HUNTINGTON — After more than three decades of making people’s smiles brighter at his dental practice in the Westmoreland area of Huntington, Dr. Stephen Howerton has retired.
“October 31 was my last day,” he said. “It has been wonderful to provide dental services in my hometown of Westmoreland, just right down the street from where I grew up.”
For more than 30 years, Howerton has been a family dentist at 3011 Piedmont Road. Since announcing his retirement, he has received lots of hugs and smiles from his patients.
“I have been seeing as many as three generations of the same family here,” Howerton said. “From grandpa and grandma, fathers and mothers to sons and daughters, I have seen many of the same neighborhood families at this location.”
Howerton, 66, said his father and mother, William and Betty Howerton, moved to Westmoreland when he was 7 years old.
“My dad was a railroad guy and he transferred to Huntington,” he said. “My parents still live just down the street and have been living here for 55 years.”
Howerton attended Vinson High School and said it was there in the 11th grade that he decided he wanted to become a dentist. From there he went on to Marshall University for his undergraduate studies and then to West Virginia University for his dental degree in June 1980.
“After that I went two years to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which is in the Southern Caribbean,” Howerton said.
Howerton said he thought about going back to the Caribbean as a career dental missionary.
“I didn’t feel the calling, so I decided to come back home and did a year of a practice residency program at a hospital in Charleston,” he said.
Howerton then went on to practice dentistry for a year in downtown Huntington before going to Westmoreland.
“I came to Westmoreland in July 1985 and I have been here ever since then,” he said. “Every day has been rewarding and challenging.”
During his career, Howerton has done missionary trips. On one 10-day mission overseas in September 1985, he met his wife, Cathy, who is from Oklahoma.
“She was a missionary children’s teacher on the island of St. Vincent, and we were both part of a Southern Baptist Convention mission to help kids.”
Howerton says he has always felt his small, local hometown style of dentistry has also been a ministry.
“I felt the call to missions in college and so this has been my calling and my ministry to my hometown for the past 35 years,” he said.
Howerton said he has done lots of tooth extractions, fillings, cleanings, crowns, bridges, dental X-rays, dentures and partial dentures, as well as placing crowns and bridges on dental implants over his long career.
“Dentistry today is not what is was in the past,” he said. “You don’t see nearly as many small, one-person local family dentist offices as when I began 35 years ago. I fear those types of dental practices may be going away.”
Howerton says new X-ray technology, different types of filling material and dental implants are the most significant changes in dentistry he has seen over the years.
“Implants have altered dentistry phenomenally and I think you will see people going with that more and more over traditional dentures and partials,” he said. “Of all the changes over my career, dental implants have been the most significant change over the past 10 years.”
Howerton said he owes a lot of his success to his great office staff.
“Betty Sims has retired, but she was with me for 30 years, and Patricia Clark just left to work at the VA dental clinic after being with me for the past 32 years,” he said. “Kim Conley has been with me for about 15 years.”
Howerton said all of his patients know about his plans to retire and he is referring his patients to Dr. Tyler Dawson, of Dawson Dental in Chesapeake, Oho.
“He is a local guy that treats his patients like family, the same way I have done,” he said.
Dawson grew up in Ceredo and graduated from Marshall University in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree. He then attended West Virginia University School of Dentistry where he graduated in 2012 with his doctor of dental surgery degree.
“It’s an honor to have Dr. Howerton refer his patients to me,” Dawson said. “Obviously, we feel the same about taking pride in our local area and treating our patients like family. He has been a great inspiration to me.”
More information about Dawson Dental can be found online at www.dawsondentalllc.com.
Howerton’s church, Westmoreland Baptist at 3401 Hughes St., had its Fall Festival on Oct. 31 and recognized Howerton’s retirement and his commitment to his community among its many activities that day.
Howerton says he now plans to do some spot traveling, enjoy the outdoors and still do volunteer work, while also remaining active in his church.
“I want to spend two to three weeks in the Highlands of Scotland and its outer islands,” he said. “I still plan to do some volunteer and missionary work. At church, I still referee and coach youth basketball and soccer. At home, I have lots of outside work to do and three big dogs, so I will be busy.”
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