Slice of Life: Lawrence dentist still in practice after 66 years

Dr. Paul Kincaid, 90, has practiced dentistry longer than many of us have lived. He is Kansas’ longest-serving practicing dentist and doesn’t have retirement plans.

Dr. Paul Kincaid, 90, is the longest-serving practicing dentist in the state of Kansas.

“I retired for a day, once, and didn’t like it,” he says.

“I’ve been blessed with good health, balance, eyesight and steady hand. I’ve enjoyed 66 years of dentistry and want to practice for as long as I’m able and hope to die at the chair.”

He enjoyed his childhood in Braymer, Mo., where his hard-working father owned a hardware business and later became Postmaster.

“We seemed to adjust to the Depression, and everyone helped one another,” he says.

“Our fun was fishing; sports, walking the streets on Saturday nights, and we loved our schools and teachers.”

Initial interest in dentistry was piqued when he noticed his local dentist went to work an hour later than his father and finished early to go fishing. A chance encounter at a high school track meet swayed him.

“After a humiliating fall at hurdles and skinning myself on the cinder track, I lost myself among bystanders and ran into grandpa’s neighbor Butch Woolard,” he says.

“Butch told me he planned to attend dental school, join the Army, practice for 20 years and open a shop. He made it sound like a great deal, so I decided to become a dentist.”

Kincaid completed pre-dental requirements at William Jewell College in 1942, applied for the Army and was devastated when he failed his physical and was given a 4F. In 1944, he married his high school sweetheart, Mary Bess, graduated with distinction from University of Missouri School of Dentistry in 1945 and briefly worked as a clinical instructor for $225 monthly. He moved to Lawrence in 1945 to set up practice at 839 1/2 Mass.

“I had used equipment, no air-conditioning, a $3,000 debt and worked two hours daily at Haskell Nations University to cover my rent,” he says.

He was thrilled to be recruited by the Army in 1953. He served at a Harrisburg disciplinary camp, returned to Lawrence in 1955 and moved to the present location at 306 E. 23rd St., where he now practices with his son, Dr. Charles Kincaid.

“I love practicing with Charley,” he says. “I know he’ll tell me if he thinks I’m no longer capable of first-class work.”

Kincaid has seen many changes in dentistry instruments and materials over the years, from hand-driven steel drilling and spraying pieces to the latest in modern technology, including digital X-rays and mandatory use of assistants. He’s completed three mission trips to Haiti, has a Ham radio license, loves working in his well-equipped woodwork shop, meditates daily, eats healthily (despite indulging in homemade cinnamon rolls) and climbs stairs. He’s survived prostrate cancer and the recent death of his beloved wife of 67 years and still counts his blessings every day.

“The Lord has guided me from one place to the next,” he says.

“I’m glad to be 90 and part of a wonderful profession and try to squeeze out all I know how to from life.”