40 years in Harlingen: Dentist ready for anniversary celebration Friday

HARLINGEN — For most people, going to the dentist isn’t a pleasant experience. It’s often scary, uncomfortable and painful.

During the past 40 years, Dr. Dennis Stoll has done everything he can to provide his patients here in Harlingen with the best service he can.

“I try to put myself in the chair,” he said. “I am the recipient, so how would I want this to be. I tend to wear that a little too much. That is just how I am. You just have to make it as pleasant as you can.”

On Friday, July 7, his patients, friends and family members will honor Stoll’s efforts and years of service to the community during a special anniversary open house from 5 to 7 p.m. at his dental office, 822 E. Harrison.

A good sense of humor and calm nature, it’s easy to see why Stoll has been successful for so long with his own practice.

“This is relationship based,” he said about his office. “I know my folks and they know me. You don’t know things about your patients if you are just turning numbers.”

He still has patients from 1977 and 1981 coming to him and his former employees stay in touch with him and his wife, Peggy.

“That is the most fulfilling, the people,” he said. “If you don’t like people, you don’t belong in this business.”

Stoll came to Harlingen in July of 1977. From Arlington and a graduate of the Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, he moved to the area after his brother did.

He chose Harlingen because he felt it was more “sleepy” and the right place to raise a family, than the other areas of the Rio Grande Valley. He also liked the area’s proximity to the beach.

After receiving a loan from a local bank, Stoll started his business on what he calls “a shoestring.”

Stoll admits, dentists no longer can afford to start their own practice right out of dental school — it’s much too expensive with the new equipment and regulations.

All these years later, he wouldn’t change a thing.

After he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Texas at Arlington, he had a job in his industry as a chemical technician. That’s when he had the opportunity to apply to dental school. They took him along with about 130 others based on the aptitude test. More than 3,000 applied.

“My dentist’s daughter was in my high school class and I would go over there in summers,” Stoll said. “It was something that interested me. I thought it was something I might like to do. The opportunity presented itself and I think it is my destination.”

Along the way, Stoll has also enhanced his knowledge of his field, mainly in cosmetic, sedation dentistry and temporomandibular joint disorder. Technology has changed his industry immensely, from crown materials to implants.

Despite the technology change, one of his main goals every day seems to be quite simple — to be on time with each appointment.

“It is not uncommon to not run on time,” Stoll said about the medical industry. “That is my big stress and my folks expect us to be on time. Their time is as valuable as mine is. How can you run two hours behind consistently and make them feel their time is worthwhile? If you can run two hours behind consistently, you can run on time consistently.”

While dentistry has been a huge part of his life, Stoll and his brother also had a stint at fame back in the mid-1980s. The pair traveled around the country sailing for a couple years in an effort to qualify for the Olympics in sailing. They finished in eighth at the trials in the two-man single hull racing boats.

“I was interested to learn how to sail before I got here,” Stoll said. “When I got down here, I bought a boat and taught myself how to sail. Then, we got into our first race and won it. When you get a silver plate, you become hooked.”

Time away from family and the business sent him back to Harlingen and also made him realize how much he enjoyed living in the RGV. That has not changed since.

Although the word retirement has been bantered around lately, Stoll is unsure of that happening soon.

“Honestly, I don’t know what I would do if I did retire,” he said. “I don’t have the hunting, fishing, and golfing hobbies. I like to cook and do yard work. I don’t know what I would do without waking up to something in front of me.”

He considers this anniversary event as his wife’s “doing.”

The Harlingen Chamber of Commerce is expected to be in attendance as well as local political leaders.

“If it were up to me, I would duck this whole issue,” he said about the 40th anniversary. “It is not a revelation as much as it is a next step. Not sure if there will be a 50th.”

You never know.

You probably didn’t know

Longtime Harlingen dentist Dennis W. Stoll is probably the only person in the Valley, maybe even in Texas, to say he’s performed a root canal on a mountain lion.

Yes, it is true.

The owners and handlers of the big cat were afraid its large teeth would cause injuries. So, Stoll was asked to help. Although they wanted him to just take out the four main teeth, that wasn’t possible because the mountain lion’s face would cave in without them.

So they came up with another idea to solve the problem.

During that procedure, the cat was incapacitated due to being tranquilized, but it was awake, Stoll said.

He performed the root canal despite the attention on him.

“That cat was looking at me the whole time,” Stoll laughed.