The Leverett family’s dental legacy

Published 4:14 pm Thursday, May 9, 2024

With the onward march of progress, some industries have experienced little change, but most have changed drastically, especially in recent decades. Medicine and healthcare have seen leaps and bounds in changes recently, and the dental field is no exception. The Leverett family has observed these changes over the past two generations, beginning with the opening of Leverett Dental in 1965.

Dr. Jack Leverett, Sr. told the story of how he started his practice, beginning with how he got started in the dentistry field.

“I was at the University of Georgia,” he recalled, “and I thought I was going into pharmacy. I took all the prerequisites for pharmacy, and my father said, ‘Why don’t you go to dental school?’” He continued, “I had never really thought about it, and I said, ‘Well, I’ll apply.’”

Email newsletter signup

Dr. Leverett, Sr., would ultimately be accepted into both dental and pharmacy school, and after graduating in 1963, he would go on to put his dental skills to use when he joined the US Air Force.

“We were in a hospital that had 15 dentists, and it was like an internship going through,” he said. “We had all the specialties, and we got to rotate and work with them.”

Dr. Leverett was based at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, at the time. After his two years with the Air Force were over, he and his wife Joyce would move to Bainbridge, having already begun construction on the office while still in Alabama. Joyce would joke about the choice of Bainbridge in particular, saying, “I said, ‘Jack, are you looking for a place to hunt and fish or a place to work?’ And he said, ‘You can work anywhere, but it needs to have what you enjoy.’”

At that time, Leverett’s practice was located on the corner of Evans Street and Amelia Street, next door to Grimsley Pharmacy. He would serve citizens from that office for 30 years, from 1965 to 1995, at which point Leverett Dental was moved to its current location. There were three other dentists in Bainbridge at the time, and the nearest dental specialist in the area was in Thomasville.

With so many decades of experience working in the field of dentistry, Leverett, Sr., has seen how the field has changed over the years. Basic tools younger generations are used to were much different; for example, dental drills were belt-operated, and rather than using dental suction tools capable of fitting in a patient’s mouth, patients would spit into a special rinsing bowl. Modern antibiotics were not available, with dentists using drugs such as penicillin and tetracyclines.

Leverett Dental was the first dental office in Bainbridge to install a panoramic dental X-ray as well, back in the early 1970s.

Not only have the tools changed, but Leverett noted how the attitudes toward dental care have changed. “About the only time anybody here took an X-ray was to take out a tooth,” he recalled. It wasn’t unheard of for patients in their late teens to already be getting dentures. “Prevention was not prioritized. It was ‘fill, drill, and take ‘em out’. I didn’t want to practice that kind of dentistry, so we changed our situation. We started making X-Rays, we started doing prevention, we started teaching patients how to take care… we started seeing patients every six months for examinations.”

He would also take his practice out into the community, making visits to nursing homes, and even holding a Dental Health Day in the Bainbridge Mall for people to get a quick check-up.

Dr. Leverett Sr. was not alone during his decades of practice, with a staff of assistants and coworkers coming and going over the years, and he would eventually be joined by his son, Dr. Jack Leverett, Jr., in 1995. Both praised the teams that they worked with over the years. “A highlight of operating a family practice has been the honor of working with a great staff,” Leverett, Jr. said. “We’ve been blessed through the almost 60 years of practice to work daily with some very talented and professional coworkers/staff… Operating a small office requires teamwork, and we’ve had some wonderful teams throughout the years.”

Leverett, Jr. graduated with a degree in chemical engineering from Georgia Tech, but soon realized, “the corporate culture was not for me.” Still wanting a career that challenged his ability to problem-solve, he opted to go into the dental field. “I was familiar with dentistry as a career from my father, so I attended and graduated from dental school.”

Even within the almost thirty years since Leverett, Jr. joined the practice, the field has continued to evolve. The practice’s front office initially consisted of just a telephone and an adding machine, and was the smallest room. Now it has expanded to one of the largest to accommodate computers, copiers and fax machines. Radiographs were still being developed on film when he joined, but have since become totally digital. And overall, the health of patients has continued to improve. “The number of patients with generalized rampant decay has decreased,” he said.

After almost 60 years in existence, Leverett, Jr. is still keeping the family business going.

“I feel honored to carry on the tradition,” he said. “Sr. established a family general practice filled with wonderful hometown patients. I’ve enjoyed working with my previous teachers, classmates, friends and their families through several generations.”

“This is the best decision Joyce and I ever made, to come here,” Dr. Leverett, Sr. said. “The community accepted us, we’ve been involved in it. It’s home, we love it and never regretted coming.”