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Old dental ties come full circle

Dr. Jessica Adams was a patient of Dr. Sue Wendling 16 years ago
by: Vern Uyetake, The Lake Oswego dental office of Dr. Sue Wendling, left, has added a familiar associate with Dr. Jessica Adams joining the effort. Adams and Wendling have about 16 years of history together.

Patients who visit Dr. Sue Wendling's Lake Oswego dental office might think she's running a family business.

Aside from the homey, inviting feel of the office, Wendling's new associate, Jessica Adams, could be mistaken for her daughter. She officially joined the office last week.

The two women look like they're related, if but a generation apart. They dress alike, if only by accident. They giggle like teen-agers at inside jokes and finish each other's sentences.

'We're so much alike it's scary,' Wendling said.

'I mean, look at what we're wearing!,' Adams interjected, referring to their matching outfits. 'And it wasn't even planned!'

When it comes to dentistry, the Wendling-Adams connection runs so deep they may as well be family.

About 16 years ago, Adams first came to Wendling's office as a patient in need of orthodontic advice. Today, she returns as a full-time associate dentist after years of observing Wendling as an assistant.

It's apparent the women have a boss-employee relationship anyone in the working world would envy. First and foremost, they're friends.

'I feel like I can always go to her and she won't make fun of me for asking questions,' Adams said.

Adams, a 1996 Lakeridge High School graduate, began working off and on for Wendling - who specializes in cosmetic and reconstructive dentistry - while attending George Fox University.

Those days consisted of observation, taking notes and listening to Wendling describe various and often-complicated dental procedures.

Under Wendling's mentorship, Adams soon became a 'jack of all trades' and discovered that there's fulfillment in rebuilding someone's smile from the root up.

Adams came to enjoy dentistry so much, in fact, that she spent the following two years as Wendling's assistant before enrolling in the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry in California.

'She's so passionate about what she does. I've never met anyone so interested in their job,' Adams said of her boss. 'Once I worked here, I knew this is what I wanted to do.'

The experience working for Wendling helped give Adams a professional leg up that many of her peers lacked, she added.

'The thing that put me ahead the most was learning how to feel comfortable talking to patients. Talking to them and having a relationship with them is a big part of dentistry,' Adams said.

Naturally, Wendling wrote Adams a glowing recommendation to get into dental school, but encouraged her to return to Lake Oswego.

'We have the same standards, and I knew that when she was my assistant,' said Wendling, a West Linn resident. 'I love her as if she's my own kid and I wanted to give her an offer she couldn't refuse.'

Adams, meanwhile, tried to keep her post-graduate career options open. Still, she found it difficult to consider any other job, knowing that she was one of the few graduates with an offer.

So for the first time in four years, Adams moved back to Lake Oswego, where her parents live. At her 10-year class reunion this summer, she distributed new business cards.

The additional help allows Wendling to spend more time outside the office pursuing other interests - such as rowing on the Willamette River.

Adams plans to take on some of the more routine dental procedures: Fillings, root canals, crowns, bridges. She also hopes to advance her experience in the cosmetic side of dentistry to give her patients the confidence she feels they deserve.

'I can't think of a better place to have a family and be grounded,' Adams said of her hometown. 'It's such a great place to live and I can't imagine living anywhere else.'