Photos by Derek Bell
Adolescence is the season of life when love is everything and acne is every-where. The far-too-frequent mood swings, the jungle of school drama, and the unfortunate proportions of the teenage frame often mark these transitional years as a time of emotional, intellectual, and physical chaos. For some, this mayhem may also mean the symmetrical smiles of childhood now resemble an enamel jigsaw puzzle. The once-perfect pearly whites have decided they, too, want to participate in the disorder of adolescence. Not all pre-teens and teens inherit overbites, gaps between their two front teeth, or the dental disaster of the overcrowded mouth. However, for those who do need professional assistance, the selection of a competent and compassionate orthodontist is a priority.
So how do you decide?
When ﬁrst meeting Dr. William Bennett of Foundations Orthodontics, his willingness to be mentally and emotionally present is immediately evident. Because the need for braces or other corrective procedures usually coincides with the crisis of adolescence, and often contributes to the drama of it all, Bennett’s disposition can be a reassuring cornerstone for supporting the youth throughout their orthodontic journey. For Bennett, a small town man originally from Jesup, Ga., and a graduate of the Medical College of Georgia, this passion for compassionate care is, in part, what started him on his orthodontic journey.
“I’m the youngest of ﬁve children,” he says. “I grew up on a farm in a small town, and the only thing I knew was I didn’t want to be a school teacher and I didn’t want to be a farmer. I always wanted to help people. When you grow up in a small town like that, if you want to help people,and if you’re good at math and science, everyone just assumes you want to be a doctor.”
His ﬁrst stop on the road to orthodontics was the University of Georgia, where he received his pharmacy degree in 1999. However, Bennett, with his passion for people and his outdoorsman heart, did not immediately enroll in the educational boot camp known as medical school.
“I didn’t want to go straight to medical school, so I moved out to Alaska and worked for the Indian Health Service,” he says. “I chose where I lived based on where the fish were running, where the game I was hunting was, and where I could ski.”
As he explored the western wilderness and further honed his skillset as a pharmacist, Bennett continued to reﬁne the particulars of his calling to the medical profession.
After this season of relative leisure, with the promise of ﬁshing at the end of any stressful day, Bennett jumped into the river of medical education.
“I started a transitional year at University of Alabama in Birmingham but soon decided I wanted to change careers,” he says. “The modern medical practice certainly is not what you envision when you are 5, and I did not want my work as a professional to hinder people from getting where they wanted to be. After investing time in the program and realizing it wasn’t right for me, I made the hardest decision of my life and chose to go a different direction.”
After conversations with one of his older brothers, he returned to the Medical College of Georgia, this time to pursue his dental degree. Four more years of learning and four years closer to ﬁnding the grown-up version of his childhood dream brought Bennett to the ﬁnal decision on his journey to the full-time ministry of medicine.
“In my last year of dental school, I had several people really encourage me to go into orthodontics because they thought I had the disposition for the patient interaction this ﬁeld needs,” he says. “This wasn’t my original plan, but I made the mistake of visiting the oﬃces of a few orthodontists.”
A degree in orthodontics came next, this time from the University of Colorado. He was ready for home. He was ready to return to Georgia.
Now, here in the first months of 2016, Bennett has been in Rome for two years, and life continues to move quickly for the hunter, ﬁsher, skier, new husband, new father, doctor, and orthodontist. Although the schedule is full and the free moments few, for Bennett, it’s absolutely worth it. After having spent a short lifetime learning about the body, Bennett now, four degrees later, is pursuing his passion far beyond the scope of his childhood naiveté.
“We took braces oﬀ this 16-year-old boy and when we did, his mom kind of broke down, but more moving was this young man’s response to seeing his straight teeth for the ﬁrst time,” Bennett says. “You go in to this ﬁeld hoping to really help people and hoping to blow people away with the post-braces result. When you see a kid like that, the success story, I know it’s worth the long hours and the journey I have taken to get here.”
Although he is not a lifelong Roman, Bennett, in his two short but notable years, already has left his mark. In part, this is because of his excellence as a medical practitioner. However, his philosophical approach to orthodontics is what sets him apart.
“We are getting kids at, for many of them, the worst possible time in their life,” says Bennett. “They think they look awkward. Their voice is cracking. They are experiencing so many changes.”
Because he recognizes and wants to safeguard this vulnerable stage of life, the outdoorsman-dentist uses those appointments as a pulpit for promoting maturity. “Both my mom and my dad were school teachers,” Bennett says, “and I went into this ﬁeld wanting to help kids and teenagers develop their self-image and really promote a healthy level of self-esteem.”
However, the lesson does not stop there. “I think it’s more than the positive sense of self,” he continues. “Not everybody is going to be a supermodel, and I hope to encourage my younger patients to love themselves, accept themselves, and, in turn, accept others. Also, if these kids can appreciate how fortunate they are to have a luxury like braces, a ﬁnancial impossibility for some families, it also helps positively shape their worldview.”
Now securely situated in Floyd County, Bennett is ready to call Rome home.
“He really loves his work,” says Mary Taylor Bennett, his wife and Foundation Orthodontics oﬃce manager. “It’s more than a paycheck for him; it really is.”
A lifelong learner, an outdoorsman who knows where the ﬁsh are biting, and an orthodontist who knows the value of a well-placed word, Bennett is in the business of shaping smiles and shaping lives.
To learn more about Foundation Orthodontics, visit Orthodonticsromega.com