Most people believe that attractive, pearly white teeth make someone look more intelligent, compassionate and interesting. Meet a general-practice dentist who helps his patients to maintain that brilliant smile.
A picture-perfect smile can make all the difference on a first impression. According to studies done by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, a majority of Americans believe straight, attractive pearly whites can make a person seem more intelligent, compassionate and interesting. This is why the team at Dr. Ongena’s Highcrest Dental, 1646 N. Alpine Road, Rockford, works hard to create the impressive smiles patients cannot wait to share.
“At Highcrest Dental, we have a full-service general practice and see all ages, from toddlers to seniors,” says Dr. James Ongena, DDS. “My focus, though, has primarily been on the baby boomer population and cosmetic procedures, including porcelain veneers, implant surgery and missing teeth restoration.”
Recently, it has become common for people to upgrade previous cosmetic work done years ago, says Ongena. He just completed a procedure of this type for his wife, Lori, who was featured in the June issue of “Dentistry Today,” a national trade magazine.
After relocating to Highcrest Dental in the early 2000s, Ongena gathered together a passionate team of professionals with more than 30 years of experience to serve the greater Rockford area. The practice offers comprehensive dental care for families and patients of all ages. With a broad base of experience, the staff’s goal is to find each patient’s “best” solution through state-of-the-art practices and equipment, including Zoom Whitening, digital imaging and intra-oral cameras.
“The advances in technology have allowed us to do surgery with three-dimensional images and successfully place implants millimeters away from delicate tissues,” says Ongena. “Our laser-guided CAD/CAM systems can mill crowns and bridges in our own lab. We use one type of laser to detect tooth decay, at a very early stage, and another type of laser therapy to treat gum disease.”
The demand for stabilizing ill-fitting dentures with implants has exploded in recent years, says Ongena, and it can be one of the most rewarding procedures for the Highcrest Dental team to provide.
“That can be a life-changing fix for people with dentures,” he says. “If they don’t fit correctly, you are constantly on guard every time you speak, laugh, sneeze or cough. With as few as two implants, dentures can be stabilized in a variety of ways to eliminate that insecurity.”
Whether it’s seeing patients for routine checkups or performing emergency care after falling off playground monkey bars, Ongena says he and his team take pride in going above and beyond, when serving their patients.
“One of our strongest advantages is that we offer a one-stop shop for our patients. Although we offer to refer to a specialist, patients can choose to stay under one roof,” Ongena says. “We can provide for all areas of care, whether it’s a root canal, implant surgery, oral surgery or cosmetic procedures. Our patients have the option to stay here and get everything taken care of, which is especially important for implants. We can do the entire procedure from start to finish, and there are no surprises.”
This hands-on method comes from Ongena’s years of hospital training in providing dental care for handicapped and medical-risk patients. After completing his degree from Loyola University School of Dentistry and receiving additional training at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, the Rockford native developed a program with SwedishAmerican Hospital for mentally and physically handicapped patients who need dental procedures done in the operating room.
“At that time, I was driving into Chicago from Rockford every Friday to see kids in the operating room at Illinois Masonic. One morning, after waking up at 4 a.m. and getting into surgery at 7 a.m., I asked, ‘Where is this patient from?’ and they said Rockford. Well, that didn’t make much sense,” says Ongena. “So I presented the idea to create a local program here in town to SwedishAmerican and they wanted to help.”
Ongena designed mobile dental equipment for easy transportation in and out of hospital operating rooms. Through the partnership with SwedishAmerican, the dental service grew to cover the ER and hospitalized patients with dental pain. Ongena joined the Rockford Ambulatory Surgery Center to provide outpatient surgery as well. He continued working with both organizations, reserving Wednesdays and Fridays for appointments outside his private practice.
“I always felt that Rockford was an amazing place to live,” says Ongena. “When I moved back after school and training, it was ideal because it’s so close to Chicago, Milwaukee and O’Hare for traveling. But now Rockford itself has a lot more going on.”
Still, Ongena looks for ways to serve beyond the city. Over the years, he has traveled to the Dominican Republic on multiple mission trips to provide dental care in remote areas. The experience has inspired him to want to find more opportunities to help patients, whether through organizations like Operation Smile or on his own.
“I used to have an airplane and I always wanted to use the airplane to visit remote areas and provide dental care,” he says. “It’s yet to materialize, but if it ever did, I’d be all for it.”