Business Helps People Smile

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Lone Tooth owner Jeff Johnston is in the business of helping people smile.

Johnston is the newest member of a small group of people in the area who make dentures for local dentists' offices.

Johnston said he finds his work rewarding because he knows he is helping people even if he doesn't work directly with a patient.

"The only down side is that I don't get to see what it looks like (when people are wearing the dentures)," he said.

Johnston got into the denture business in 1975 when he worked as a delivery driver for a large-scale denture laboratory in Phoenix. He soon moved into to lab work.

Johnston said he learned to make dentures without a formal education -- but as an apprentice, working closely with several longtime denture technicians.

"I believe the best experience for any job is hands-on," he said.

In 1991, Johnston went into business for himself.

He moved to Payson four months ago, following his father's death, to be closer to his mother.

He also wanted to get out of the city.

Johnston said he enjoys his small operation because he's able to provide quality service and build a superior product.

"I believe at a smaller lab, you can do better work than a big lab because it goes through fewer hands," he said.

Johnston said the increasing number of dental restoration procedures, like implants, hasn't hurt the removable-dentures business much. Technological improvements have allowed some dentists to do all their work with expensive computers, software and materials, but Johnston said he doesn't think the electronic age will affect his hands-on profession anytime soon.

There will always be a need for dentures because restorative dental work can be expensive. A full-mouth tooth extraction followed by well-fitting dentures is an affordable alternative.

"I'm pretty well safe with my trade," he said.

Dr. Alex Romberger, a partner at Alpine Family Dentistry, said Johnston frequently delivers orders to the office earlier than planned.

"That's something you can't get mailing things back and forth to Phoenix," Romberger said. "It's very nice to have a personal rapport with him, and that's something I can't do with someone real well on a phone.

"I see (Johnston) as a big asset to the community and I'd like to see him stick around."

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