Photos by Libby Rogers
Did you know the toothbrush was invented in Willis? It really wasn’t, but that’s a little joke Dr. Gayle Fletcher loves to share with his patients. “If it were invented somewhere else, it would have been called the teethbrush!” he continues, with a grin and a little twinkle in his eye.
Dr. Fletcher may joke about being a small-town dentist, but he has actually practiced dentistry around the world, and the state-of-the-art techniques and tools he uses to help his patients are far from a laughing matter. To him and his staff, the name of his dental practice “Patient-First” isn’t just a marketing ploy. Truly listening to his patients and addressing their dental needs in the best way possible is something he is very serious about.
“Everyone will tell you the patient is important, but we feel the patients come before anything else,” Dr. Fletcher said. “They place their trust in us to provide the same level of care we would want for ourselves, and we understand that trust must be earned every visit.”
As a result of this commitment, Patient-First has thrived as one of the top dental offices in the Conroe/Willis area for 17 years and has more than two hundred five-star reviews online from patients who describe Dr. Fletcher and his staff as professional, kind, friendly, and helpful. Many describe the Patient-First’s ability to help them overcome their fear of dentists. One reviewer even compares Dr. Fletcher to Maverick in the movie Top Gun, noting the dentist’s military service, and says her kids can’t wait to come back because “Fletch is COOL.”
Cool factor aside, Dr. Fletcher’s military experience in the U.S. Navy and as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army gave him an opportunity to help a wide range of people with his dentistry. After completing his residency at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1992, he traveled around Europe for three years with the Army, serving military troops and their families via a mobile dentistry practice.
In 2002, Dr. Fletcher opened his own practice in Willis, expanding his service area to Huntsville, New Waverly, and Coldspring. Patient-First moved to its current location on League Line Road in Conroe in 2017.
Patient-First is a full-service dental clinic offering a wide array of services from teeth cleaning and fillings to periodontal work and orthodontics—treating everything except broken jaws and cancer. There are several specific aspects of dentistry that Dr. Fletcher is passionate about, though. One of those is called bioesthetic dentistry.
“We look to nature and ask what is proper with biology and physiology; because if I try to do something different than that, it’s not right,” Dr. Fletcher said. “An example is the Hollywood smile, which is white and flat straight across the front. That’s something someone came up with. It wasn’t Mother Nature’s idea. When I do my rehabilitation on patients, I want them to look like that model on Teen magazine—with that big, beautiful, natural smile.”
Dr. Fletcher explained that if you ask most dentists, they will say (tooth) wear is normal, but he disagrees. “I will tell you that excessive wear is not normal. The only time in normal function that you touch your teeth together is when you swallow,” he said. “You have to look at what’s causing the grinding. So I spent about three and a half years studying the function of the jaw so I can properly diagnose the problem and determine the right solution to address the issue.”
Dr. Fletcher is also excited about a new dental program he has been using since 2005 to tackle both tooth decay and gum disease: Perio Protect. This unique product gives patients the ability to fight bacteria under the gum line by using specially fitted trays that hold hydrogen peroxide on the teeth and gums for 10 minutes. “Perio Protect is extremely effective in helping patients minimize further loss of teeth due to gum and bone disease as well as cavities. I actually think Perio Protect may eventually replace the toothbrush. It is that effective,” he said, adding that he does not get any incentives from the company that makes Perio Protect, other than happy patients.
Another unique offering of Patient-First, which is detailed on the dental clinic’s website, is its dental warranty. Dr. Fletcher is a certified Dental Warranty Corp. dental practice and actually provides the 6-year warranty to customers free of charge. All patients need to do is to follow the dentist’s prescribed follow-up regimen and any damage to dental work is covered fully by the warranty, guaranteeing peace of mind that their new smiles will continue to last.
As popular as Patient-First is in the Piney Woods and Lake Conroe areas, Dr. Fletcher’s commitment to the community’s oral health is not limited to Texas. At least four times a year, he travels to Central America on charitable dental mission trips, where he provides dental services for the local population while training doctors in surgical tooth extractions. Dr. Fletcher is also working with a periodontal specialist from Chile and a laboratory technician from New Mexico on developing a company called International Focus on Healing, which will provide hands-on teaching for a variety of dental subspecialties from implants to sinus lifts and grafting techniques. “And see, you thought I was just a young lad from the back woods of Panorama!” Dr. Fletcher jokes.
As accomplished and well-traveled as he is, though, the dentist’s Texas hospitality does shine through wherever he goes. Not only does he greet all his patients in his Conroe office with a warm smile, he leaves all the doctors he trains in Central America with a special gift that reflects his name: a hand-crafted arrow made into a desk pen. “I am a fletcher, which is an arrow maker. When I teach, I always talk about how each new idea, rather than calling it a pearl of wisdom, is another arrow they can add to their quiver,” Dr. Fletcher explained. “What I do is I make these combination arrow-pens, and every one of the doctors who comes to my course down in Central America gets one.”
Here at home, Dr. Fletcher is joined at the dental practice by his wife Angela, who manages the human resources for the clinic. In addition, Patient-First has two dental assistants, one oral hygienist, a patient care coordinator, and a financial coordinator.
Patient-First is located at 1336 League Line Rd, Suite 400, Conroe, Texas 77304. It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursdays. Friday appointments are available upon request. For more information on Patient-First Dental Care, visit patientfirstdental.net or call 936-856-9969.