My dentist—her name is Dr. Tammy Van Wart Hemann, but I call her Dr. Tammy—operates out of a little brick house on Sunset Boulevard, which she shares with her dentist sister. Until his recent retirement, her dentist father worked there, too. The family’s practice, which dates all the way back to 1960, has served generations of Houstonians. Ever since my first visit more than a decade ago, when I was referred to Dr. Tammy by my friend Eleanor, I’ve always chuckled at the sign in front that says “Dentist Parking Only. All Others Will Be Extracted.”

Tall and glamorous, with a Houston drawl and a back that aches from bending over all day, Dr. Tammy truly seems to love her chosen profession, to find human teeth utterly fascinating. She doesn’t clean them so much as commune with them, chatting away as she selects her instruments of torture and digs around in your mouth, Mix 96.5 or Sunny playing reliably in the background.

As dental experiences go, visits to Dr. Tammy are almost pleasant. Many times I’ve found myself trying to chat with her through the metal tools and cotton wads stuck in my mouth. She’s always pondering something interesting—hypnosis for weight loss, her mahjong club, the city’s polo scene, gender reveal parties, dangerous intersections—and I want to join in. Mostly I end up listening. Her chatter makes it all go faster.

Dr. Tammy truly gives a damn. She’s gone to bat for me multiple times with my insurer, and she scolded me almost angrily the time I came in and hadn’t been flossing enough, before letting me know I was “on notice.” (Devastated that I’d disappointed her, I reformed immediately.)

But she knows when to withhold judgment, too. A friend of mine confided that he hadn’t visited a dentist in 20 years, that what kept stopping him was the inevitable lecture on his negligence. He didn’t want to hear it. When I told Dr. Tammy about him, she said, “Believe me, I’ve seen worse.” Relayed this information, he made an appointment. He’s been a regular patient ever since, as have multiple other friends and coworkers I’ve referred over the years—probably the greatest measure of my faith in her.

It is, after all, important to trust the person shoving needles and other sharp metal objects inside your mouth, which is why Houstonia is back with its list of the best professionals in the city. We can vouch for their dentistry, if not their mahjong stories.

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