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Polo graduate returns home to be a dentist

Cares for home community

Dr. Ryan Clayton smiles with his brother, Brix, having just completed a routine check-up. Photo supplied.
Dr. Ryan Clayton smiles with his brother, Brix, having just completed a routine check-up. Photo supplied.

A dentist has returned to his boyhood home to care for the community that helped raise him.

Dr. Ryan Clayton grew up in Polo, and after graduating from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Dental School in Alton, he succeeded Dr. Steven Sorenson on July 3 as dentist at the office located at 1107 S. Division Ave.

For Clayton, coming back to his old home as a doctor hasn’t required a lot of adjustment.

“I absolutely love it, being with the people, and seeing familiar faces,” said Clayton. “Honestly, the dental work itself becomes second nature.”

Clayton graduated from Polo Community High School in 2008, and was heavily involved in sports, being a part of the football, basketball, and baseball programs.

“I remember when we co-oped with Milledgeville for baseball,” said Clayton, reminiscing. “I came to hear they joined up with Forreston, and now they’ve got their own program. Things really change while you’re away.”

Polo citizens might also remember him as the grandson of Harold Garber, owner of the Garber’s Big John septic cleaning service.

How did Clayton come to find his way back to be Polo’s dentist? According to him, he sort of knew it always had to happen.

“In the back of my mind, I always knew I’d be back here,” said Clayton. “I got to talking about that one day with Dr. Sorenson, and he told me he was getting ready to retire.”

He said that through the conversation, the two agreed it would be a great fit for Clayton to move into the practice as Sorenson left.

“Throughout that conversation - and many we have to this day, in fact - we came to find we agree heavily, and come to similar conclusions, on issues,” Clayton said. “That plays a big part in something important to me; that people understand they’re getting the same quality care under me.”

Apparently, the community understands it just fine; Clayton says he has no shortage of patients.

“I expected to be a little slow coming fresh out of school, but it’s picked up right out the gate,” he said, laughing. “Monday, I see around 25 people in a single day, but an average day thereafter is still anywhere from 12 to 15.”

Clayton recommends the public come in at least every six months for a cleaning and examination, particularly to stay on top of things. He likened it to preventative maintenance.

“We get people all the time who say ‘yeah, I should have come in a lot earlier” when we’re finished,” he said.

Despite the high traffic on Monday and steady week throughout, Clayton wanted to stress that he still accepts new patients; he wants people to get the care they need.

“Besides, I’m actually more gentle than Dr. Sorenson was,” Clayton said, laughing.

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