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Toothsome twosome: Sorensens mark 25 years of practice in Worthington

Grant and Maureen Sorensen pose in their dental office at the Worthington Professional Building. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)1 / 2
The 75-year-old building that houses Sorensen Family Dental Clinic, the Worthington Professional Building, formerly was the Worthington Post Office. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- Great chemistry and a few coincidences combined to make a winning partnership -- now more than 25 years old--in business and marriage for Dr. Maureen McGuiggan Sorensen and Dr. Grant Sorensen.

In January 1985, the Sorensens opened the Sorensen Family Dental Clinic in the building at the corner of 11th Street and Third Avenue that previously housed the Worthington Post Office for 50 years, and they've managed a successful dental practice there together ever since.

"We were born three days apart in the same hospital in Marshall," revealed Grant, "and we attended the same kindergarten class. But I don't remember her from kindergarten, probably because we were seated according to height and were nowhere near each other."

Nevertheless, they've been plenty close ever since their junior year as Marshall High School Tigers, when Grant ventured to invite Maureen to prom and started them on the "dating trail," as he put it.

"We hung around with the same group of kids," offered Maureen, "and I always found Grant to be considerate, patient, smart and extremely nice to others."

And while Grant, of Danish Lutheran descent, headed to St. Olaf College, Maureen, of Irish Catholic heritage, remained in Marshall to matriculate at Southwest State University.

"We were both chemistry majors in college," recounted Grant, "and as seniors we took the Dental Aptitude Exam and were admitted to the University of Minnesota's School of Dentistry."

Dentistry was a logical career choice for Maureen, as her father was a longtime orthodontist in Marshall and her grandfather was a dentist who started his practice there in the 1920s.

"Science is everywhere in the family tree," admitted Grant, whose father, Elmer, was a physics teacher.

The pair married after their third year of dental school, and as they began contemplating professional options following graduation, the idea of starting their own practice became appealing.

"The state was saturated with dentists at the time we were finishing dental school," recalled Grant. "I mean, there was little need for dentists anywhere in the state at that time, but if any place seemed it might have room for dentists, it was Worthington."

Maureen noted that in the 1980s, the University of Minnesota's School of Dentistry graduated about 150 dentists per year; currently that figure is closer to 95.

Being familiar with southwest Minnesota and having a desire to move a little closer to their hometown, the Sorensens prepared to open a dental office in Worthington.

"When you open a business right out of school, it can be difficult," suggested Maureen. "I'm sure it helped that we were together -- that did make it easier -- but then again, neither of us had an income from another source to help the other one out."

The Sorensens were not able to add a staff member until three months after hanging up their shingle in the former Worthington Post Office, which had recently been purchased and gutted for business opportunity after the new post office near the intersection of 10th Street and McMillan was completed in late 1984.

"We were able to get in and design our part of the building as we wanted it," confirmed Grant. "At first we rented the space, which we have remodeled and expanded a couple of times since 1985, but about 10 years ago we bought the building."

Having served as a professional services office space since 1985, the building itself recently marked its 75th anniversary and is historically significant to Worthington.

"At the time it was being built in 1934, an Indian burial ground was discovered on the site," shared Grant.

"That may have something to do with why part of the basement was left as an unfinished dirt crawlspace," added Maureen.

The two are also keenly aware, based on stories from 1934 editions of the Daily Globe discussing the building's construction, that a time capsule containing newspapers, city and county history, photos of downtown Worthington and other items of interest was placed in the cornerstone.

While they have considered opening the time capsule at some point, there is no immediate plan to do so, as questions about how its removal might affect the building's structural integrity remain.

As the Sorensens grew their practice, they also raised a family. Their daughter Christina is a 21-year-old senior biology major at Gustavus Adolphus College; sons David and Matthew are at Worthington High School, a senior and sophomore, respectively.

"Worthington has been a nice community for us," confirmed Maureen. "When the kids were little, we initially staggered our work schedules but eventually had daycare and knew our kids' daycare providers well, plus work, home, daycare and schools were all close, so that made things more manageable."

Involvement in and support of their children's activities have long claimed the bulk of the Sorensens' free time away from work. With their three children active in such pursuits as swimming, gymnastics, track, Boy Scouts, baseball, music and more, the Sorensens' participation has ranged from steadfast spectator to faithful volunteer.

For instance, with both sons swimming on the YMCA Stingrays Swim Team, Maureen took the necessary steps to become certified as a stroke judge and usually fills that role during swim meets, while Grant has served as the swim team's treasurer for several years.

When their children were young, Maureen was a board member and ultimately board president of the Worthington Montessori School; Grant, in turn, has chipped in on many committees at American Lutheran Church over the years and was on the King Turkey Day board, and Maureen is a longtime volunteer with the local Boy Scouts program as their sons have progressed to earning their Eagle Scout badges.

In addition, both Grant and Maureen are past YMCA board members and board presidents, and Grant was part of the YMCA capital campaign committee that made the new YMCA facility possible.

"Grant and Maureen are two very unselfish, community-minded individuals who give generously of themselves and their resources to their churches, town and schools," attested Andy Johnson, executive director of the Worthington Area YMCA. "They've been tremendous assets to our YMCA in many ways, and Worthington is very lucky to have them here."

Professionally, too, the Sorensens have thrived. Their patient roster is robust, and they now have seven full- and part-time employees, many of whom have been with them for 15 to 20 years.

"We have a great staff that keeps things moving smoothly," affirmed Grant, "and their cooperation and good efforts have made the years go by so fast."

And while some spouses swear by the motto, "For better or worse, but not for lunch," Grant and Maureen have managed to share professional opinions, workspace, home life and usually lunch hours for a quarter of a century.

"They work well together, they really do," observed Darci Woll, a part-time employee with the Sorensens for nearly 18 years. "They are absolutely wonderful to work with, and you can see that it's easy for them to ask each other questions, plus they treat each other professionally and respect each other's opinions."

"We settled into a routine and divided up duties long ago," agreed Maureen. "We're lucky that our skills and interests complement each other's."

Both Maureen and Grant have been active in affairs of the Minnesota Dental Association, and they have made earning their biannual continuing education credits a family affair.

"We like to go to the national dental association meetings about every other year, and we've usually taken the kids along," explained Maureen. "It's been a way to earn our credits, see some different cities and do some traveling with the family."

With 25 years of tooth-pulling and cavity-filling under their latex gloves, the Sorensens have noticed changes both in Worthington and in the world of oral hygiene.

"With the demographic shift here, sometimes communication with patients is a little different, but that's all -- everybody has teeth, and the work is the same," commented Maureen.

"We are, however, still amazed at how often we make dentures for younger people, and that may be a little higher number now due to increased drug use," she continued. "Meth(amphetamine) tends to have the highest impact on oral health, because the people on it tend to drink a lot of Mountain Dew, and the combination of not taking care of themselves and eating and drinking poorly is rough on the teeth."

The Sorensens also point out that the Minnesota Dental Association has a campaign against the highly popular sour candies so many kids love, due to their high acid content that quickly erodes tooth enamel.

It's not yet clear if any of the Sorensens' children might follow in their footsteps toward a career in dentistry, but in the meantime Grant and Maureen will continue to do their part to care for area residents' teeth and encourage people to make good oral hygiene a priority.

An insider's tip from Maureen: "Be careful when you eat popcorn," she urged, with the assurance of one who's repaired many a cracked tooth. "It's the No. 1 breaker of teeth."