Longtime Dentist Hands Over Business to Son


After 41 years of practice in the Chehalis area, one local dentist handed over the reins of his business to his son, helping to keep the family’s legacy alive in the area. 

John Henricksen has been involved in his profession for 44 years. After graduating from dental school at the University of Washington, he completed his residency at an Air Force hospital in Washington, D.C. Once his residency was complete, Henricksen was sent to Vietnam to practice. 

“I entered dental school in 1966 and at that point in time the Vietnam War was really taking off, and I would say that 85 percent of my graduating dental class went into the military,” Henricksen said.

He enlisted to avoid the draft and chose the Air Force because he thought he would have the smallest chance of going to Vietnam, the first place he was sent to. 

Once he left the Air Force, Henricksen took his childhood optometrist on his word, and entered into practice with him in Chehalis. Together, with the help of a few others, they constructed the building, a place where Henricksen’s practice sits to this day on South Market Boulevard. 

Throughout his time as a dentist, Henricksen has dedicated a lot of his time to humanitarian work. He has worked in China, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, among other places. It was his way of giving back, something he used to do with his son. 

At the end of July and the first part of August, Henricksen let his son take over the business. Dan, who recently graduated from dental school, wanted to help continue his father’s practice, something he knew was important to his dad. 

“When you spend 40 years building something, you don’t want to see it fall apart,” Dan said. 

He first became interested in dentistry in middle school. Often times he would come to his dad’s work and read anatomy books while waiting to go home. After helping on a variety of different humanitarian trips, Dan started to realize dentistry could be a passion of his. The idea to become a dentist wasn’t cemented into his mind until he took a sculpture class in college. 

During his art class, he was sculpting a head; a process that started with carving a skull, adding muscles and then a layer of skin. While he was sculpting, he took particular care with the teeth, making them as realistic as possible. That’s when he realized dentistry was the career he wanted to pursue.

“I thought, you know what, I think maybe dentistry is kind of the thing for me because I get to mix art and science,” Dan said. 

The more laid-back culture of dentistry as compared to a surgeon’s job also helped seal the deal, allowing Dan to have the family life he wanted with a job that would not run his life. 

As a W.F. West graduate, Dan said it was important to come back to the area he was born and raised in. 

“There are a lot of dental practices, thousands across the country ... but I came back here because I really wanted to come back and continue serving the community,” he said.

The transition of the business into the hands of Dan has went surprisingly smooth, said his father. 

“He’s picked up where I left off and carried on. It’s just amazing how well he’s doing,” Henricksen said with a proud smile. “It’s like he’s been doing it for years.” 

Dan plans to continue to serve his patients with the same philosophy his father had. Not only does he plan to cater to his client’s needs, but he wants to give back in a bigger way, much like his dad.

“I have the same philosophy of service, not customer service, but just serving people; to help for help’s sake,” Dan said. 

He plans to upgrade the practice and transition to being all digital, something Dan said would bring lower radiation and immediate results to the patients. The program will also make the exchange of information easier and quicker. 

Although he currently has his hands full, Dan plans to jump into humanitarian work eventually, just like his father. 

“You have to give back,” he said. “I mean this is a good career so I think you’d be fairly ungrateful if you didn’t give back.”