Extra Smiles on Main Street

A new downtown business combines dentistry with the comforts of a spa.

A visit to the dentist typically ranks right up there with trips to the principal's office and traffic court among our Dreaded Dates on the Calendar. Sharp tools, loud drills, and the inability to hold up our end of the conversation are enough to make two dentist appointments a year (if we're lucky) plenty for those of us outside the masochist set.

To the rescue, it appears, is Dr. Jodi Rump and her new downtown practice, Main Street Dental (MSD). Consider a typical MSD appointment:

After you've enjoyed an espresso in MSD's sunlit reception area, you enter one of four exam rooms and recline softly into a massaging chair. Yes, a massaging chair. You rest your head back and look up into the smiling face of . . . Shrek. With a flat-screen television dangling from the ceiling of each room — and a library of current and classic movies on DVD — Dr. Rump's patients can fill the conversational void with a few unintelligible Hollywood chuckles. This is not, by a long stretch, your grandma's dentist office.

Located in the Main Street Flats building (along with 48 apartments), MSD occupies what was originally the A.S. Barboro grocery store. Rump estimates that the renovation — and, importantly, the "greening" — of the facility, combined with bonus features like the flat screens and wireless technology, made up $400,000 of her $700,000 in start-up costs. (Among MSD's eco-friendly twists are the use of recycled wood for its wall dividers and hand towels in the restroom.)

The creature comforts actually have nothing on the techno-wizardry at MSD, equipment that would make Buck Rogers proud. An intra-oral camera can take a picture of a specific ailing tooth and instantly display the image on a computer screen for both dentist and patient to examine. A laser diode allows Rump to cut soft tissue with considerably less bleeding than a conventional dental blade. And a panoramic camera takes the digital equivalent of an X-ray of your entire jaw, minus the film (one more eco-bonus), and uses less radiation than your typical microwave oven.

Having opened last February with a total staff of four, Rump was pleased to count 400 patients by mid-July, with an estimated 80 new patients in July alone. (An average dental practice has between 2,000 and 2,500 patients.) Despite all the bonus attractions, Rump has kept her fees to what she describes as the national average. "You can always find a deal somewhere," she warns, "but you get what you pay for with dental care."

A 1992 graduate of Germantown High School (later, Christian Brothers University and UT Dental School), Rump identified what she considered a scarcity in downtown dental practices and left an associate's position in Germantown to join the ongoing renaissance that is downtown Memphis. She's found her practice to fit comfortably amid the rising condos, art studios, and restaurants.

"One of my recent patients asked me about good Thai food," she reflects, "and I told him there's a great Thai restaurant right around the corner. He came back a little later and said, 'Even with a numb tongue, that was great.'"

Trained in cosmetic as well as general dentistry, Rump takes pride in finding creative solutions to improving a patient's smile. With what she calls the "latest and greatest" technology at her fingertips, Rump can do modern magic with what might otherwise be considered hopeless cases. Gotta wonder how she might help that famous green ogre. 

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