Dr. R. Jagger Sapp was headed for a career in finance.  In his final year at the University of Washington, Sapp realized that he actually did want to follow his father’s footsteps as a dentist.  “My dad positively served the Thurston County community for many decades,” says Sapp.  Dr. Curtis Sapp, his father, was an orthodontist and passed away in 2014.

After graduating from dental school at University of Southern California, Sapp and his wife, both Capital High School graduates, returned to Thurston County.  He opened Thurston Dental on Lilly Road and continues his father’s legacy as a Thurston County dentist with a patient focused practice.

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After a brief stint in economics, Dr. Jagger Sapp discovered his love for dentistry and followed his father’s footsteps into the career. Photo courtesy: Thurston Dental.

“I realized that I didn’t really want to live in a big city but actually liked living in a smaller town,” he says, “so I switched gears and got another degree. I worked in the corporate world for a little while and took night classes.”

Sapp is passionate about being a dentist, but even more than the dental aspect, he loves working with people. “I really like being a dentist because for me it’s the easiest job in the world,” he says. “What I really love is spending time with people and helping them.”

Since his father’s time the dental field has changed dramatically. “We can do so much more than we used to be able to do,” says Sapp. “The materials are so much better, and the technology around the materials is so much better. Implants have really changed the game.”

The way dentists work with patients has also evolved. “I get people coming in who hate going to the dentist because they had bad experiences as a kid,” he says. “In modern dentistry, we’re more in tune with our patients and go out of our way to make you comfortable. I want my patients to have a really great experience.”

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Patient-focused dental care is what you can expect from Dr. Jagger Sapp. Photo courtesy: Thurston Dental.

For example, Sapp tells me a story about a frightened young woman, hunched in the dental chair in the fetal position, crying and hyperventilating. He took one look at the situation and said, “Let’s trade seats.”

“She sat in my chair and I got in the dental chair,” he says. “No one had done any x-rays yet because they couldn’t. I told her, ‘Let’s just breathe. I’ll breathe with you.’ Eventually the staff was able to take pictures and the woman even sat still to get her teeth cleaned.

Although she continued to be upset during follow-up visits, eventually she settled down. During a recent visit she needed a crown, a procedure requiring Sapp to numb the area. “The whole time she kept telling me how much she hates needles,” he says.

“But in the several week period between prepping and getting her final crown, she went and got a tattoo.” He sighs. “People like their tattoo artists, but they don’t like their dentists. Still that was probably my most rewarding experience. She now sits there comfortably while getting her dental work done.”

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Dr. Jagger Sapp and his wife are Capital High School graduates who have returned to Olympia. Photo courtesy: Thurston Dental.

Sapp says he spends approximately a third of his time explaining how different procedures work and what dental terms mean. “I just want my patients to be really educated about both what their own dental health needs are and the procedures that we’re doing.”

After a particularly large or intense procedure, Sapp will call his patients at home. “Any time we’ve done something where I think they might be uncomfortable, I’ll usually call them the next day or even that night to check on them,” he says.

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The Thurston Dental office is located on Lilly Road in Olympia. Photo courtesy: Thurston Dental.

In addition to running his own dental office, Sapp practices at the Kamilche Dental Center on the Squaxin Island Reservation one day a week. There, the demographics and challenges tend to be different. “A lot of that population has never gone to the dentist, so it’s hard for them to come in,” he says. “When I leave at the end of the day, I know that I’ve really helped people.”

One main difference between reservation work and his Olympia practice? “It happens once or twice a month where these grown men, with rougher backgrounds, are so happy because they now have dentures and they have their smile back that they’re literally crying. It’s very rewarding,” he says.

For more information about Thurston Dental, visit www.thurstondental.com or call 360-459-9657.


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