Like father, like son ... and son ... and son

July 02, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Dr. Ronald Toothman followed in his father's footsteps and established an orthodontics practice in Hagerstown 30 years ago.

Now his son, Dr. Jeffrey Toothman, 28, is preparing to do the same. He begins his residency in orthodontics today.

Ronald lives in Chewsville with his wife, Colleen Toothman.

"Where else would a dentist live?" he said.

Both men said their last name does draw a few raised eyebrows, chuckles and questions.

"They ask, 'Oh, did you change your name?'" Ronald said. "Everybody says something about it."

While the answer is no, he said he has had some fun with the name. He has license plates that read "Tooth 1" and "Tooth 2."

And his boat? Tooth Ferry.

"He's really capitalized on the name and embraced it," Jeffrey, a 1997 Smithsburg High School graduate, said of his father. "That's something I haven't really done yet."


Ronald Toothman's father, Dr. George Toothman, who is now deceased, was an orthodontist. Ronald's grandfather, Plennie George Toothman, was a general dentist.

"It seems that I grew up with dentistry as the family business," he said.

But for years, Ronald said, he didn't think he would follow that path. He wanted to be an engineer until college, when he realized that wasn't for him.

"Then I thought, 'Gee, maybe I'd like to be a dentist,'" he said.

After four years of dental school, Ronald worked for his father at his office.

"I really enjoyed it," he said.

He enrolled at Eastman Dental Center, which is part of the University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center. Jeffrey Toothman graduated Friday from a fellowship program there in temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder and orofacial pain.

Ronald Toothman started his Hagerstown practice, which also has a Chambersburg, Pa., office, 30 years ago. His partner is Dr. Tom Barra, who mainly works in the Chambersburg office.

Ronald first opened an office on Mount Aetna Road, but has been at an Edgewood Drive office for 22 years.

"From the patients' viewpoint, it's something most patients want to have done," Ronald Toothman said of a patient's decision to get braces. "It's not uncomfortable, and for the most part patients want to be here. Whether they have a poor bite or they're self-conscious of their smiles ... it's a positive thing we do for people."

After graduating from high school, Jeffrey enrolled at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., and said he always thought it was possible he would have a career in dentistry. He received a bachelor's degree in physics and philosophy, and enrolled in dental school after graduation.

"Growing up, I liked the hours that (my father) kept," Jeffrey said. "I liked that (his office) was a relaxed place to work. I knew what I had growing up, I'd like to give to my kids."

That includes having time to spend with family. Ronald Toothman and his wife have three children: Jeffrey; Ronald Toothman Jr., who lives in Baltimore; and Aimee Catania, who lives in Frederick, Md., with her husband, Vince, and their three children, Vinnie, Rachel and Colleen.

In 2005, Jeffrey graduated from the University of Maryland Baltimore's dental school and enrolled at Eastman Dental Center for the two-year fellowship he recently completed.

During dental school, he was able to work with patients and is looking forward to doing the same during his residency in orthodontics.

"When you get to see patients and help people ... I realized what you do helps people and decided this is what I want to do," Jeffrey said. "You can make a difference in people's lives."

When he finishes his residency, Jeffrey said, he might seek more advanced degrees, but also would like to come to Washington County and work with his father.

"While it may not be in two years, I'd love to come back here and take over for my father, or work with him," Jeffrey said.

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