08/20/2019
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By Erin Smith

Sometimes the decision to come home after living away is an easy one to make. For one Bladen County dentist, returning home was an easy choice to make.

Having grown up in Bladen County, Dr. Annie Greene said when she left to go to college she didn’t initially intend to return home to open a dental practice. She met her husband, Dr. Justin DeGarmo, while they were in residency near St. Petersburg, FL.  After completing their residencies, they both had experience in rural communities and were pleasantly surprised by how much they both enjoyed working in the rural communities versus the more urban areas.

“There’s a sense of accountability and satisfaction that we have found in a smaller community—when you don’t just see the smiles you helped create and maintain in the dental office, but you see them at the post office, the bank, and the ball game,” said Dr. Greene.

She explained that when she and her husband began to search for a place near Greenville to open a dental practice, they couldn’t find anywhere that met their needs. “We were very happy in Greenville, SC, but we could not find the ideal practice opportunity for both of us, and after living in Charleston, SC and St. Petersburg, FL, Justin especially missed being close to the coast,” said Dr. Greene.

She explained Dr. Cross was always her mentor—he was also her childhood dentist and helped her to prepare for her dental school interviews and provided her with recommendation letters.

“So looking back, it seems like a rite of passage coming back, but I can’t say that was my intention all along. From the time we initially discussed this possibility with Dr. Cross, the pieces just began to fall in place, and it felt like it was meant to be,” said Dr. Greene.

She said returning to Bladen County to establish their dental practice has been a positive experience for the couple. “We are still getting settled, but I am happy to be home and can tell Justin feels like he’s home too, and that’s been very rewarding—to watch someone I love come to love and embrace a place that I was able to introduce to him,” said Dr. Greene.

She said the best part of returning to Bladen County is the sense of community and being part of a team dedicated to helping their clients have the best dental care they can offer. “I enjoy the sense of being on a team in a way I had not known previously. Dr. Cross surrounded himself with bright, talented, and personable staff members, and every night when we get home, Justin and I count our blessings that those people are still there alongside us,” said Dr. Greene.

Of course, she and her husband Justin enjoy helping people to keep their smile looking great. When asked about three tips for caring for your teeth, Dr. Greene offered the following:

i) Teeth can be lost from gum disease just as they can from cavities; that’s why making and keeping routine hygiene appointments to monitor, maintain, and guide periodontal health is so important.

ii) Increasingly, a major problem we see in dentistry is undiagnosed occlusal disease—wear, chipping, breaking, and movement of teeth. There is an assumption that this is a normal part of getting older, but that’s not necessarily true. There are multiple root causes of occlusal disease, some serious, that we can help diagnose and manage.

iii) Do not let the lack of dental insurance keep you away from the dentist. Most dental insurance is structured to cover routine, preventative care; if you delay going in because of lack of insurance, your issues may progress to a point where insurance wouldn’t be beneficial anyway.

Their advice to someone who is thinking about returning home to start a business, Dr. Greene said, “Seek honest guidance from people with experience and try to gain wisdom from their experiences. Justin and I were both fortunate to have worked for many years as associates in dental practices, and our previous employers were and continue to be very gracious and supportive to us in starting our own business. Moreover, we have gained so much insight from Dr. Cross, and his guidance, direction, and encouragement have been invaluable. Dr. Cross built a wonderful team, and it makes success more readily attainable when you have driven, like-minded people working toward a common goal.”

When asked what she missed most about Bladen County when she was living in South Carolina, Dr. Greene said she missed her family, but she also really missed the “feeling” of Bladen County which is something she said is difficult put into words. “I missed the sense of community and the pride taken in the community, and I think that’s one reason our small towns are thriving in ways that aren’t necessarily true throughout the state. Living away from Bladen County for 15 years helped me appreciate what is so special about it. There is an integral value system to our county, and it’s something Justin and I feel we can help foster and grow,” said Dr. Greene.

She said she and Dr. DeGarmo look forward to meeting everyone. “We look forward to helping folks in Bladen County and the surrounding areas have and maintain healthy, comfortable, and beautiful smiles!”

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