After nearly four decades working in pediatric and family dentistry, Dr. Penn Waldron is retiring his dental tools.
"I think it is time to give it up to a younger, fresher mind, with more knowledge," said Waldron, 70.
As Waldron passes his practice on to that "younger, fresher mind," Dr. Ross Penland, he said he has the fullest confidence in his successor.
"I was ready to let go," Waldron said. "I thoroughly trust and appreciate what Ross can do, and I have no misgivings at all."
Meanwhile, Penland inherits a practice that has served generations of families. Waldron said his patient clientele includes families with adults who first came to the Newton dentist when they were children.
"I saw a patient today, who brought a little bitty boy in, and I told her I would take care of (the child), but he is a little wiggle bug," Penland said. "She said she always remembered Dr. Waldron would tell her, 'Sit quiet and sit still.'"
"And I would just sit still," the mother told the town's newest dentist of her experience with Waldron.
Waldron first established his practice Aug. 3, 1972 in a space above H&W Drug in downtown Newton. He credits Drs. Jack Adair and Clarence Canrobert for his start, and after an office space on West 20th Street was constructed a couple of years later, he moved his practice to the new dental complex.
During that time, Waldron said he found plenty of cause for enjoyment.
"Serving the children and seeing how they respond to us, and seeing them as they developed families and bring their children to us, that's really rewarding," he said.
Thirty-nine years later, he is leaving that office space, but the practice still operates with many of the same philosophies Waldron said he thinks are important.
"Our philosophies are the same," Penland said. "We try to treat the kids the best we possibly can. We don't do anything for them that we wouldn't do for our own kids or grandkids, if you want to look at it that way."
A native of Simpsonville, S.C., Penland attended Lenoir-Rhyne University, and graduated in 2004.
"I was a jock, my wife was a jock and we met there," he laughed. "Then I went for my dental training at the Medical University of South Carolina at Charleston and stayed in-house to do my residency."
For the past six years, Penland said he has been completing his residency in Charleston. That time included training in pediatric dentistry, where he said he spent a couple of years focusing on treating children.
"Not just 'good kids,' but we learned how to manage a lot of special needs kids or kids with behavior issues," he said. "So we can manage that a little more than general dentists can."
Further, he trained in treating sick children or those with anxiety or fear issues.
"For children that need a little extra help, I feel proficient in my skills to use medications to help ease a child's fear or anxiety," he explained.
Once he completed his residency, Penland said he began looking for a place to start a practice. At the same time, Waldron was looking for a young dentist to take over his own practice. A conversation at a family function Penland attended led to a cold-call to Waldron, and from there things "just clicked."
Over a couple of years, Penland and Waldron became acquainted, and they decided the fit was right.
"I feel like he is a good man, and I really appreciate his philosophy and the things he has done," Penland said. "I want to do the same types of things. I want to raise my family here. I want to be involved in the area, and it seemed like a good fit for us as a family. ... We prayed about it a lot and it seemed like we just kept getting drawn here."
Now as Penland takes over Waldron's practice, he has many of the same goals as his predecessor.
"I want this to be a home for kids, where they can come for comprehensive care, and the families know they are comfortable here," he said. "I don't want this to be a place that 'The guy gives me shots or fillings.' I want them to have a good time here."
He said he also wants to educate the children.
"Dental disease is the No. 1 preventable disease in the nation," he said. "A lot of people don't realize that. If I can get ahold of these kids early and tell their parents, and talk to them about the right things to do and dietary practices, I wouldn't have to fill any cavities."
Penland is also on staff at Catawba Valley Medical Center, so he is on-call to help deal with dental emergencies that might arise. If a child falls, or "decides to eat a baseball," Penland said his phone is always on and the hospital or his patients can contact him.
"Some children have special needs, and some children have health problems that just don't make them good candidates to be seen here. They are better managed in a hospital setting," he said, adding that by working with CVMC, he is able to "see them all the way through."
"We are a comprehensive care center," he said. "We want to give children good experiences and make them good dental patients for the rest of their life."