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Two new dentists take over Hetsons’ practice

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KENT – There are two new dentists in town, who are partners, taking over the dentistry practice previously owned by Drs. Jill and George Hetson.

Dr. Gitae Kwon and Dr. Byungchul Park have purchased the dentistry practice of Drs. Jill and George Hetson. Photo contributed

Dr. Gitae Kwon and Dr. Byungchul Park purchased the practice two months ago. Jill Hetson has already retired and George Hetson is making a transition of working two days per week and will officially leave in early September.

Dr. Kwon and Dr. George Hetson found each other through an adverstisement and they immediately realized there were so many similarities in their backgrounds and experiences that it was a good match.

“Dr. Kwon is really one of the best dentists I’ve ever met. He is mature beyond his years,” George Hetson said.

Kwon, age 32, was looking to be in private dentistry. He didn’t want to work for a corporation. He had become partners with Dr. Byungchul Park to run a practice in Stamford in 2020. The two dentists had met at New York University Dental School and became friends through playing in a soccer club together. They also worked together in their first job out of college in New London.

After about five years, he said he got “sick of being an associate dentist,” Park said. “I knew that he was a really good clinician and that his philosophy and my philosophy matched.”

Dr. Gitae Kwon in his new office. With his partner, Dr. Byungchul Park, he has purchased the dentistry office from Drs. George and Jill Hetson. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

They opened their practice together. Kwon convinced Park that they should expand their partnership to the Kent location. They’ve renamed the practice Kent Dentistry & Implants.

Both men are of Korean descent. Park is a bit older, age 42, and he grew up in Seoul, Korea, arriving in the United States at age 24. Kwon grew up in Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Dr. Byungchul Park is a partner with Dr. Gitae Kwon, having purchased the dentistry office from Drs. George and Jill Hetson. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

The decision to retire was not easy for George Hetson.

“Jill would have liked to retire about seven years ago,” he said recently. “I definitely wasn’t ready then. It took me a while to come around to it.”

He didn’t want to sell to a corporation. They had an offer from the country’s largest Dental Service Organization (DSO), which he called a “phenomenal offer financially.”

“I said to Jill if we take that offer, we’re going to have to move out of town. People will be pissed, no one will talk to you, you’ll feel isolated and you’ll want to move,” George said.  They’ve lived and worked in town for 40 years.

“We are not leaving Kent, which is the most common question we get,” he said. “That was part of my interest in finding someone who was a really good dentist.”

He has faith in both of the partners. Kwon originally did not think he could afford to purchase the practice.

“I said I’ll make it affordable and I did,” he said, “because I had decided this was the guy.”

After working with Kwon for two months, he is convinced that it was a very good decision.

Dr. Kwon’s wife, Nawon, is also a dentist and she specializes in pediatric dentistry. She graduates next month from Temple University after completing her residency. He anticipates that they will move to the area, but he wants her to find the right position where she can treat children with special needs, which is her passion. She could work with him in Kent “if there is a need, demand and population” of children.

Kwon has fallen in love with the natural beauty of Kent and he’s felt very welcomed by the patients in the office.

“I can see myself living here when I’m 70- 80 years old, and hopefully beyond that,” Kwon said.

Kwon has a passion for teaching and his specialty is dental implants. In 2023 he earned a master’s degree in Dental Implantology and advanced surgical extractions from the University of Camillus, in Rome, Italy. He is a faculty member at the Gangnam International Implant Academy in Tijuana, Mexico.  

The dental implant procedure is used when teeth are missing or must be removed. He explains an implant is a small titanium screw that is placed inside the bone, when a tooth is pulled, to replicate what the root does.

‘Dr. George places a lot of implants and we share a lot of similar thoughts in dentistry,” Kwon said.

When the two men talked, they realized there were so many similarities in their lives. They share the same birthday, July 22, and they went to the same middle school. Kwon said they even lived in the same neighborhood in Fort Lee, NJ, with 40 decades in between. George Hetson has even inspired Kwon to learn to play golf.

The dental office will be accepting more insurance programs, Kwon said. The Hetsons had moved away from accepting a lot of insurance plans.

“I know a lot of the teachers from Kent School and South Kent School have asked about expanding the insurance options,” Kwon said. Within the next month or so he expects to have added a number of different insurers to the practice.

“There are probably patients who have left the practice because of that business decision so I’m trying to reverse that and start fresh so more patients can come back and get to know me,” he said.

Kwon said that while he acknowledges that many people dislike going to the dentist, and may find it an unpleasant experience, he wants patients to trust him.

“I still remember every single moment that I’ve had treatment. It’s pretty easy for me to connect. Sometimes dental pain sucks. You want to be at the right place to have someone who will care for you like his own self,” Kwon said.

Lynn Worthington
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