Sisters welcomes dental practice

 

Last updated 4/18/2023 at 6:19pm

Dr. Zachary Sunitsch and his wife, Leah, enjoy the outdoorsy Central Oregon way of life. PHOTO PROVIDED

Longtime Sisters residents Dr. Tom and Peggy Rheuben raised their family in Sisters and ran a busy, friendly dental business. When it was time to find someone to take over the business, they looked for a person with business priorities that matched their own. Strong relationships with patients and supporting the community were hallmarks of Dr. Rheuben’s practice.

When Dr. Zachary Sunitsch read about the practice, he felt like it was fate. He and his wife, Leah, love Sisters for its outdoor recreation and small-town, closeknit feel. Once the two men met, they knew Dr. Sunitsch was the person to carry on the Rheubens’ legacy.

Dr. Sunitsch grew up in Oregon, and says he’s thrilled to be back on the dry side of the mountains. Investing in a business in Sisters is truly a dream come true for the couple.

“One of the biggest things that got me into dentistry was the relationship I had with my dentist growing up in Klamath Falls,” Dr. Sunitsch recalled. “He was involved with everything. I’d go in and he’d ask me about my mom’s job, the swim meet I was in the week before… it was all family oriented. When I went to college and I’d come back on breaks, I’d get my teeth cleaned, have an exam, and get caught up with my dentist. That experience was a big part of what I was looking for in a practice. I wanted to be in a community where I could be there for a long time and develop strong relationships.”

Sunitsch understands people need to put a lot of trust in their dentist.

“Having people willing to come and see me and give me a chance is just fantastic in the first place. When I chose a practice, I related so well with Tom’s philosophy. I wanted to go somewhere I could grow with the community and be an integral part of Sisters. That was one of the biggest selling points of Tom’s practice. I looked at how he practiced dentistry, and it was in line with what I wanted to do,” he said.

“It was a perfect scenario for what I wanted, which was designing a practice to have strong relationships with my patients. I wasn’t looking for a practice with 25 patients a day and no time to talk to anybody. That’s why I didn’t become a physician. It’s more than working on people’s teeth and having a paycheck. It’s about being in a town where patients are used to developing a relationship with their dentist, gaining that, trust and being a part of the community. That was the big selling point.”

After doing undergraduate studies in biochemistry and molecular biophysics, Dr. Sunitsch thought he wanted to be a research scientist. That was until he realized doing research often involved solitary work.

“That wasn’t my thing, I really need that interaction with people,” he said. “By the time I graduated I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I explored all kinds of health care and was even a bartender in a high-end restaurant in Nashville. I met famous people like Ringo Starr, Elvis Costello, and Dolly Parton, who was the nicest person you’d ever meet. I met Cal Ripken, Jr. who was one of my biggest heroes growing up. I was starstruck. While that job was fun socially, I was ready for a more intellectually challenging environment.”

When Sunitsch decided to go to dental school it made sense to return to Oregon and get in-state tuition.

“Leah and I lived in Portland, and I went to OHSU for school and Leah got a job in the hospital,” he said. “We were there for over six years, until I graduated in 2018.”

To learn more advanced techniques, Sunitsch did a residency after graduation in Meridian, Idaho.

“I got to learn implant dentistry, worked with kids doing pediatric dentistry and gum surgeries with specialists,” he said. “I had a scholarship that required one year in public health, which was perfect because I always knew I wanted to go back to a small town.”

During his residency, Sunitsch worked with the underserved population in The Dalles. Leah worked in nursing for the hospital in The Dalles, and then Providence in Hood River.

“By the time that was winding down, I began looking for my own private practice. When I began looking, Dr. Rheuben’s practice was one of the first ones I came across. I looked into his practice and felt like it was perfect. We came here a lot anyway to mountain bike, ski, and camp. We even got engaged on the top of South Sister… I wore her out, so she couldn’t say no,” he said, laughing.

At the core, Sunitsch says he and Tom Rheuben are very similar. The staff agrees with him.

“Usually, when you buy a practice, you can lose up to half of your staff; we were fortunate to keep everybody on so far. It’s been great that way,” Dr. Sunitsch said.

Dr. Sunitsch invites Sisters Country folks to check out Pine Desert Dental. His style will make people feel right at home, and he looks forward to helping them have a smile that lights up a room. Visit their website at: pinedesertdental.com or call 541-313-3257. Pine Desert Dental is located at 304 W. Adams Ave., by Hoyt’s Hardware.

 

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