Dentistry in a Historical Setting
place was once a main Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe
railhead along the Old Chisholm Trail," notes Joe
W. Potter, D.D.S. "It was the first organized community
in Dallas County. Back then, Cedar Hill was a flourishing
center for commercial activity and was positioned to
be the county seat. But in 1856, a cyclone hit and wiped
out pretty much the whole place." That little twist
of fate changed the destiny of Cedar Hill, Texas, forever.
Cedar Hill is relatively peaceful, although its historic
storefronts could tell a Texas-sized tale if they could
only talk. No matter: Dr. Potter is well-qualified to
tell their story. The Potter family has roots in Cedar
Hill that go almost as far back as the town itself.
In the mid-1800s, when settlers were still troubled
by prairie wildfires, cattle rustlers and the occasional
Indian uprising, his great-grandfather set up shop in
the apothecary on the corner. A generation later, his
grandfather and grandmother opened the town's grocery.
Potter has become a familiar face in Cedar Hill. After
graduating from Baylor Dental College in 1973, he joined
a three-chair Cedar Hill dental practice located in
the old bank building and worked part-time in Baylor's
Crown and Bridge Department. The historic bank was once
robbed by a member of Bonnie and Clyde's notorious gang.
"The building had been renovated and used as office
space, but the original bank vault was still there,"
he points out. He established his own practice in Cedar
Hill in 1976.
his practice relocated to a new freestanding facility
in 2002, Dr. Potter's appreciation for history and his
family's role in the early days of Cedar Hill hasn't
changed. Dr. Potter chose Brian Lamar Custom Homes to
build his new office. The new building has a Hill Country
look featuring Austin stone, and harmonizes beautifully
with its Old Town setting in Cedar Hill's Historical
Corridor. Inside, the soaring ceilings and sunlit space
give the office an open, modern feel, while exposed
wooden beams and natural stone carry the comfortable
Hill Country style indoors. The walls are decorated
with relics of the Potter family's past, including antiques,
phone books with three-digit phone numbers, an actual
teller window salvaged from the old bank building and
fascinating old photographs that offer a unique glimpse
into the lives of early residents.
Patten & Associates served as architects on the
project, and patterson Dental designed the office interior.
Dr. Potter's wife, Sylvia, who is a Realtor with the
Reiswig Group (www.DFWProperties.net) , worked closely
with designers to help select the colors and furnishings
for the new office. The building project was recently
honored with the Cedar Hill Beautification Committee's
Award for Commercial Property of the Month.
Potter points out another interesting fact about the
historic site -- Cedar Hill was named for its Eastern
red cedars and its location at the highest point between
the Red River and the Gulf Coast. Settlers who migrated
south from the Midwest favored the site because its
elevation kept it consistently a few degrees cooler
than other parts of North Texas. "This is the highest
dental office in Dallas County,"he notes. "We
are at an elevation of 750 feet and, on a clear day,
we can see downtown Dallas from here."
the most passionate history buffs would probably name
dentistry as one profession that has been greatly improved
by time and technology. In this respect, Dr. Potter
is thrilled to leave the bygone days behind and offer
his patients the benefits of those advances. Although
from the outside Dr. Potter's new office looks right
at home in a historic setting, the antiques and memorabilia
that decorate the interior share a space with an arsenal
of the most advanced dental equipment and techniques.
"I wanted the building to reflect the rich history
of the area, but I also wanted it to include the most
modern dental equipment available," Dr. Potter
points out. "My decision to invest in a new building
was an expression of my ongoing enthusiasm for my profession.
Practicing dentistry is the fulfillment of a dream that
began when I was 12, and I have always found it very
rewarding. I am excited by the potential of technological
advances, and I want my patients to have access to the
best dental techniques and procedures."
Potter uses all-digital radiography, which captures
radiographic images faster and with less radiation exposure
than traditional systems. He also uses intraoral cameras
that let patients see close-up what he sees and foster
helpful dialogue about treatment. Drill-less air abrasion
technology allows him to treat areas of decay and chipped
teeth microscopically, and the sophisticated Diagnodent
laser allows him to scan teeth for decay in its earliest
stages. His patients also love the results they see
after treatment with the latest smile-dazzling Zoom
level of respect and trust that Dr. Potter's patients
feel has led them to call upon him in some extraordinary
situations. One long-time patient, who happened to be
the curator of mammals at the Dallas Zoo, shared a love
for animals with Dr. Potter. When the Zoo needed a dentist
to take a look at their five magnificent orangutans,
the curator thought of Dr. Potter. "I got a call
asking if I would take a look at the orangutans,"
Dr. Potter remembers. "They are awesome, magnificent
animals, and I was honored to be asked to care for them.
Orangutans have tremendously strong arms, built to swing
through the trees in the rain forest. They actually
measure nine feet from fingertip to fingertip. Unfortunately,
their diet in captivity is not quite the same as it
is in the wild, and the old male needed nine extractions."
time, Dr. Potter was asked to clean the teeth of a tiger
at the Zoo. He recalls, "These big cats weigh upwards
of 400 pounds. It was an incredible experience to have
my hands in his mouth. Since tigers in the wild keep
their teeth clean by gnawing the flesh from the bones
of their prey, and these tigers are fed only prepared
cuts of meat, the tiger was in dire need of a thorough
cleaning. It took a while and as the cat began to awaken,
he growled a little. I finished quickly, and didn't
realize until I stood up that the gentleman who had
been standing behind me throughout the procedure was
armed with a rifle, just in case."
a little imagination and some inspiration from the photos
on the wall in Dr. Potter's office, one can almost see
the bustling little town of Cedar Hill a century ago,
filled with thirsty cowboys and settlers riding in for
supplies. Although the destiny of the town has taken
some twists and turns, there is still a member of the
Potter family there, waiting with a friendly word and
taking the best possible care of each and every client
that walks through the door. Great-Grandpa Potter probably
wouldn't be at all surprised. (By Tina