By Conrad Dudderar
After nearly 50 years in practice, Dr. David Deason estimates he’s seen literally “hundreds of thousands” of Yukon teeth – up close – during his dental career.
Deason retired last week after 49 years and 3 months. He’s decided the time is right to hang up his magnification loop, sickle probe, dental pick, and mouth mirror.
“Dentistry has been a great profession … it’s been a love affair!” he declared.
Deason started in 1974 at an office in Town Plaza (now Old Mill) Shopping Center at 3rd and Elm, accepting an invitation to join Dr. Dale Watson.
He opened his practice just as Yukon began experiencing a growth spurt.
“When I started here, Canadian County was a dental shortage area,” Deason recalled. “That helped us get on our feet.
“We just watched the growth – from 5,000 population to what it is now.”
His patient base grew naturally.
The latest Canadian County population estimates surpass 160,000, with well over half living in the 73099 zip code.
In 1978, Deason moved the dental practice to his brand-new office building on the north side of Main Street just east of Ranchwood.
That’s where he’s been ever since.
“I’m still seeing patients I saw in 1974,” Deason said during his last week in Yukon. “We’re into third, and in some cases, fourth generations of families.
“When you’ve been around as long as we have, patients become family. We’ve shed a lot of tears in that hallway as people are leaving (for the last time). It’s like losing your family. That’s the way we built our practice – on word-of-mouth referral.”
Dr. Deason credits wife Barbara with helping him decide to set roots in Yukon and build a successful dental practice.
“Barbara helped put food on the table,” the retiring dentist said. “It wasn’t just me – it was us.
“Barbara helped me start the practice, and she worked for me a lot through the years off and on. Without her, there’s no way I could have built the practice.”
The couple started dating in high school and were married on June 1, 1968. They recently celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary.
AN EARLY CAREER CHOICE
Deason grew up on a farm by Fort Cobb Lake in Caddo County.
When he was 9, David had a toothache and so he went to a dentist in Anadarko who advised him he had no choice but to pull his front tooth.
David told his dad he didn’t want his tooth pulled so they went to see a very progressive dentist in Oklahoma City who offered a better option.
It was that dentist, Jerry Lucas, who got him thinking about becoming a dentist himself.
Active in FFA growing up, Deason had done a lot of public speaking, so he thought about becoming a lawyer.
Very interested in science, the young Deason also was considering working in the medical field.
“I actually decided when I was in eighth grade that I was going to be a dentist,” he shared.
Deason graduated in 1966 from Oney High School in Albert, Okla.
During his freshman year at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, he was the state FFA president – traveling over 20,000 miles across Oklahoma.
Deason obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in physiology in 1970 from OSU, then earned his DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) in 1974 from Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.
Deason could have joined Dr. Lucas’ practice in Oklahoma City after finishing dental school, but instead looked to open his own practice. He visited Shawnee, Edmond, El Reno, and Norman – then came to Yukon as his last stop.
Deason went to the Yukon Chamber of Commerce to ask for a dentist and was directed to Dr. Watson, whose office was nearby in Town Plaza.
Watson told Deason he had plenty of room in his office to bring in a new dentist.
That new dentist could have his own practice and the two would share the rent and receptionist’s salary. Yet there was a caveat.
“It sounded good to me, and then he said, ‘But, it would have to be somebody that likes to hunt fish and play golf’,” Deason related. “I told him, ‘Well, you got me on all three’.”
Watson and Deason would go on to attend many dental conventions together, also frequently playing golf and going fishing.
While staying busy with his longtime practice, Deason was a member of the Yukon Rotary Club and Yukon Chamber of Commerce.
CHILDREN’S DENTAL HEALTH MONTH
Dr. Deason was instrumental in starting Children’s Dental Health Week – later Children’s Dental Health Month – in Yukon. Deason and other dental professionals visited elementary school classrooms each February for 45 years, sharing a much-anticipated message about proper dental hygiene.
“When I was in dental school, our senior class went to some of the schools and I thought that was kind of cool,” he fondly recalled.
So, in early 1975, Deason contacted Christine Sorrels with the Helping Hands’ office about starting a program in Yukon Public Schools.
That February was the inaugural Children’s Dental Health observance – in YPS third grade classrooms.
That’s because Crest had a program that provided free toothbrush kits to third graders.
Children’s Dental Health Week started with four Yukon dentists visiting about 90 students.
“All of them jumped on board,” said Deason, referring to his fellow dentists James Limestall, Gary Britton and Watson.
Around 1980, the Crest program changed its target audience from third grade to first grade. The next year, Yukon’s dentists added Piedmont schools to their visitation schedule.
These annual dental health school visits continued until 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly halted the annual tradition.
Ultimately, about 20 dentists, orthodontists and oral surgeons were counted on to participate each February.
“Between Yukon and Piedmont, we probably saw about 1,400 students that last year,” Deason noted. “Through the 45 years, I figure there were more than 30,000 kids we reached.”
Also working with Sorrels, Deason kicked off the Give Kids a Smile program around 1985 to provide dental services at no charge to children of families in need. Other local dental professionals joined in this charitable effort.
“During Children’s Dental Health Month, we opened our offices half a day to see kids for free,” Deason said. “After a couple years, we began seeing them ‘as needed’. Many of these kids we kept as patients.
“Over the 30-plus years of that program, well over a quarter million dollars of (dental) work was done for free by the orthodontists, oral surgeons and dentists in town.”
The success of school program would not have been possible without the help and dedication of all of the Yukon dentists and Yukon Helping Hands’ department.
THE RIGHT TIMING
Three years ago, Deason was approached by Bethany dentist Dr. Mark Balenseifen about selling his Yukon dental practice. The deal was finalized July 1, 2021.
“Since then, I’ve worked two days a week for him,” said Deason, noting his patients will remain in “good hands” with Balenseifen.
David and Barbara Deason will be moving from Yukon to a new home they built south of Madill on Sanders Island View at Lake Texoma.
Dr. Deason’s charitable dentistry will continue there – even in retirement.
“I’ll keep my license active,” he pointed out. “The Oklahoma Dental Foundation has some mobile vans that go to needy areas. I know they hit Madill and Kingston both.”
He’ll also help with his son’s boat rental business at the lake while leaving plenty of free time for golfing and fishing.
When asked why he didn’t wait until reaching 50 years before retiring, Deason retorted, “I couldn’t find anybody to buy me a gold watch.
“No, really, the timing was just right.”