WOODBURY – Dr. Andrew Blackwell, DMD could not have asked for a more ideal location to open his first-ever private dental practice.
“The setting is beautiful,” said Blackwell, bought the 387 Main St. S. practice from Dr. Lance Banwell, DDS, PC, across from the Cannon Green, in June. “I couldn’t have asked for a better location, but if everything is going well, I won’t be able to see it.”
That’s because Blackwell, who studied dentistry at Rutgers University and then did his residency at Danbury Hospital, will be busy with patients. But Blackwell said it still brings a nice piece of mind.
“I’ve worked in corporate and office settings where there’s no view at all, or a downtown area of a city, but I think this may help with the mental stigma of going to the dentist,” Blackwell said.
Making the Connection
Blackwell moved to Southbury about three years ago with his wife and two young daughters. He was working for a dentist in Meriden and was hoping for the right opportunity to practice in the area.
That’s when Banwell was introduced to Blackwell by Roger Badwal, a mutual friend and a Southbury-based oral surgeon.
“[Roger] knew I was looking to something in my community and he knew Lance was looking to retire,” Blackwell said. “Over about a year of talking and planning, we made it happen.”
It wasn’t as simple as Banwell just finding someone to replace him. Banwell wanted all his patients to be taken care of, and he also had to match practice styles and philosophies and demeanor, otherwise it’s a big shock to the patients.
“I can’t replace Lance, and I’ve had patients tell me I have big shoes to fill,” Blackwell said. “Most of them also say that if I’m good enough for him, I’m good enough for them.”
21st Century Dentistry
Banwell had been maintaining part-time hours while being semi-retired, and it allows Blackwell the time to do two very important things to build the practice.
First, Blackwell is working to get the practice into the 21st century technology-wise. But by maintaining Banwell’s hours for the time being, it shouldn’t be a problem for Blackwell. That’s because before he became a dentist, Blackwell received a B.S. in computer science from University of Pennsylvania.
Behind the scenes, Blackwell has been working on converting x-ray machines from film to digital and networking the office so patient records are accessible from room to room. Then Blackwell will launch a website for the practice and work on gaining more exposure via digital and traditional media.
Second, once the office technology is up to speed, Blackwell plans to establish full-time practice hours, hire additional staff, and grow the number of patients his practice cares for.
Why Did Andrew Blackwell Become a Dentist?
Blackwell was ROTC at Penn and served in the U.S. Navy from 2000 to 2006. After leaving the Navy, he went to work for a defense contractor doing networking. But he said he wasn’t really enjoying it and didn’t see himself doing it for 30 years.
Blackwell looked at medicine and dentistry and chose dentistry for the work-life balance.
“It offered a nice combo of being own boss, working with my hands, and 1-on-1 patient interaction where I can take as much time as I need,” Blackwell said. “The models for insurance quite difference. Medicine is clock-based.”
Dental insurance is a touchy subject, Blackwell said. He’s discovered than in this area, a lot of people do not have it. Those who do, for the most part, either work for a municipality or a school system.
Banwell only accepted Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and Blackwell will continue to accept that.
Blackwell is in the process of adding Delta Dental, and then I will work on a case by case basis with patients’ other insurance companies.
“We’ll file for anyone, but out of network is tough,” Blackwell said. “They don’t tell us the rates, we can only estimate it.”