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RACINE — Dr. Nathan Knutsen, a dentist who has a children’s-only practice in Brown Deer, hopes to also bring one to Racine.

Pending approvals and some minor renovations to the building, Knutsen will open his second Tooth Town Dentistry for Kids office at 3801 Washington Ave., previously the dental office of Dr. R.A. Bissegger. The 1959 building had been a dentist’s office since at least 1992; that office has been closed for at least a year, Knutsen said.

He hopes to open his new practice here in about 30 to 45 days. However, the Racine Plan Commission on Wednesday deferred action on Tooth Town’s request for a conditional-use permit despite the staff recommendation for approval subject to certain conditions.

Alderman and Commissioner Trevor Jung said the commissioners were very positive about the business but had a few concerns about whether the proposed illuminated monument sign was too colorful for a residential neighborhood. When it was explained that that is the company brand and logo, he said, “That’s something the commission will consider” when the proposal comes back before it, presumably on April 24.

“(Racine is) a location that has a lot of need,” Knutsen said, and where he thinks he “can do the most good.”

His Brown Deer clientele formerly was all adults in a practice called Lakeside Dental.

Knutsen said he didn’t have any children as patients until about five years ago, because he’d been marketing to “high-fear adults.” He said those people tend to go to the dentist and never talk about the experience after they leave, so there’s no word of mouth spread to others.

Knutsen gradually saw that no dentists in the area were doing children’s dentistry offering oral sedation, a practice that relaxes them and makes them much less aware of the work being done to their teeth.

“I realized no one was doing this,” he said. So Knutsen started seeing Medicaid children, phased out his Lakeside practice and converted it to a children’s practice called Tooth Town Dentistry for Kids.

Rhonda Elquist, a consultant who is helping Knutsen start the new practice, said the goal at Tooth Town is to get children to the point where they are not afraid of the dentist.

Proposed $400K investment

Knutsen said his investment to open his second Tooth Town here would be about $400,000 including the building and new equipment; he has an option to purchase the building. The office has six patient rooms, and Elquist said that within a few months this office may need three full-time dentists.

His new clientele here, Knutsen said, would come mostly through other clinics. “Everyone’s looking for someone to refer kids to,” he said. In addition, he is on the list of dentists who accept Medicaid payments, so people with those cards can find him that way.

In the early going, Knutsen said, he would likely be working at the Racine office most of the time. But Elquist said they have another dentist coming on board, a new Marquette University graduate, and eventually Knutsen would no longer need to work from the Racine office.

The plans also include the possibility of hiring an anesthesiologist for the new office for offering intravenous sedation; that can be advantageous for some children, such as those with autism. Another option being explored is having hospital rights for those procedures.

Elquist said the clinic would likely be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 1-3 p.m. Friday.

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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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