Walking the same path: Twin dentists take their similarities, differences in stride
Other than at the time of their birth, when Bert Engstrom arrived seven minutes before his brother, David, one of the longest times these twins spent apart was when they went on separate missions for their church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Bert was sent to Argentina while David was sent to Brazil, which did not sit at all well with their mother, Elda, according to family friend Georgeanna Johnson, who has known the family since moving into their neighborhood in 1972.
“She was so annoyed that the church didn’t send them on the same mission,” Johnson said. “She was so upset.”
It didn’t seem to bother the easygoing brothers, who aren’t nearly as impressed with their “twin-ness” as their mother was, and take their similarities as well as their differences in stride. She enjoyed dressing them alike as children and continued giving them the same clothing as gifts well into adulthood.
“It was just fine,” Bert says. “For Mom, having twins was the best thing in the world.”
Their two younger siblings have rhyming names, Fae and Ray, even though they are not twins, but David’s and Bert’s names could not be less twin-like.
Both parents are gone now, but they were a tight-knit family. Both of their parents lost their own parents at an early age, and the boys were born when their parents were either side of 40, which meant that when they were young, most of their cousins were in their 20s. So their parents were very devoted to them. “It was just us.”
It still is, to a degree.
The brothers both became dentists, they have shared a practice for the past 20 years, and they both recently began providing their services to Adventist Health Medical Office - Sanger.
For all the things they do alike, they can’t resist comparing their differences.
Bert is outgoing; David is more introverted.
David is adventurous; Bert is perfectly content to chill out in front of the tube.
Bert is more of the leader — David calls him “Bert the Boss” — but David says he is more competitive.
When they went to college, Bert chose dentistry while David went to pharmacy school. Later, perhaps for the thrill of rivalry, David went back to school to also become a dentist.
“I am competitive,” he said. “We compare a lot, and I always want to do better.”
They both say they are mechanically inclined and like to use their hands, so dentistry has been a good fit even though different aspects appeal to them.
“I don’t like doing extractions,” Bert says, “but David does. I guess he likes taking things out and I like putting things in.”
Bert says that twinness is a source of comfort to both of them. They can spend all day together in their practice and still go home and call one another on the phone.
“We never run out of things to talk about,” Bert says. “My wife has often said that if she and David were both drowning, I would probably save David first. In 2006, David went through a divorce, but I was the one going through all the stress.”
Johnson says, “They’re incredibly close. I think they think each other’s thoughts.”
But they also enjoy the kind of fun that only twins can have, confusing friends and family by pretending to be the other.
“He really loves to get the grandkids,” David says. “And if I see somebody on the street and they say ‘Hi,’ I’ll say ‘Hi’ back, and my wife always asks, ‘Who’s that?’ If I don’t know, I just figure it’s someone Bert knows.”
What has stayed with Johnson over the years, however, is their personal integrity and work ethic.
“If they say they’re going to do something, they do it,” she says. “I consider these boys my younger brothers. There’s not a time they haven’t looked after me personally. I couldn’t think of two finer men.”