LEWISTON — Twelve years ago, one longtime assistant retired. Then eight years ago, another.

Stuart Cohen thought about joining them, but not seriously.

In January, his wife left her job of 53 years. That did it.

At 80, Cohen, one of the state’s oldest practicing dentists, decided to close his practice on Dec. 31.

“Everybody who worked for me retired,” he said. “Everybody.”

Cohen knew as a teen in the 1940s that he wanted to be a dentist.


“I had a lot of hobbies,” Cohen said. “I made wood carvings and model trains.” He liked working with his hands. “It seemed to be the profession for me.”

He opened his practice in 1961 on Main Street in Lewiston and moved the next year to the corner of Webster Street and East Avenue, where he has stayed for the 51 years since.

Lewiston-Auburn added fluoride to its water about 50 years ago. He’s noticed the difference over the decades.

“In the early days, I was doing a denture or two every month for a teenager, which was horrible,” Cohen said. “You don’t see that anymore.”

There’s been a steep drop in tooth loss and cavities. More people brush and floss. Procedures, too, have become more advanced.

Nowadays, root canals can be done in one visit, painlessly, Cohen said. “When I started out, you were doing it in three visits and it wasn’t comfortable.”


A graduate of Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, Cohen’s half-century career included teaching through Tufts in Paris, Rome and London. For a 36-year stretch, he was on call every other night for local hospital emergency rooms. For 20 years, his office secretary was U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie’s sister, Frances Muskie-Chouinard. The author of the Clean Air Act was a frequent visitor to the office.

Cohen first decided to scale back his practice around 2000. At the time, half of his clients were children. “I wanted children to grow up with their dentist,” he said.

After all, he figured he would retire. Eventually.

He’s had some patients for all 52 years. “They’re not too pleased,” Cohen said. “They’re kind of in a quandary, what to do, where to go.”

Cohen knows where he’s personally not going: “Everybody is trying to tell me to go south, go to the Caribbean. I say, ‘That’s what you want to do.'”

There are plenty of day trips to be had and enough of Maine and the Maritimes to see. 

“It’s a good community to live in — I don’t really want to live anywhere else,” he said. “People have been nice to me. Hopefully, I’ve been good to them.”

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