There’s something comforting about a man who likes what he does – and comfort is exactly what most of us need when it’s time to go to the dentist.
“I love what I do, I really do,” says Dr. John “Jay” Allen, a dentist affiliated with Lawrence + Memorial Hospital for the last 30 years.
“I love what I do because I make people healthier,” he says. “And I think I’m pretty good at keeping people at ease. Nobody wants to go to the dentist, but I try to keep people happy here.”
“At the end of the day,” he adds, “I usually feel as though I’ve done a lot of good things.”
Dr. Allen not only has done many good things for his patients – he’s helped the hospital, too, serving on a variety of important committees over the decades, and, for the past eight years, serving as a member of the L+M Board of Directors.
“It’s a great honor to be asked to serve on the board,” he says. “Even though I’m on the medical staff, I’m not serving as a member of the medical staff. I’m really serving as a community member, and to be asked to do that is a great honor. I’ve served on other important boards in the community, but this, I feel, really touches everybody’s lives. That’s the thing about the hospital – everybody in the area needs the hospital, so anything I can do to make it stronger is really helping everybody.”
A fixture in the community now, it took some “serendipity” to bring Jay Allen to southeastern Connecticut in the first place, he says.
Allen grew up in New York City, went to college at Fordham University in the Bronx, went to dental school at Fairleigh Dickinson University, had a residency at St. Clare’s Hospital in New Jersey and began practicing in New Jersey for the first three years of his career.
“But I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay in New Jersey,” he recalls. “My brother and sister-in-law had just moved here, so we came up to visit, and we thought, ‘This is kind of a nice area to live.’ And you know what? That’s still a big part of it. This is great place to live. I just like it here, and I like it here every day.”
Dr. Allen celebrated the 30th anniversary of his New London practice March 26, and he’s quick to point out that much has changed in his field since he arrived in town in 1982.
“Dentistry used to be about getting the patient healthy,” he says. “But today, we do a lot of cosmetic dentistry. Today the goal is ‘let’s get you healthy, but is there something we can also do to make your smile more attractive?’ And, usually, if you feel good about your smile, you feel good about yourself.”
Dentists today are better at preventing disease and better at getting their patients healthy, he says. “And, today, we realize that there’s a great connection between oral health and other forms of physical health,” he said. “There’s a huge connection between oral health and diabetes, for example. There’s a huge connection between oral health and heart disease.”
He explains: “There’s something called inflammatory complex, and what that means is that inflammation that starts in the mouth is connected to other parts of the body, and we definitely see that people are healthier when they have healthy mouths. Some insurance companies are actually starting to pay for extra dental cleanings for their diabetic patients because they find that if their mouth is healthier then they are more likely to stay better controlled.”
Changes in dentistry mirror changes at L+M, too, where vast improvements continue as L+M marks its 100th year. As a board member, Allen said he believes L+M will continue to improve into its second century.
“The L+M board has done some tremendous things as far as looking at the future and improving how we treat and prevent disease,” he says. “And now a new Cancer Center is scheduled to be built in Waterford. It’s an exciting time, and I’m very glad to be part of the L+M community.”
To learn more about Dr. Allen, click here.