FALMOUTH – To Dr. Kenneth Myers, dentistry is about so much more than teeth.

Myers said he spends a lot of time with new patients, learning as much about the kinds of people they are as the condition of their teeth.

“You treat people differently for who they are and then you can better motivate them to take care of themselves,” Myers said Friday night while celebrating 60 examples of his philosophy working.

Myers was marking the 10th anniversary of his “80/20 Club,” patients who have reached the milestone age of 80 and retained at least 20 of their own teeth.

He said he got the idea for the club after reading an article about a Japanese dentist who started a club to honor those who kept most of their teeth as they aged. He decided that similar results should be noted in the U.S.

The first honorees got a luncheon. On Friday night, it was dinner at the Falmouth Country Club, given that it was an anniversary event.

Only one of the initial members of the club attended, and she was an unlikely member.

When Alice Larsen, 94, first saw Myers 20 years ago, she hated dentists and hadn’t gone to see one in 17 years.

“I was afraid of dentists and my kids dragged me to the dentist like I had dragged them when they were kids,” she said.

Remarkably, Larsen still has all of her teeth save one — it came out when she bit into a marble, thinking it was a piece of hard candy.

Larsen said Myers kept her calm and made her realize that a trip to the dentist didn’t have to be painful.

Myers said a big reason for that is his approach.

An initial visit, he said, typically lasts a couple of hours. Some of that time is spent on the usual — an exam, cleaning, X-rays and photos. But a good chunk, he said, is spent just talking about what kind of outcome the patient wants for his or her teeth.

Myers said the answers help him determine a patient’s personality, and that shapes his approach.

For someone who’s driven, he said, he might outline a very straightforward, results-oriented approach. For an engineer, he might talk a lot about the structure of the mouth and getting precise measurements. For an artist, it might be the aesthetic of a beautiful smile.

As a whole, Myers said, Americans are doing a much better job of caring for their teeth. In 1960, the average 65-year-old American had seven of his or her own teeth. By 2000, that grew to 20 teeth.

Myers said members of his club are doing better than average because 80-year-old Americans, on average, have only 17 of their own teeth.

Myers said the 80/20 Club is also worth celebrating because retaining teeth is a sign of health at a time when many 80-year-olds are focusing on ways their health is slipping.

“I want to celebrate the fact that they’ve accomplished what I want as a dentist: all their teeth for their whole life,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]