Friday, April 16th, 2021

Shopper Client Stories


Great Bridge practice celebrates 30 years of dedicated service

by Cristi Sanchez

The dentists of Thomas & Thomas Cosmetic and Family Dentistry: (From left) Dr. Chanel von Schlichting, Dr. Bennett A. Thomas, Dr. Elizabeth (Bettina) Thomas, and Dr. Robert (Todd) Holwick.

The dentists of Thomas & Thomas Cosmetic and Family Dentistry: (From left) Dr. Chanel von Schlichting, Dr. Bennett A. Thomas, Dr. Elizabeth (Bettina) Thomas, and Dr. Robert (Todd) Holwick.

Thomas & Thomas Cosmetic and Family Dentistry has been a successful practice on the Great Bridge landscape for 30 years, and its longevity and success are attributed to one key ingredient: family.  It begins with the husband-and-wife dentist team and practice owners, Drs. Bennett and Bettina Thomas.

Their journey as dentists, and as a family, began in dental school at West Virginia University where Bennett and Bettina met. Because both had last names starting with "T", they were forced to sit together and work together through four years of dental school. They decided they made a good team.  After dental school was completed, they married during their one year of hospital-based residency.

After completing their residency, the Thomases had three "dream-goals":  have a family, live near a body of water, and open their own practice.  With their dreams in their hearts, they journeyed eastward to find a home near the seaside.  "We wanted to live someplace close to the ocean because my husband is an avid surfer," Bettina says with a grin.  "He used to spend all of his summers down in Ocracoke with his family."

On Bennett's family's many drives to Ocracoke, they would pass through Great Bridge, and Bennett immediately envisioned it as home.  "I told my dad "I'm probably going to  live here when I'm older,'" Bennett recalls.  "But fast forward, and here we are! Bettina and I moved here when we were 28."

In 1990, Thomas & Thomas Family Dentistry was born in an office in Las Gaviotas, but starting the practice and opening the building turned out to be the easy part.  Finding patients, on the other hand, took hard work and determination. "Oh, my goodness," Bettina laughs. "There we were, two young dentists with a brand-new practice trying to figure out how to let patients know we were in business! We made three-by-five-inch Christmas gift cards for $25 off. Then we walked the Las Gaviotas community, giving one to everybody in the neighborhood. I know residents must have thought we were crazy and were wondering what we were doing, but with limited marketing capital, we opted for the do-it-yourself method. It was time consuming and exhausting, but it worked over time!"

Indeed, their business grew and expanded by word-of-mouth referrals, which continues to this day. In fact, they were voted via the Nextdoor website as the 2020 Neighborhood Favorite for dental practices in 16 neighborhoods.  Their business grew so quickly that Bennett and Bettina needed to expand.  So, they added their trusted friend, Dr. Todd Holwick, to the practice, purchased the property next to Waller's Garage, and built a new building to house their practice.

So, what would make their practice so widely popular that business would explode from a marketing campaign of Christmas gift cards?  It begins with the dentists themselves, affectionately known to patients as "Mr. Dr. Thomas" and" Mrs. Dr. Thomas."  Exuding warmth and kindness, laughter abounds in their office. Dr. Holwick is known for his reassuring sense of calm coupled with a delightfully dry sense of humor.  Even the office architecture reflects the doctors' easy-going personalities.  "We wanted our building to reflect our personality, so we had it constructed like a house.  We didn't want a cold, impersonal office building.  We wanted it to look more like a home. That's because we treat our patients like family."

Indeed they do.  Community-minded, Bennett and Bettina have always been supportive of their "dental kids" and their activities in sports teams, Young Life, orchestra and band, even attending graduations to watch their patients graduate.  "The doctors made themselves easily accessible," dental hygienist Linda Laughlin explains.  "They could be immediately reached after hours by phone and even invited patients who lived in their neighborhood to stop by their house if necessary. They seem to know everything about their patients; they know them as genuine friends, and remember everything about them.  This practice has a true hometown dentist feel."

"This practice has a true
hometown dentist feel."
- Linda Laughlin

Taking an interest in people and treating them like family doesn't just extend to the patients; it extends to employees as well.  "The doctors are connected with our families, too," Linda continues. "They'd go to our kids' graduations and weddings. Part of the charm of this office is that they keep their employees for a long time.  There's no big turnover.  We didn't have any openings in our hygiene department for 15 years. Dr. Holwick has been with us for over 23 years. Several staff members have worked there for over 20 years. That makes the practice feel like family to the patients and staff as well."

It's a feeling not lost on Dr. Chanel von Schlichting, who recently joined the practice. "The minute you walk in, it's fun," she enthuses. "I had an idea of my perfect work environment, where I could be a part of the community and part of an established family practice that felt like home.  This practice fits that perfectly.  It's a beautiful practice."

"The main priority for everyone here is to take care of the patient," Dr. Chanel continues. "They get our full undivided personal attention. The patients aren't rushed in and rushed out. It's about developing relationships. When I see the Thomases' patients who have been coming for 30 years, you can tell that they feel like family. Even their children and grandchildren come here."

"Yes, I guess we've all grown old together," Bennett observes.
Even Dr. Chanel, as she's known to patients, has a family connection to the practice.  Her father, a dental technician with his own practice, was not only Dr. Chanel's career inspiration but also a colleague and close family friend of Bennett and Bettina.  "As soon as I heard her voice on the phone, I knew that I liked her already from her personality and friendly nature," Bettina smiles. 

"She's a perfect fit.  She's worked out beautifully."
As Drs. Bennett and Bettina Thomas reflect on the 30th anniversary of their thriving practice, they acknowledge their heartfelt gratitude to their patients. "They are the ones who have kept coming to us and referring us to friends and family," Bettina concludes. "Our practice has been a success because of them, and we look forward to serving them for years to come."

Thomas & Thomas

1300 Cedar Road
Chesapeake, VA 23322