Hoffman marking 50 years as dentist

Dr. Larry Hoffman has his share of stories after 50 years as a dentist in Jamestown, from changes in the town, dental practices and his friendships with patients.

Ben Rodgers / The Sun Dr. Larry Hoffman on Nov. 4 shows a recent proclamation from Gov. John Hoeven honoring his 50 years of service as a dentist in Jamestown.

Dr. Larry Hoffman has his share of stories after 50 years as a dentist in Jamestown, from changes in the town, dental practices and his friendships with patients.

Before he opened his practice in Jamestown, Hoffman served as a dentist with the U.S. Navy in Great Lakes, Ill., in 1957.

While on base, Hoffman said he only treated servicemen who needed at least five extractions so they could serve in the Navy. Teeth were extracted and replaced with full or partial dentures so servicemen would not have toothaches. One day Hoffman preformed 90 extractions, mostly on servicemen from the South.

He was transferred to the Marines in 1958, 13 days after he married his wife, Beverly, who later became the first full-time dental hygienist between Fargo and Bismarck.

In the U.S Marine Corps, Hoffman served as commanding officer of the dental department for the MAG-11 First Marine Airwing in Taiwan during the shelling of Quemoy and Matsu islands, shortly after the second Taiwan Strait crisis, he said.


After being discharged in the summer 1959 Hoffman moved to Jamestown to open his practice but had to wait until the fall to open because a steel strike prevented him from purchasing dental equipment.

Hoffman started practicing in Jamestown on Oct. 26, 1959, in an office on the second floor of the White Drug building, now Jerry's Furniture, on First Avenue South.

He said all of the dentists in Jamestown at that time were located on the second floor of various First Avenue buildings. He shared the space with Lloyd Musburger, Leonard Stenseth, Frank Gibbons and Warren Runyan.

Now dental officers are spread throughout James-town not just on one street. Several work at Hoffman's current location inside the Professional Building at 1209 Fifth Ave. S.E.

Back in the late 1950s, most dentists had one chair-side assistant who prepared materials and some had receptionists, Hoffman said. Patients would also sit in a more upright dental chair.

In the 1960s, patients started sitting in the type of purpose-built dental chairs used today. That's also when dental practices started using four-hand dentistry, or the help of an auxiliary assistant, leading to greater efficiency, he said.

Four-handed, sit-down dentistry has the assistant being more involved in dental work, like preparing and handing the dentist materials and monitoring procedures, Hoffman said.

Another change that has occurred over the years in dentistry is a shift to preventative measures geared toward stopping dental problems instead of just pulling teeth out like in the 1950s. Now water has fluoride in it to prevent tooth decay, more educational is done to instruct about proper brushing techniques and hygienists are used for periodic cleanings, he said.


"All of that should add to retaining your teeth for a lifetime if possible," Hoffman said.

During his career here, Hoffman served as president, vice president and secretary/treasurer of the North Dakota Dental Association. He also wrote and published the book "North Dakota Dental Association: The First One Hundred Years."

He has received numerous awards for his work and was also elected to Fellowship in the American Academy of Dentistry and the International Academy of Dentistry.

While keeping busy with numerous dental associations, and chronicling a history of North Dakota dentists, Hoffmann still has time for his staff and patients, said Dr. Carrie Orn, a former dental assistant with Hoffman in 2004. Orn now owns a practice in Jamestown.

Hoffman also took care of his staff, Orn said. He would pick up food, make popcorn, or even have cakes for them, she said. One of the main things Orn said she learned from Hoffman was to take the time and build relationships with patients.

Hoffman often schedules in extra time for procedures because he knows he will talk with a patient. He also has patients who have been with him for most of their lives. For laughs he said he will take out their old records and let them know if they had any behavioral issues as a child.

"I hope I'm as enthusiastic in 50 years as he continues to be," Orn said.

The 77-year-old Hoffman has no plans to retire anytime soon and will keep going as long as he feels good.


"It isn't how old you are, it's how old you feel," he said.

Hoffman calls himself fortunate for having a practice in Jamestown because the city is small enough to make friends with his patients but large enough to enjoy the camaraderie of his colleagues.

"I have been blessed with a staff that has stayed with me for many years and are great to work with," Hoffman said. "This is the main reason I am still working -- it is still fun and I am healthy."

Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455

or by e-mail at

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