Augusta has one of the best dental schools in the country, so it’s no surprise that the city also boasts an impressive number of practicing dentists, representing every specialty, including those who conduct cutting edge research at the Georgia Health Sciences University School of Dental Medicine. Included here is a listing of the top dentists in the Augusta area as selected by the organization topDentists.
Their selection process is rigorous, beginning with the simple question, “If you had a patient in need of a dentist, which dentist would you send them to?” The
nomination pool consisted of all the dentists listed online with the American Dental Association (ada.org), as well as all dentists listed online with their local dental societies, thus allowing virtually every dentist the opportunity to participate. Dentists are also given the opportunity to nominate any missed dentists they feel should be included. Each is sent a ballot to complete. Once completed the scores are compiled and averaged. Names are checked against state dental boards to make sure they all have active licenses and there are no pending disciplinary actions. Then each dentist on the list is sent a letter of congratulations informing them of their inclusion. For more information visit usatopdentists.com.
Dr. William Trotter IV
A Perfect Fit
Talk to William “Bill” Augustus Trotter, IV for five minutes, even less, and Eugene Field’s classic poem Jest ’Fore Christmas skids in like a puppy sliding across the kitchen floor. Snippets of prose playfully bound in the imagination—Father calls me William, sister calls me Will, Mother calls me Willie, but the fellers call me Bill!—as Dr. Trotter explains that even though he goes by IV he’s really the VI because his grandfather, who used the suffix Jr., was actually the IV, which makes Dr. Trotter’s son Bill either V or VII, depending on who’s mapping it out.
There ends, however, any inkling of confusion. “My pet peeve is clutter,” says Dr. Trotter. “I always have a crease in my pants. My blue shirts are separated from the white ones.” He laughs, acknowledging that he is obsessive about orderliness, both professionally and personally, and that it prompts due teasing from associates and friends. But Type A organization tendencies are what patients want from a maxillofacial surgeon.
After graduating from Lakeside High School, Dr. Trotter went on to earn a bachelor of science degree in zoology from the University of Georgia. Recalling his years at UGA replete with football game-days, membership in Chi Phi fraternity and formation of lasting friendships, he marvels, like all alumnae do at some point, “I can’t believe I was in a hurry to leave.” But what many college students refer to as “real life” hummed in his ear, whispering, “Get on with it.”
His uncle, Dr. Barrett Trotter, an orthodontist, introduced him to the field of dentistry. Anyone considering a career in dental medicine, strongly encourages Bill, should do the leg work and spend time in multiple practices before fully committing. Observing his uncle’s private practice, he knew dentistry was the profession for him. “I enjoyed the patient interaction he had. I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands. It was a good fit,” he concludes. Pursuing that perfect fit, he earned a DMD from the former Medical College of Georgia (now Georgia Health Sciences University) School of Dentistry in 2000. The next step was a four-year residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, where he honed skills far beyond extracting wisdom teeth, though he’s very good at that too.
Since 2004, he has seen patients at the Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, treating jaw disorders, cysts, tumors, oral cancers and facial trauma, among other issues. Dr. Trotter aspires “to treat patients fairly, take good care of them, provide a good service, treat people like I would want to be treated.” These are overarching goals that apply not only to patients who seek out his expertise, but also to those to whom he donates his time and talents. Hope Dental Clinic, a branch of Broad Street Ministry Center, benefits from Dr. Trotter’s competence. The patients referred to him through Hope Dental Clinic receive exceptional care.
All that said, Dr. Trotter, creased pants, big heart and all, is a lot like everyone else. He desires to be successful in his vocation. He strives to be a good husband to his wife, Jennifer, and a good father to their three young children, Bill, 7, Jane, 5, and Julia, 4. “My first priority, when I’m not at work,” he asserts, “is my family.” Spending time with his children, teaching them right from wrong, letting them know he loves them and developing them into productive citizens keep him close to hearth and home.
Nonetheless, he’s still that enthusiastic, affable boy of Eugene Field’s poem: “Love to chawk green apples an’ go swimmin’ in the lake...” Hunting, golf or anything outdoors speaks to his core. He always says, “It’s easier to be happy than it is to be upset or angry,” and he lives that out day to day, searching for the positive in every situation and encounter. And as far as the name thing goes, he says it doesn’t much matter with all those suffixes. What matters is that he’s really proud to be a Trotter and that he continues to live the example set by the men with whom he shares his name.
Dr. Connie Drisko
The White Tornado
A storm of energy and enthusiasm whirls down the hall followed by white coattails. Nicknamed the White Tornado by her colleagues at the University of Louisville—a moniker playing off of her coiffure (white hair), her roots (the movie Twister was filmed in her hometown) and her vigor—Dr. Connie Drisko gets things done. Born at home in the small town of Wakita, Okla., which had a population of 500 at the time and not a single paved road, one might borrow the slogan, “You’ve come a long way, Baby,” to describe her and her accomplishments.
She began her career as a dental hygienist and has worked her way to the top of her field, with heavy emphasis on work. During her 16 years as a dental hygienist she both practiced and taught. Formation of a tornado, however, requires movement in the atmosphere. Dr. Clifford Ochsenbein, an internationally-renowned periodontist and her most important mentor, spurred her to action. Observing him perform cutting-edge techniques and treatments sparked an interest in young Connie. Dr. Ochsenbein recognized her eagerness and urged her to apply to dental school. His vote of confidence set her on a career track that eventually led her to Georgia Health Sciences University’s College of Dental Medicine.
As dean of the College of Dental Medicine, she excels as a leader and an advocate. Dr. Ochsenbein, who carefully analyzed his own work, supplied her with a standard by which to measure her efforts in all pursuits. She says, “He studied everything he did and tried to make it better the next time. I’ve always followed that philosophy.”
When she arrived in Augusta, she brought with her the wise advice of another mentor, her former dean at the University of Louisville, Dr. John Williams. He simply told her to tackle the long-term projects first. Thus, she quickly set about getting approval, procuring funding and completing construction of the new multi-million dollar dental school, which welcomed its first students last fall.
Dr. Drisko proudly says, “It’s the most expansive educational facility ever built in Georgia.” About 600 people work in the building every day. Around 260 students, 55 residents, 70 full-time faculty and 30 part-time faculty utilize the facility. More than that, close to 55,000 patients a year receive services from the dental school. “We can take care of 99 percent of any oral health problems people have,” she says. Achieving one goal, of course, fuels the next. Now she and the GHSU faculty are awaiting approval of the Education Commons—a building the dental and medical schools will share.
Since beginning her tenure with GHSU in 2003, she has occupied a front row seat to the university’s evolution and expansion. The past 10 years have been ones of great change. “This is a premier school of dentistry. Changing the name to Georgia Health Sciences University has given exposure to the College of Dentistry,” she says. “It’s very exciting. The things [Dr. Ricardo Azziz] is doing are extraordinary.”
Driven by passion and commitment, Dr. Drisko puts in 12 hour days, plus many evenings and weekends. She chose a career in academia because clinical practice, instruction and research converge there. Though all three excite her, research thrills her most. “It’s fun to be on the cutting edge of new clinical treatments and testing new products,” she gushes. Performing clinical trials for the FDA has kept her hands-on with patients and afforded her knowledge to pass on to students. “I feel confident that when I lecture on those topics, I have strong scientific evidence,” says Dr. Drisko. “I saw the results on my own private patients.”
Looking to the future, her goals, like her professional inclinations, are three-fold. She plans to build the College of Dental Medicine’s research portfolio. She’s determined to make it a destination for oral health in the Southeast. She emphasizes the necessity to keep the school’s curriculum in terms of practice and technology ahead of the curve. Although her nickname, the White Tornado, well describes her momentum, don’t let it fool you. Unlike a tornado’s haphazard habits, Dr. Drisko is laser focused and she’s going to take the College of Dental Medicine a long way, Baby.
Dr. Emmanuel Ngoh
Faith and Perseverance
If endodontist Dr. Emmanuel “Manny” Ngoh could give only one piece of advice, he would probably tell his listener to do something built to last that positively impacts other people’s lives. If a person could choose only one word to describe Dr. Ngoh, that word would have to be “servant.” His purpose in this world is for his hands to do Christ’s work. “How can we love God and not love the people around us?” he asks rhetorically.
Arriving in the United States from the Republic of Cameroon, Africa, at the age of 23, he had little money and big dreams, but all he kept hearing was no, no, no. Every time he told someone he intended to become a dentist, he received doubt in return. “They told me it was not possible,” he says.
The long haul toward dental school began at Atlanta Metropolitan College. At the encouragement of a professor, he quickly transferred to Georgia Health Sciences University’s dental hygiene program, from which he earned a bachelor of science degree. Accepted into the School of Dentistry, he completed that curriculum in 1994 and later became the first African American accepted into GHSU’s endodontics program.
No, however, continued to echo. Professors and colleagues suggested that he enter into a career in public health. They discouraged him from opening a private practice on the grounds that a minority with a foreign accent would face great difficulties getting a practice going, especially in the South. “They tell me I cannot, I say, ‘Yes I can,’” Dr. Ngoh resolutely says, emphasizing his drive, then and now, to achieve.
His program director, Dr. Bob Loushine, got behind him and his goals. Angrily, Dr. Loushine told Dr. Ngoh to ignore the naysayers. Today Dr. Loushine continues to demonstrate his confidence in Dr. Ngoh, working part-time in his successful Augusta Endodontic Center. Having someone who believed in him proved to be the catalyst Dr. Ngoh needed to move forward.
His faith sustains him. Even the mission statement for his practice begins with the sentence, “We strive for excellence in a Christ-centered environment to make a difference in the lives of the patients we serve.” With cutting edge technology, such as Cone Beam CT Scans, he diagnoses and treats patients’ dental issues. With compassionate care and connection he acknowledges their spirits. Putting together the puzzle of what is happening below a patient’s gum line and determining the best course of treatment for remediation captivates Dr. Ngoh. He compares the process to assembling a jigsaw puzzle. There are few things in life he enjoys more than his work.
Despite stumbling blocks, including a stutter that was not resolved until he was in dental hygiene school, he has achieved what he set out to do. He says, “God put people in my life who opened doors for me.” He now endeavors to help others realize their God-given potential. He opens doors by providing scholarships for dental hygiene and dental assistant programs. He mentors dental students. He organizes mission trips to care for the poor of the world. And he partners with his wife, Catherine, to raise their three sons, Neba, 9, Tumah, 13, and Akonwi, 18.
He has also written a book, Principles of Success (2003), which he originally intended as instruction for his nephews and nieces in Cameroon as they navigated their teen years. The book addresses the misconception that success is related to financial attainments and outlines eight principles related to true fulfillment. Tremendous feedback motivated him to make it available to a wider audience, releasing English and Spanish translations.
It isn’t enough to only say the words, though; he lives the example. Dr. Ngoh says, “Everyday I get up and ask, ‘What can I do today that will make me better tomorrow?’” He is always challenging himself, whether improving his skills to become a scratch golfer (which, once again, people tell him he can’t do) or studying to earn his MA in Leadership and Evangelism from Columbia International University. He also looks to the future, planning to dedicate his life to full-time missionary work when he retires from his hard-won career in dentistry. Through him, God’s hand will be seen.
Dr. David Brantley
By the Book
Success ever increases his humility. “Coming from my background,” says David Brantley, DDS, of Pediatric Dental Specialists, “I shouldn’t be where I am today.” His family primarily farmed tobacco until his father sold their property when Dr. Brantley was 15. As a teenager, he worked at both the hardware store with his father and at the grocery store, where his mother was a cashier. Neither his dad nor his mom went to college. Nonetheless, growing up in rural Norlina, N.C., about two miles from the Virginia border, Dr. Brantley learned a lot about work ethic and family and friendship and God. In a town of about 1,000 people, those were the spoils.
“I give God the glory for everything I’ve done,” he says. For him, his profession is more than a job or an academic routine or the satisfaction of an interest in the sciences. It is his calling. It has given him the chance to do good for others.
Nineteen sixty-seven, the year Dr. Brantley’s parents took him over to Raleigh, N.C., to get braces on his teeth, put him at the knee of the man who influenced how the spoils of his childhood would eventually be spent. Young David’s orthodontist, Dr. Baker, candidly talked to him about the profession of dentistry. A lasting bond formed between patient and practitioner and inspired the boyhood Brantley. Orthodontics is listed as his future career in his senior-year high school annual. Later Dr. Baker wrote a recommendation letter that helped Dr. Brantley, one of about 1,100 applicants, earn a coveted seat in the class of 1979 at the University of North Caroline School of Dentistry in Chapel Hill, the top dental school in the country at the time.
At the same time, another aspiration began to tug at his heart—a desire that had likely been with him as long as his ambition to be a dentist, maybe even longer. Just like his father had wanted to, he determined to serve his country. In tribute to his dad, who tried to enlist during the Korean War but didn’t pass the physical, Dr. Brantley joined the United States Army, proud to serve his country.
Experience in the Army Dental Corps confirmed children’s dentistry as his specialty. On assignment in South Korea, he spent 10 months treating child dependents of military servicemen. His mentor during that period, seeing that Dr. Brantley has a gift and a passion for pediatrics, suggested that he consider a career in it. With that prompting, he applied to the pediatric residency program at the then Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry.
What draws him to children’s dentistry? Dr. Brantley says, “Children are not mini adults. Children are complex because they are in constant growth.” From visit to visit, his patients change in so many ways—emotionally, intellectually, physically, spiritually. Because the American Dental Association now recommends that a child’s initial dental visit occur no later than the first birthday, Dr. Brantley sees many of his patients from infancy to adulthood. He interacts with patients and communicates with them in terms relevant to their stage of development. When possible, he mentors them as Dr. Baker did him.
In addition to providing an arena in which he solidified his professional specialty, the Army also brought him to Augusta (Fort Gordon was his duty station), where he met his wife, Lynn, an Augusta native. Together, they raised four sons here, all now in their 20s. For Dr. Brantley, family fills his glass to delightfully overflowing. The front door of his house barely closes, if at all, before someone is swinging it open again—sons and daughters-in-law, nieces and nephews, and sweet, red-headed Charlotte Ann, his granddaughter, come and go and linger.
Everything goes back to his roots in Norlina, where he first experienced the powerful connectedness characteristic of family and friendship, discovered the rewards of work well done and witnessed the strength of faith. Things were simple then. Living life and doing business by the book, the Bible, keeps life simple now. Dr. Brantley humbly answers his calling every day. Humility ever sweetens his success.
Dr. Joseph Dromsky
Long Road Home to Augusta
Past events engineer present circumstances. No route, no matter how convoluted, skirts around that simple fact. All paths lead right here. Dr. Joseph Dromsky, who practices family and cosmetic dentistry in his well-established office on Walton Way, can trace many paths worn in many places, and right here is the one place he wants to be.
Born in Germany to a U.S. Air Force pilot father and a nurse mother, he, along with his three siblings, learned to adjust to the frequent moves required by military life. Experiences make people who they are, of course, and Dr. Dromsky is a gregarious outgoing guy. Friends, family, staff and patients feel at ease in his presence. “I like to sit down and talk to people about whatever they want to talk about,” says Dr. Dromsky. Waking up in a new city every few years engendered in him the willingness to meet people where they are.
This degree of flexibility develops with practice. “One of the things about moving every two to three years is that you learn to quickly adopt your new location as home,” he says. As a junior in high school, he adopted Augusta as home. Eventually, he intentionally made it home, long term, choosing to buy into the late Dr. David Dross’s private practice after graduating from Georgia Health Sciences University’s College of Dental Medicine in 1988.
When his family arrived in Augusta in the late ’70s, he enrolled at Westside High School. It did not take long for him to latch on to the city, the state and the SEC as if he’d lived here his whole life. He attended the University of Georgia, where he lettered in varsity swimming (200 and 500 freestyle) all four academic years. Devotion to his alma mater could be no stronger if he was a fourth generation legacy. Twenty-eight years post-graduation, he helps raise money for swimming scholarships, purchases season football tickets and has yet to miss an annual Georgia-Florida showdown.
Dedication to his “hometown” runs as vigorously. Clutching a degree in biology, he returned to Augusta to study dentistry. And he put down roots. Though he fondly talks of his childhood and attributes his adaptive nature to it, he values the sense of place he and his wife, Jill, have given their three sons, Zachary, 20, Andrew, 18, and Samuel, 14. As fortune would have it, Joe’s and Jill’s parents retired to the area. “My kids were born and raised in one city and see their grandparents all the time,” Joe says, pleased.
Stability goes to work with him as well. Staff members from before he joined the Summerville practice have remained since Dr. Dross’s retirement. Because of the practice’s longevity, Dr. Dromsky treats the children and grandchildren of many patients, who appreciate the professionalism, compassion and rapport. “I have an excellent staff,” he says. “We’re like family. I think my staff is one of those reasons why people keep coming back.” Both staff and patients receive his gratitude in the oft-stated, “Thank you.”
As much as his staff enjoys what they do, Dr. Dromsky takes pleasure in his work as well, placing emphasis on each patient’s needs. “I still take my time even when I’m running behind,” he says. In addition to general dentistry, he performs cosmetic bonding, crown and bridge work and implant restoration. Attending study clubs with fellow dentists enables him to keep up with technology, materials and trends, and to meet his goal of providing patients with the perfect balance of aesthetics and function. It offers an artistic outlet for him, as well, to change someone’s smile, to enhance someone’s appearance, to bolster someone’s self-confidence.
He honed his self-confidence the hard way—by roaming the world over—so he appreciates how important it is. Moving city to city as a child taught him how to quickly form connections with others and he naturally sees everyone who enters the doors of his practice as a friend. All those paths in his past brought him right here, right now, to this place; those travels brought him home, to Augusta.