Story and photo by Mollie Bailey
Cedar Creek Dental puts dental phobias to sleep.
Heading to the dentist is hardly a relaxing experience, and up to 15 percent of Americans have so much anxiety about seeing the dentist they won’t go—even if they’re long overdue or in pain. But a trip to Dr. Alexis Mierzwa DDS’s Cedar Creek Dental in Winchester isn’t like heading in for an average evaluation. She and her team are extremely sensitive to patients’ phobias and go out of their way to make each visit a positive one.
Mierzwa remembered a recent patient who had been putting off a trip to the dentist thanks to fear after a bad experience. When she finally got up the courage to come in the door she was crying before she even checked in.
“She was crying just to have her evaluation; she wasn’t even getting work done,” said Mierzwa, 41. “Our team talked her through it and got her to come back and get some treatment. We did sedation for first treatment. When she came back for a follow up there were no tears, no sedation. It was amazing that we were able to make that transformation. That’s what we do best here, and it’s amazing every time I see it.”
The team at Cedar Creek Dental, which includes associate dentist Dr. Hassan Farooq and an experienced group of assistants and hygienists, works exceptionally well together thanks to regular team building excursions, frequent training sessions and daily morning meetings to review the day’s plans. “Without your team you’re nothing,” said Mierzwa. “Everyone goes out of the way to help each other. Everyone has specific roles but also can crossover, so if something can get done someone can jump in. We try to live up to our slogan: ‘redefining your dental experience.’”
In addition to experienced, cohesive staff who take their time with patients, there’s a relaxed atmosphere throughout the place. The office décor reflects Mierzwa’s equestrian pursuits, with artistic photos of horses and a wooden tack trunk in the hall. The patient chairs have gentle massagers built in, and Mierzwa goes by “Dr. Alexis” both to help patients with her tough last name, and to put them at ease.
There’s a four-legged team member as well: certified therapy dog George Washington. Mierzwa adopted George Washington, a Brazilian Mastiff, when he was six months old from The Middleburg Humane Foundation. “It really changes the feel of the place,” said Mierzwa. “When he puts his working vest and leash on he knows it’s time to look out for patients. He’ll put his head on their laps or near them while we’re doing treatment, which really helps some people.
“When I first got him he was afraid of everything,” she continued. “He was skittish and nervous, and he went through a lot of training and socialization to mature into a mellow, sweet dog. He used to be scared of everything, and now he’s able to give back, helping dental patients with their phobias.”
Mierzwa grew up obsessed with animals, developing a tremendous work ethic as a working student for a top horse show barn in her native Buffalo, New York. As a teenager she traveled up and down the East Coast competing at hunter/jumper shows, and she paid for it with long hours spent scrubbing buckets, cleaning tack and helping to care for others’ horses. That grit propelled her through dental school at University of Buffalo (New York) and inspired her to do an elective year of residency in Los Angeles, where she focused on oral surgery, pediatric dentistry and treatment for medically compromised patients at MLK Hospital, where she was recognized as resident of the year. She started practicing in 2005 and opened Cedar Creek Dental in 2015.
These days she offers a wide range of services, including preventative care, oral surgery, orthodontic services and cosmetic dentistry.
When she’s not at work she’s with her three dogs or on a horse. She’s just started leasing an adult amateur jumper, with the goal of qualifying for the Pennsylvania National and the Washington International Horse Show (District of Columbia). ML
This article first appeared in the August 2018 Issue