.”
The power of networking and communicating became evident to Straub early on, he said, prompting him to serve on the Wisconsin Dental Association (WDA) Board of Trustees as the school’s student representative. He would also serve as the national consultant on legislation for the American Student Dental Association.
William Lobb, the school’s dean of 20 years, saw firsthand Straub’s precociousness while a student.
“He was very active and stood out as a leader,” Lobb said. “He was a natural for that spot and may have been one of the first. Connecting with organized dentistry is important for the school and he did it.”
The fast track was waiting. After partnering with Dr. Mark Matera for just two years, Straub took over his practice when Matera retired in 2006.
“He’s the one who taught me the value of sedation dentistry — he was already practicing it at that time,” Straub said. “It was then I realized there were millions of people who were not going to the dentist.”
Today, Straub sits on both the WDA Legislative Committee and Political Action Committee boards. Last weekend, Straub further polished his people skills by attending a conference in North Carolina.
“It was aimed at the importance of leadership,” he said. “In dentistry, there are always new things to learn with the science itself, so I always attend those as well, but the need for being a good communicator never changes.”
George Bichler, a Port Washington resident who has been a patient of Matera and Straub for 15 years, awaited a teeth cleaning on Monday. He spoke of Straub’s personal touch.
“Barrett’s always been good about that, staying calm,” Bichler said. “He’s very friendly and truly puts his patients at ease.”
Such reports make Straub’s day.
“I’ve often thought, ‘Hmm, I wasn’t born to do fillings.’ That’s not my calling,” he said. “Instead, if my dentistry made someone’s day better, that’s what I take home. That’s what counts.”
HELPING PEOPLE IN FEAR of dental work has been Barrett Straub’s passion for more than a decade. The Port Washington dentist, who specializes in sedation dentistry, will be honored Friday by his alma mater, Marquette University, with a Young Alumnus of the Year recognition. Straub’s practice is located at 1349 W. Grand Ave.
Photo by Sam Arendt