TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Keith Mason doesn’t like going to the dentist. But at Tahoe City Dental Group, Keith can sit in a comfortable bamboo chair with soft pillows, while slowly sipping tea and staring out onto Lake Tahoe.
He can see the small patches of snow on the Sierra peaks just across the water and watch the color fade from a dark blue to a crystalline green where the Truckee River meets the lake.
Large pine boughs sweep across the view and the soothing sound of water from the office’s fountain can be heard. Fresh stargazer lilies give off their sweet scent.
“Fortunately, it’s just a cleaning,” said Keith before going to meet with his motorcycle-riding buddy and long-time dentist, Richard Tomlinson.
The decorating theme in combination with the colorful nature scene out the office windows are nothing remnant of a dentist’s office.
“It’s all about a feeling of comfort and well-being,” Tomlinson said of his Asian-inspired office.
The two-story building once housed radio station, KRZQ, but Tomlinson repainted, revamped and redecorated, offering a tranquil environment to even the most nervous of patients.
“Everybody appreciates the setting,” Tomlinson said. “Everybody is always looking for the lake — I want to make sure people know where it is.”
Dr. Tomlinson has practiced dentistry in the zen-like office for 25 years. Being one who “came to ski and never left,” the doctor has watched local families grow as he and his wife Sandy have raised their own.
“It’s important to cultivate relationships,” Tomlinson said. “For me, it’s the joy in families, three generations that have been long-term patients, and we have established long-term relationships.”
Tommye Ramak, a young, spunky hygienist at the office, has been with Tahoe City Dental for 16 years.
“We’re lifers,” she said with a laugh. “Dr. Tomlinson has been my dentist my whole life.”
As well as being an integral part of Tahoe City’s dental health, Dr. Tomlinson has participated in the community, coaching high school sports and being involved in Kiwanis in Tahoe City.
“Tahoe City is a great community you could live in,” he said. “There is community spirit and people rally.”
Added office manager Cindy Silver: “Some charts are 30 years big … We have a connection to the families. The kids are getting their toys out of the same treasure chest their parents took toys from.”
Although Tahoe is Dr. Tomlinson’s forever home, he does enjoy getting away. Throughout the office and in each room, patients can follow his travels by the large photos of Norwegian landscapes, Thai villages and he and his wife Sandy riding elephants. Photography is another hobby in which Dr. Tomlinson “dabbles.”
“My goal is to see the world,” he said. “I have a real passion for traveling because you learn so much.”
Because he has already rafted the Salmon River multiple times as well as the Grand Canyon, traveled to Asia, and spent time in Europe, he has his sights on a motorcycle trip next winter.
“New Zealand is my next spot. It would be a neat way to see it,” he said.
“The active father of three and grandfather of two firmly believes in taking time off to sharpen the saw and “to keep myself enthusiastic,” he said.
An experienced staff, as well as the beautiful views of the lake, keeps his employees enthusiastic, too, he said.
When she first moved to Tahoe, Cindy was unsure if she wanted to work in the dental field, where she had worked for many years.
“When I came to the office I said well if you get to look at that view everyday — and it changes — every day it’s different,” Cindy said.
Like this day, when the sun begins to set just off the lake, and its glow creates sparkles across the water. Tourists walk around Fanny Bridge and the trees softly sway in the afternoon breeze.
Patients and staff agree that the setting is extra special. And they would agree that the doctor is as well.
Down below Tahoe City Dental Group, the man just moments ago in the white coat pushes off the shore to start his commute home.
“He’s probably the only dentist I’ll ever work for that I’ll wave goodbye to in the evening as he leaves in his kayak,” Cindy said.
“Everybody is always looking for the lake. I want to make sure people know where it is.”
Owner, Tahoe City Dental Group