'...the world would benefit from having a lot more Watsontowns'
By PAM DAILEY Milton Standard
WATSONTOWN - If you see Dr. Dale Chomas around Watsontown and he's not clad in a white coat and brandishing a compact drill, then it's probably safe to assume he's out of dentist mode and ready to get involved with whatever happens to be going on that day.
He's a man who knows his way around town and, like many of Watsontown's business owners and their employees, lives and works here, too.
Chomas said he moved to Watsontown with his family in 1990 because it reminded him of his hometown of Elizabeth in southwestern Pa. So, he set up shop here and jumped right in to the community.
"I feel that the world would benefit from having a lot more Watsontowns," he said. "People here are willing to do the little bit extra, and it shows."
You have to put forth a lot of effort to keep a small town alive, he said, but if the result is anything like Watsontown, it's worth it.
"One of the nice things about small town living is that you get people who are willing to be involved," he added.
Chomas said one aspect of his small-town practice he appreciates is the chance to develop relationships with entire families. He'll often treat children, their parents and perhaps even their parents through the work he does at his office and two nursing facilities in the area. In fact, you might say he's one of the few doctors left who still makes house calls.
"It's part of a caring ethos," Chomas said of his philosophy towards his community and his practice.
He recognizes that most people are not eagerly awaiting their next dental exam, but he's trying to change that assumption by getting to know his patients as people in the community.
Chomas said he's aware that not everyone has insurance or can afford dental care, so he often works with patients on an individual basis to provide the services they need. He said if there's a need, he'll do what he can to meet it, and he doesn't know of another doctor who wouldn't do the same thing.
Most doctors who practice in small towns are involved, in one way or another, in the effort to provide health care regardless of a patient's financial status.
However, one disadvantage is that there is less access to health care in a rural community, and especially dental care. Chomas said the problem is increasing as more and more dentists retire from the profession.
"That's a problem we have to wrestle with on a daily basis," he said.
Probably the most important point Chomas stressed is for parents to involve themselves in their children's daily lives.
"It's beneficial, from a holistic point of view, for parents to be more accountable for their children's health," he said.
And that can be anything from making sure they've brushed their teeth correctly or get enough exercise, or just setting a good example to help children adopt healthy lifestyles.
Chomas said he's seeing more children with cavities than he did 20 years ago. And that's a problem not limited to this area. Nationally, cavities are one of the biggest dental problems for children, most likely due to sugary, processed and acidic foods. Even very young children are presenting with cavities, and Chomas said it's up to parents to teach their kids good habits when it comes to brushing, flossing and getting checkups.
Chomas is involved with several organizations, including the Watsontown Lions Club, Masonic Lodge, Watsontown Area Business Association, Central Pa. Chamber of Commerce, the American Red Cross and a Boy Scout troop in Watsontown. In his spare time, Chomas plays the organ at his church.
Chomas said of the times he's away from the area, "I'm always very glad to be back home."
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