Twenty years ago, when Dr. Gary Ashton and his wife Stacy opened their dental practice on Cardinal Park Drive in Leesburg, they decided to use a grassroots approach to find patients. By walking door-to-door with a basket of free toothbrushes and free cleanings for kids, they were able to book appointments on the spot. Now, 10,000 patients later with a staff of 25, the practice is celebrating two decades in Leesburg. The Times-Mirror recently spoke with Dr. Ashton and his wife to hear stories about how they opened and challenges they have overcome over the years.
What inspired you to become a dentist?
I always wanted to go on medical missions as a young college student. But as I got older I also realized my desire for a family. My pastor at Virginia Tech happened to be a dentist and encouraged me to explore that path. Once I graduated from Virginia Tech, I moved to Richmond and volunteered at the Medical College of Virginia where I realized I could be a dentist, still do mission work and have a family. So dentistry seemed to be a perfect fit. I have been to Haiti with Purcellville Baptist Church and to Honduras with Cornerstone Chapel with mission teams over the past 10 years.
What are some of the challenges you have seen over the past 20 years?
After 20 years in practice, one of the most challenging aspects has been dealing with insurance benefits. In the past 20 years annual benefits for the patient has not changed at all, yet the rising cost of dentistry has risen according to inflation.
What do you see for the future in dentistry?
Technological advances in dentistry have been the most exciting part of my career. Not only can we provide painless dentistry but new technologies such as Invisalign, implants, 3D imaging, sleep apnea and the ability to make crowns on-site with computer aided design and manufacturing.
What are your favorite memories of the early days in practice?
After a couple of weeks of being open, our first business loan was due and we were not sure how we would make the payment.
One day, a patient came into the office who needed multiple treatments and offered to pay for the services in advance. Fortunately and surprisingly, it was the same amount as the loan payment, and our prayers were answered.
Another story is how we quickly realized we would need to hire a dentist assistant. We were working on a patient and Stacy was assisting me. All of a sudden, Stacy got queasy and when she stood up, she fainted!
What is the secret to your success?
I try to get to know the patients and care for them like my own family. We also don't up-sell services to our patients. So many people have been with us for many years. We are so grateful to the community for all of their support.