By Rachel Kelly
“Committed to a higher standard” is and has always been the quote that epitomizes what Soundbridge Dental Arts strives for. Dr. Karla Bloomquist and Dr. Chiarina Iregui stop long enough to discuss just how this standard plays out in their everyday care, highlighting the importance of boutique dental services in the wider world of health care.
Q. Soundbridge Dental Arts has won the “Best of the South Sound” award several years in a row. Why do you think you've been awarded this distinction? A. That award was given to us by our supportive community members and loyal patients. We like to think that it’s because the people that come here feel cared for and listened to. We emphasize health and wellness as our primary goal, even going so far as to pursue continuing levels of education to see that goal met.
Q. Even after all these years in the community, serving in dentistry, you state the importance of “staying ahead of the curve.” Would you say then that you are still actively learning? A. Constantly. Always, always, always. We both believe in not going stagnant. We do this by continuing our education, coinciding the latest technologies with our studies and adjusting our practice according to new knowledge. We are always bouncing ideas off each other, taking each other’s opinions into account. We like to be absolutely sure that we are bringing the right information and solutions to all of our patients.
Q. You seem to have a very comprehensive view of dentistry; you believe that systemic health issues are often seen in the mouth. How does this interactive viewpoint play out in your community interactions? A. With an emphasis on the fact that we are dentists, and that we do not treat the whole body, we often see systemic health issues played out in the mouth. To treat these issues, we have connections throughout the community. We refer our patients to others when we recognize an underlying issue that is affecting their mouth. We’re just not interested in care that doesn’t provide real solutions; we will not treat a patient if we are not convinced that we can provide them with the best of care. Both of us like to consider our approach to our patients as comprehensive. Yes, we know that they see us for dental care primarily, but we want our patients to know that we truly enjoy the whole picture.
Q. Your approach to dentistry seems unique. Dr. Bloomquist has a master’s degree in health and wellness, and Dr. Iregui has diplomate status from the Academy of Sleep Medicine. You go above and beyond in your level of care. How did you go about developing this approach? A. When we met, we started to philosophize about how to incorporate whole comprehensive care into our practice. Dr. Iregui became particularly interested in sleep apnea therapy because of how closely it is tied to chronic disease. An oral appliance can be so effective in bringing about life change! Together, we make a great collaborative team. By allocating longer appointments, we are capable of listening to the needs of the patient. We then have access to a network of providers that can help with supportive and comprehensive care, ultimately resulting in better general health. Patients’ oral health is obviously our focus, but we don’t have blinders on when it comes to treatment. Simply put, we just care about people. That’s why we entered into this field in the first place.
Q. You mention the importance of your staff. How do you facilitate an environment where the staff are capable of providing a high level of attentive care? A. It starts with us. We treat each other with respect and are always willing to listen to the input of the other. We’ve learned that we’re much better as a team. That being said, we could not do what we do if we did not have our support team working with us. We do our best to spend a lot of time working with the larger SoundBridge team; this assures that we all cohesively work toward the same goal. Care starts on the phone and ideally ends with completed treatment needs. Everything in between is a team effort! When we look to hire someone, it is with the expectation that they are a team player. We think this really shows in our overall care, whether a patient is having general dentistry done or an oral appliance for sleep apnea.
Q. What’s your favorite part of doing what you do? A. Definitely the relationships. We have heard people say, “I feel cared for here.” That’s what we set out to do.
Q. What impact does SoundBridge have on the Greater Gig Harbor community? A. Aside from being a premier source for health care, we are continuously finding ways to be involved in the Gig Harbor community. We have had representation on the Board of the Gig Harbor History Museum, are members of the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce, and participate in large community events like the Maritime Gig Festival. We have been supporters of the Gig Harbor Film Festival, Communities in Schools, and the Career and Pathway Expo with the Peninsula School District.
We have also provided care for the underprivileged on the mobile dental unit. It’s also our goal to educate the Gig Harbor community in regard to oral health and its connection to overall wellness. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are actively doing this by posting educational write-ups and videos on social media. We are also contacting our patients with self-care videos, reading resources, stress-relief activities and exercise challenges. We don’t want anyone to lack resources during this time.