210 Main - Dakota Dental Care

Ellendale - Tour of the Core City

210 Main - Dakota Dental Care

Ellendale, North Dakota 58436, United States

Created By: Coleman Memorial Museum


210 Main - Dakota Dental Care

Dakota Dental Care started out as The Area Dental Clinic. It was built in 1975 and the first dentist to occupy the building was Dr. W.S. Stemm. The practice was eventually sold to Dr. Mark Persson and Dr. Ray Murray. The clinic was affiliated with clinics in Edgeley and Kulm.

In 1987, Dr. Lana Schlecht, bought the clinic and a year later renamed it "Dakota Dental Care.” In 28 years of service, she became renowned for her interest in the community, establishing personal relationships with hundreds of local residents, serving on community and state boards and arts councils, engaging in philanthropy, and working in dental outreach projects. Dr. Schlecht has done dental outreach at Evergreen Place and Prince of Peace Care Center, worked with “Give Kids A Smile,” the AGAPE Foundation, and Head Start, and has also provided free dentistry through outreach trips to Mexico, Siberia, Morocco, and Romania.

In early 2015, Dr, Schlecht passed the practice on to Dr. Caleb Johnson. Dr. Johnson had the business for a little over two years and then left because of personal problems. The business was then purchased by Buck Cotter, who relaunched it as Cotter Dental. A newspaper article about Dr. Cotter is below:


Dickey County Leader, April 2018)

“I didn’t want to be in a corporate environment, in the middle of a city, fighting for business with high overhead, pressured to do dentistry that I didn’t believe in.” Instead, said Dr. Buck Cotter, Ellendale’s new dentist, wanted to be in a small community, “where I could do the dentistry I wanted and be appreciated for doing it.” The mission statement of the new practice explains what he’s about: “Our goal is to save teeth and keep people smiling their entire life. We do that by educating our patients on habits that strengthen teeth and gums and providing modern dentistry that improves their lives This is how we are bringing smiles back.”

Buck, his wife Nadia, their second-grade twins Wes and Sadie, and their kindergarten son Dax have taken up residence in Ellendale, and, are looking forward to growing with our area. Buck and Nadia are both Arizona natives. Both have spent significant time in church and volunteer work, Buck having served a mission in Idaho and Nadia in Central America. Buck has a business background and Nadia has worked in nursing. Their children are happily enrolled at the Ellendale Public School. The family is appreciative of Ellendale for its social environment, whatever their reservations about this year’s unusually long winter.

Dr. Cotter replaces Dr. Caleb Johnson, who in 2014 purchased Dakota Dental Care from Dr. Lana Schlecht. Under Dr. Cotter’s ownership, Ellendale dentistry has moved into a new phase that places a heavy emphasis on consistent, reliable service combined with the latest in high-tech dentistry. Dr. Cotter is a graduate of Arizona State University and earned his D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) degree from The University of Southern California in 2016. He practiced for a year in Albuquerque before coming to Ellendale.

Buck is an early riser, typically beginning his routines before five o’clock each morning. As he explained in a morning interview, USC is unique in how it trains dentists. Its graduates complete a very demanding program requiring 44 courses taken in 11 consecutive 14-week trimesters. Each course carries the designation “problem based learning,” an approach that describes a distinctive philosophy of education. As Dr. Cotter explained, USC dental students are intensively trained to recognize and respond to real-world dental situations, not by relating those problems to typical textbook examples, but by understanding what is actually going on in the patient’s mouth. And more than in other programs, they learn to relate tooth-related issues to a very wide range of physical conditions that both stem from and contribute dental problems. It’s a rigorous, difficult method. But it produces dentists who are highly confident and capable dealing problems they’ve never seen before.

Given Dakota Dental Care’s circumstances in past few years, Dr. Cotter is particularly aware of the importance of stability and confidence in the doctor-patient relationship. One of his first moves in the new practice was to install, off the side of the lobby, a small consultation office. It’s a soundproof room with a small glass-door, where he can visit confidentially with clients about every issue that relates to their dental health. His work focuses extensively on educating patients both on maintaining their teeth and finding the best solutions to their dental problems. Dr. Cotter is particularly aware of the financial burdens dental care can place on low-income and fixed-income patients. He and Nadia “were both raised by hard working single moms” and understand issues of cost and care both from the side of the practitioner and the patient.

Dr. Cotter stressed that while he has purchased the building, its equipment, and the dental records of the clients, he did not take over Dr. Johnson’s practice, per se. He did not purchase the accounts receivable, and thus has made a “clean break” in the matter of any moneys that patients may owe to Dr. Johnson. “If anybody owes money to Dakota Dental Care,” he stressed, “they owe Dr. Johnson (P.O. Box 310), and not us.”

The new practice differs also in that it utilizes a policy wherein payment is required at the time of treatment. Along with this payment procedure, Dr. Cotter is committed to offering very extensive personal consultation in which all viable treatment options are considered, and all costs are laid out clearly in advance of treatment. As the proprietor of a relatively low-volume practice, he believes he can offer better and more extensive personalized consultation and care than one would find in a larger practice, particularly one associated with a regional dental chain.

The practice is also breaking ground in technology as well. Amid the extensive investments Dr. Cotter has made in equipment is a computer-aided design and fabrication (CAD-CAM) machine that mills dental crowns in the precise shape determined from a scan of the patient’s mouth. High quality porcelain crowns can be constructed and hardened while patients wait, thus avoiding the need for temporary crowns and repeat visits. A variety of brand new equipment is found in each room. One new state-of-the-art chair has ben added, as well as a high tech sterilization unit for dental tools. Dr. Cotter noted that even though Ellendale is a small town, the practice is still subject to all state and federal regulations, such as those required by OSHA, the state dental board, and medical organizations. “Everything is up to code,” he emphasizes, and is thoroughly modern. Launching the new practice has required “quite an investment” of both time and money, “but people are going to like it in the end. Already we are getting very good responses from our patients.”

This point of interest is part of the tour: Ellendale - Tour of the Core City


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