Not many people have had the same dentist for half a century, but I have. The longstanding relationship and the dentist, Dr. Ron Carter, deserve recognition.

The Westside of the Central Valley has been lucky to have had many excellent dentists over the years, and that includes Dr. Carter, who, fortunately for me, is still practicing in Los Banos.

When I came to Los Banos in 1971, I had a history of bad dentists. I knew I needed to find a good one here.

I’m not sure how I found Dr. Carter, who had begun practicing in Los Banos four years earlier. Maybe it was simply because back in 1971 he had the office next to my general physician, Dr. John Mevi. Looking back, I consider it providential.

I’m sure when Ron took a look into my mouth for the first time, he saw trouble. He saw, among other things, one tooth another dentist had almost pulled a few years earlier in Chicago and other teeth another Chicago-area dentist had screwed up. My sad mouth didn’t deter Ron. I think he took it as a challenge.

He quickly went to work. And he was determined to make me comfortable, without pain. That was different from the Chicago dentist who drilled on me without benefit of Novocain.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. Carter has worked on every tooth in my mouth over the past 50 years. I have many of his crowns, and I’m not even a king.

I’m lucky to have had a dentist who enjoys this kind of work, and even luckier to have one who is a perfectionist. Ron has also hired good people to work with him, including assistants and hygienists who have conscientiously looked after my teeth and gums and advised me on dental health.

Ron has also been my family’s dentist; he has worked on Susan, Ginny, Mike, Megan and Sandy (in that order). They have all been pleased with his competence and congeniality.

At my most recent visit to Dr. Carter, I expressed my appreciation to him. I was glad he was still practicing with the same level of skill he’s had over the past 50 years.

I asked him what keeps him going. “I enjoy what I do,” he said, “so why should I retire?” Ron doesn’t work five days a week anymore, and his son Jeff is now in practice with him, an excellent addition to his practice, but Ron still spends many days in Los Banos doing dentistry.

He is especially proud of the work he does on crowns. “I’ve always enjoyed the craftsmanship involved in crowns ever since I was in dental school,” he told me. “I still do.”

His competence and kindness keep me loyal. When I have a person in my life providing good service, I like to stay with that person, whether a mechanic, landscaper, doctor, server or bartender. And so it has been with my dentist. 

I’m fortunate to also call Ron Carter my friend as well as my dentist. Among my friends, too, are his wife Carolyn, who worked in his office for many years, and his son Greg, who in the 1970s was a student in a College for Kids class I taught.

Ron and I also have had two close friends in common. He was with Bob Edminster, my colleague at the Los Banos Campus of Merced College, when they were hunting quail. During that hunt Bob slipped and fell down a 30-foot cliff, where he had to be rescued by a helicopter that Ron called. I’m glad Ron was there to help keep Bob alive.

During Bob’s long recuperation in a “halo,” Ron and I kept in close contact with Bob and with each other, providing mutual support.

Another mutual friend is Don Berz, a colleague of mine from a southern California community college. It just so happened that Don and Ron lived next to each other in adjacent vacation homes. Each time I visit Ron, we talk about Don, after which we often call Don and chat about what all three of us have in common.

I’m now 76, and I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be around. And I’m not sure how much longer Dr. Carter, who is older than I am, will continue to practice. For both of us I hope it’s for many years to come.

I’m sure many of my Westside Express readers who have been fortunate to have a good dentist in their lives would agree with me: A good dentist is one of life’s true blessings.