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After 50 years in dentistry, North Fork dentist bids farewell

Dr. David Pascoe received more than a root canal when, at about the age of 14, he broke a front tooth during an “argument” with a cricket ball in his native England. Out of that experience, he gained an appreciation for a profession.

“That’s when I found out that dentistry was a lot more than drill and fill,” he said.

Dr. Pascoe’s 50 years as a prosthodontist specializing in cosmetic dentistry came to an end last week with his retirement. His official final day at his Southold practice was last Thursday, when friends stopped by to wish the Cutchogue man farewell.

Dr. Pascoe, 72, in a 60-minute phone interview, said he is leaving at the top of his game, just the way he wants it.

“At the moment, I’m doing some of the best dentistry I think I’ve ever done,” he said the day before his retirement took effect.

Dr. Pascoe and his wife, Bonnie, set up the practice in Southold in 1982. “That has been our lives ever since, and I honestly think I put about 10 years on my life by coming out here,” he said.

Born in Portsmouth on England’s southern coast, Dr. Pascoe graduated Guys Hospital in London. In 1971 he moved to the United States for freshman training at Indianapolis Medical Center. It was in Indiana where he met his wife. They got married in 1972 and had the first of their two children.

Dr. Pascoe said that after meeting his future wife, the thought occurred to him that he might be able to get his master’s thesis typed for free. “As the story goes, I’ve been paying for it ever since,” he joked.

In addition to earning a master’s degree in material science at Indiana University, Dr. Pascoe was also on the faculty at Stony Brook University and graduated out of that school’s first dental class.

Dr. Pascoe had practices in Manhattan and Melville before the North Fork’s appeal brought him to Southold.

If not for his wife, who worked as his office manager, Dr. Pascoe said he would not have been able to have the sort of professional longevity that he did. “She has just been such an integral part of it,” he said. “That support behind you means you can keep looking forward, you can keep moving forward.”

What was the secret for this husband-wife work team?
Well, for one thing, they had a rule: No dentistry talk after 5 p.m.

“It’s not meant for everyone,” Ms. Pascoe said of the work partnership. “David and I are very close and it just kind of clicked … It either works or it doesn’t work.”

By the late 1990s, Dr. Pascoe’s office was completely computerized. The digital revolution over the past 30 years or so has changed dentistry, with 3D imaging, digital photography, changes in ceramics.

“The accuracy, the precision which stuff is made now, it’s transformative,” said Dr. Pascoe. Because of these technological advances, he said, dentistry should be painless.

Having an engaging personality helps make patients comfortable and relaxed, along with the light classical music that played in Dr. Pascoe’s office. And that leads to trust.

“It is foundational,” Dr. Pascoe said. “I used to kid around with people, right, and say, ‘Listen, I drill holes in people’s heads for a living.’ The real truth behind that comment is a lot of professional people, a lot of attractive women trusted me enough to take their heads apart. You don’t just develop that trust by putting an ad in the local paper with a coupon. It’s something which develops over a period of time.”

Dr. Pascoe said his “patient-centric dentistry” has treated generations of family members. Now the practice has been taken over by Dr. John Albano of Peconic, who has received Dr. Pascoe’s seal of approval. In fact, Dr. Pascoe has put his mouth where his mouth is, literally, and has had Dr. Albano work on him.

Hygienist Karen Chase and assistant Denise Mahon have remained with the practice.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Dr. Albano, 52, who took over his father’s practice 25 years ago in Brooklyn and still has a dental presence in Brooklyn and Manhattan. His wife, Sue, is a prosthodontist and has a dental practice in Greenport. They met in dental school at Rutgers University.

Dr. Pascoe said he has “very mixed emotions” about leaving the practice. He said the relationships he built with his patients have been a big part of his life.

What will he miss most?

“The people,” he said. “The people out here have just been wonderful.”