WHAT: Ahl Orthodontics
WHERE: 1004 South State St., Dover
HOURS: Opens June 3. Office hours will be 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday
INFO: Call 678-3000 or visit www.ahlorthodontics.com.

Jamie D. Ahl became interested in dentistry early on in life. The first time she ever visited the dentist she decided that she wanted to make it her career. When she had braces put on her teeth in the eighth grade, she took it a step further and decided to specialize.

She went pre-med in college and worked part time for an orthodontist, cementing the career choice in her mind. After she graduated she went right on to dental school and has worked in orthodontics since graduating.

"I love working with teenagers," Ahl said. "I get to watch people's confidence grow as their smile improves."

After eight years as an associate in a different orthodontist's practice, Ahl was ready to break out on her own and start her practice. She and her husband, Douglas Ditty, decided to build an office space that can house both of their practices in one location. Ditty operates First State Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery with his business partner, Franklin Pancko, which will be located on one end of the building, and her orthodontics practice, Ahl Orthodontics, on the other with rental space available in the middle.

"It will be fantastic to be able to merge and have one practice," Ahl said.

Construction began on their new offices, located at 1004 South State St., Dover, in August and the building is slated to be ready by mid-May.

While at a conference at the Baltimore Hilton, Ahl had seen a mosaic mural that she couldn't get out of her mind. She decided to include something similar in her reception area. She tracked down the artist and put her to work.

Mari Gardner, who has been working as a professional artist since 2002, packed up with her husband and 2-year-old son and moved to Dover for the month-long process of creating the 7-foot –by-8-foot mural, which is a small space compared to what Gardner typically works in.

"It was fun to work on that scale," Gardner said. "Generally I work much larger. A lot of my pieces take up an entire wall. This project took a month to complete but sometimes they can take a year, sometimes more."

Ahl picked out an intertwined the letters A and O as the motif for the mural to represent the name of her business. The colors for the mural were a collaborative effort between Ahl and Gardner.

"She said she liked the stones in the piece I did in Baltimore," Gardner said. "She also sent me color swatches for the reception area and we put a color scheme together."

Gardner's work ended on April 19 and she has since moved on to her next project. Construction is still moving forward at Ahl's practice. The plan is to have the practice open on June 3, Ahl said.

"I've been really looking forward to being in Dover," she said. "I'm excited to get to know the patients and dentists in the area."

Ahl Orthotics will offer services like Invisalign, braces and bite correction, as well as free consultations. Flexible payment plans will be available and Medicaid will be accepted. The office will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

For more about Mari Gardner visit www.marigardner.com