A dentist would likely never dream of giving candy to a patient, but one Wilton orthodontist not only gives cakes to his patients, he bakes them himself.
Dr. Gregory Sanford has been practicing as an orthodontist in Wilton for 27 years. He says he loves to cook and bake, and decided long ago to mark the day he removes his patients’ braces by presenting each one with a personalized cake he bakes just for them.
“I wanted to do something special. I love jewelry making, and for girls I would bend sterling silver wire into their names and give them a necklace. But that took too long, I was spending hours bending names. For the boys, I think I gave them movie tickets. Then the light went on—the day one girl was getting her braces off was her birthday and I said, ‘Why don’t I make her a cake!’ It was such a big hit, I said, ‘This is great, I’m going to start making cakes!’ and here I am still making cakes,” he laughs.
He says the day a teenager gets his or her braces removed is a memorable, momentous day, and one that deserves a special celebration. “How many times do you get a cake? You don’t get presented a cake very often—once a year on your birthday, a wedding, retirement.”
Sanford will grant requests for either chocolate or vanilla, and has even made a gluten-free cake for a patient that couldn’t eat gluten. And his cakes are peanut free too. “The only nut in the kitchen is me,” he jokes.
Treating patients like family
While the cake making and presenting is one thing Sanford is famous for, he also has a great reputation for his orthodontics skills as well as a practice that prides itself on being personable.
“If you treat your patients as family, because you really want the best for them, and you just exude that feeling,” he says.
It’s a philosophy everyone in his office shares, which Sanford says is one main reason why his patients are so loyal and why his practice is a busy one—he sometimes sees up to 50 patients a day.
The secret, he says, is his staff, many of whom have been with him from the start. “It’s just like a home. It makes my life easier, because I don’t have to worry about turnover and the office being unproductive, and I can focus on what I love doing, treating the kids.”
Sanford is also conscious that the service he provides comes with a hefty price tag, no matter which doctor a patient chooses.
“My fees are, I think, very competitive. We’re told in our profession that because the cost of our supplies are going up we should raise our fees a certain percentage every year. If I’d done that, my fees would be like $8,000 a case. People would be like, “Really?!” I’ve tried to stay within the competitive range, but it’s the personalized service.”
One interesting trend Sanford has seen is the increase in the number of adults who seek out orthodonture. Treatment for adults typically takes less time, most usually around four months to straighten the front teeth, and sometimes up to a year.
“Since I’ve been the using the invisible braces that go behind the teeth, the adult population has grown significantly, I would say it’s probably about 20 percent adult. I like treating adults.” The majority of adult are women. “Mainly women, and then they get their husbands or boyfriends to come in,” he adds.
Sanford’s own family
His orthodontics practice isn’t the only thing in his life that’s growing; his family recently grew. Sanford got married for the second time in August 2014, and both he and his wife Christine each have four children from their first marriages, ranging in age from 15 to 30.
“Big family—now I really know kids!” laughs the man who treats a lot of children by day and also has a lot of children himself. “The beauty of it is we took our time in blending, because you don’t just get married and tell everybody, ‘Guess what? We’re getting married and we’re all living under one roof!’ We spent a lot of time working on it, and the kids slowly got to know each other over about eight years. They all really get along and they have each other.”
One other thing Sanford knows is that since opening his practice in 1989, he’s been happy working in Wilton. “I love Wilton, it’s a wonderful town. I’m not going anywhere. And that’s a good thing,” he starts to laugh, “there will be eight weddings!”