Dr. Edward S. Andochick ends taking care of peoples' teeth Wednesday after 52 years. A recent open house drew 250 people, including Andochick's first patient he saw in October 1962, who stopped by to thank the dentist.
Saying goodbye to the Frederick practice seems surreal, said Andochick, 82.
"It hasn't hit me yet," he said. But when so many people showed up at the open house and shared generous feelings and warmth, "I realized that maybe I did touch some people's lives."
Andochick's wife of 59 years, Pat, played a key role in his success. She was a cheerleader in high school, and he was a basketball player, "and we've been dribbling ever since," he said.
"She's the most important person in all of this," Andochick said. She was a registered nurse and encouraged him to go to college.
"She worked hard, raising four children and put me through school," Andochick said. "We had three children before I got out of dental college, so she deserves a tremendous amount of credit, and she doesn't know what she's going to do with me now that I'm retiring."
The couple have four children and four grandchildren. Lori Andochick, also a dentist, who has worked with her father for 20 years, will take over the practice, and her daughter, is thinking about making the practice a third-generation business.
The early years
Andochick's dental work began in the old professional building on North Market Street that is now home to Volt restaurant. He worked with Dr. Thomas J. Allen for seven years. Later, Dr. Gene Poirier, an internist, invited him at 516 Trail Ave., and he has been in the same location since January 1970.
He brought what is believed to be the first dental hygienist to Frederick, Andochick said.
"I had to educate people about what a dental hygienist does, and how it's important for me to focus on actual dental procedures while they clean teeth," Andochick said.
Digital technology has made for faster outcomes in the dentist's office, Andochick said. With traditional dental X-rays, a patient had to wait until the dentist develops the film, whereas, digital radiography develops the picture almost instantly and projects it onto a computer screen.
"I think it's one of the brightest new phases of dentistry; it diminishes radiation, some say by 60 percent, others say by 90 percent, and any time you can diminish a bad thing is a good thing," he said. Materials a dentist uses have also improved over the years.
Everyone thinks about cosmetic dentistry, he said, but his philosophy has always been prevention, comfort, health and function.
"We don't put cosmetics in front of those four things," Andochick said. "For instance, there's no sense getting yourself a beautiful smile on a poor foundation, so if you have periodontal disease, we're concerned with getting your mouth healthy first."
Sometimes, it takes a while for people to get his message about good dental care.
"I've had patients come in and say, 'you know, Dr. A, I'm finally flossing after 40 years. We beat them with the same message and it finally sticks."
Andochick credits his staff, who have worked with him for 27 years, for his success. "They've made this such a wonderful journey for me. That's made it fun for me and that's why I've lasted this long."
Excellence is a two-way street, the dentist said. The team knows what he expects of them and it's worked like a fine-oiled machine, Andochick said.
Lori Andochick said she won't be the dentist she is today if it had not been for her dad.
"When you have 250 people come through just to say thank you is a testament to how they love and respect him," Lori Adochick said. "Walking into an established practice made me want to follow that path."
There have been some tense situations working with her father, "which is normal and healthy," Lori said, and it has enabled both of them to grow not only as better dentists but it has also fostered a better relationship between them.
"I've learned so much from him, and after 20 years, he's given me the confidence to know that I cannot only maintain this practice, but also grow it for the future."
Follow Ike Wilson on Twitter: @ikewilson99.