FORT LORAMIE — When Dr. John Campbell, of Fort Loramie, announced recently that he would retire before the end of the year, one of his patients was particularly dismayed.
“What am I going to do for a dentist?” Campbell reported she said. “You’re the only one I’ve ever seen.”
“She started coming to me when she was six. She’s 50 now,” Campbell said.
The beloved dentist will hang up his picks and his drills for the last time, Dec. 22.
He grew up in Belle Center and graduated from Belle Center High School. He earned a Bachelor of Science from Bowling Green State University and graduated from the Ohio State University dental school in 1969. Two years of service as an Army dentist followed, one of which was spent in Vietnam.
When he returned, someone at a dental supply place in Dayton told him a doctor’s office was available in Fort Loramie.
“The community built this building,” Campbell said of his office at 20 S. Main St. “It was owned by Fort Loramie Professional Building Inc., roughly 200 residents. Dr. George Shroyer was on (one) side.” An empty dental office was on the other. Campbell moved in. It was 1971.
He and Dr. Joseph Steurnagel purchased the building a few years later and in 1989, Campbell bought Steurnagel’s interest in the structure and moved his office to the other side. Now, Primary Eyecare shares the facility.
Dr. Chris Ashby joined Campbell’s practice in 2001 and purchased it in 2003. Campbell has continued to work as a part-time, independent contractor since then.
“In 2011, I went to three and a half days a week. So when I retire, I have to find something to do to fill in three and a half days,” he said.
Retirement looms now because “I just thought I was old enough,” Campbell said.
He’s seen a lot of changes in the last 46 years.
“Everything I was taught in dental school has changed,” he said. To keep up with new technologies and practices, dentists are required to take at least 40 hours of classes every two years.
“Most dentists I know take much more than that,” he said. The biggest changes have been in materials used for fillings and crowns.
“The aesthetics of dentistry is the major change,” Campbell noted. “I haven’t done a silver filling since 1998.” Crowns, which were metal in the past, are now porcelain or zirconium.
One of his strangest cases involved putting teeth back into a little boy’s mouth. The child had been playing basketball. Because he was little, the basket rim had been lowered from its standard height. When the boy jumped to dunk the ball, his front teeth got caught in the net and stayed in the net as the rest of him went back down to the floor. So boy and teeth went to see Dr. Campbell.
“We put them back in and they stayed, so it was a happy ending,” Campbell said.
He added orthodontics to the practice in the 1980s and now puts braces on the children of people he put braces on years ago.
“That’s rewarding,” he said. So is getting lots of hugs as patients visit their dentist for the last time this month.
And it’s the people, both patients and staff, that Campbell will miss the most. He looks forward to golfing, fishing and traveling with his wife, Linda.
“I like beaches, warm places,” he laughed. But there’s no “bucket list.”
“Maybe I ought to do that,” he added.
Cambell has two sons, two stepsons, a stepdaughter and seven grandchildren. Two daughters-in-law work in his office.
What advice would he give to today’s dental students?
“Be prepared to work hard. It’s hard on your body. It’s physically difficult, but very rewarding. Kind of like spending all day putting a ship in a bottle,” he said.
Reach the writer at 937-541-1182. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.