After half a century of dentistry, one thing remains constant for Dr. Jim Sweet: “When people come to visit, they aren’t like family, they ARE family.”

Sweet became a Michigan Avenue dentist immediately after graduation from Northwestern University. “Stops lights brought me to Marengo,” he said. In 1968 colleague asked him if he’d like to buy a practice in Marengo. “I’m one of those people who don’t like change,” Sweet gave the reason he stayed. “I’m married to the same woman and live in the same house since I moved to Marengo. His practice started on second floor of the old Lindsay’s Drug Store on 104 state street. It had been a dentist office for 100 years. “Lindsay’s had a real soda fountain.”

Sweet and his wife, Carol soon came to love the small town and countryside. Six years later he moved into third floor of Marengo State Bank building. He and his wife, Carol, raised a daughter and two sons in Marengo. Their daughter, Beth Peters is Dr. Sweet’s dental hygienist, and their son, Jay Sweet recently moved his Sweet Dental Lab headquarters from Barrington to Marengo. “Carol is my office supervisor, general expediter, and whip-cracker,” said Sweet. Sami Wilkening works chairside, Nancy Silverman manages the front office, and Sophie Knox and Nick Peters work in the sterilization room.

On his first day of dental school, Dean George Toscher, said “your academic half-life is about 8 years, after that it will half and half and half during your career.” Sweet agrees that technology changes dentistry and continuing education is an imperative. “Nowadays there’s so much information that students must absorb, they can’t get it all in four years of dental school, he said. “Now they have to have an additional year in a preceptorship or internship.”

For Dr. Sweet, an interesting aspect of running a dental practice is how dentists charge for their services. “A lot of dentists at the beginning of my practice said not to charge more than $10 for any filling,” he explained. So instead of filling, for example, three tooth surfaces that needed filling, a dentist would fill one surface for $10, followed by scheduling two additional visits. “In most places a three-surface filling was around $15,” Dr. Sweet explained, “In Marengo people expected cheap dental appointments, so dentists scheduled more than one sitting. I charged more per sitting, but got it all done in one visit.

In his early years of practice, people didn’t want their teeth cleaned. Didn’t understand the importance of periodontal maintenance. “People were not aware of gum disease. They thought cleaning teeth was a waste of money,” said Sweet. “Actually, we lose a little bit of money.” Good periodontal care costs less than restorative care.

Sweet became very active in the Dental Society of McHenry County and served on the Illinois State Health Society communication committee. Sweet became instrumental in identifying why people avoided the dentist. “It was a melding of fear, embarrassment, and shame,” He explained. “Patients are often ashamed because they let their mouth get into a bad condition.” With Sweet, the Dental Society created a program that was a counter-barrier program, based on patience confidence in modern dentistry and that ensured the patient would be treated with respect, be in control of his care, and most of all, the program would help confidence. “The campaign focused on how the patent would feel when treatment was complete.”

Sweet loves his home town and shows it by his community involvement. He was the Zoning Chairman for 20 years. He helped rewrite ordinances and make a new zoning map, which laid the groundwork for an historic preservation ordinance and eliminated “spot zoning.” According to Sweet, Marengo had lost in court a suit where a judge found zoning to be arbitrary and capricious. The zoning must be consistent with 5th amendment rights to property. While on the zoning board Sweet worked closely with several mayors. He said that Dorothy Otis, and Don Hubbs should both be in the Marengo Hall of Fame for their community contribution. The same can be said of Dr. Jim Sweet.


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