Couple embraces growth
Husband-wife team takes over orthodontics practice
Laura Parrish recalls having a career track in mind by age 7, long before she finished high school and had to consider college and career choices.
“I had trouble with my teeth, and the orthodontist was so kind and professional, I had a good experience,” said Parrish, who was Laura Eberhardt at the time. “I actually looked forward to my appointments.”
Parrish’s childhood orthodontist, Dr. Gill Carter, made her at ease in his office chair, prompting her to decide on a career in the dental field.
“I wanted to be an orthodontist,” she said, “although at the time, I didn’t know I’d have to be a dentist first.”
In 2001, she graduated from Hebron High School near Valparaiso and went to Indiana University. After earning an undergraduate degree, Parrish enrolled in the Indiana University School of Dentistry at IUPUI.
It was there that she met Brandon Parrish, who became her partner – in business and in life. They married after finishing dental school and did the additional two years required to be an orthodontist.
Initially, the two worked at different clinics in Fort Wayne. Brandon Parrish bought into the practice of Dr. Jon Ingleman as a partner, while his wife was an associate with Dr. Steve Hoagburg.
Ingleman was easing into retirement and looking for a partner to take over his practice when he met the Parrishes in 2009. He described them as “capable, brilliant and organized.”
As partners over the next five years, Ingleman and the Parrishes became friends. Ingleman continues to work at the Maplecrest office on Fridays.
In 2014, the Parrishes bought Ingleman’s three offices, on Tillman Road and Jefferson Boulevard in Fort Wayne and Van Wert, Ohio. They also acquired an office in Churubusco, one of two owned by Dr. Ryan Pulfer, who has since moved to Colorado. His father, Gary Pulfer, maintains a general practice in Fort Wayne.
For about five years, Laura Parrish worked with Hoagburg, who owned three offices.
“I was lucky to have her working in the office,” Hoagburg said. “She’s extremely competent and gets along well with patients.”
In 2015, Parrish and her husband bought two of Hoagburg’s offices – one in Bluffton and the other on Maplecrest near St. Joseph Center Road. Hoagburg still operates an office at 9409 Illinois Road.
Orthodontics deals primarily with the diagnosis, prevention and correction of malpositioned teeth and the jaws – which affects the way the upper and lower teeth fit together.
The American Board of Orthodontics estimates that nearly 30 percent of the population has teeth that could benefit from orthodontic treatment, mainly from braces or devices known as retainers.
While treatment usually spans 18 or 24 months, some adult orthodontic patients may have to wear retainers for extended periods.
Laura Parrish said it’s satisfying to see patients gain the confidence to smile after treatment. Her most memorable patient was probably a middle-aged woman who had never been able to bite into a sandwich or an ear of corn because her upper and lower front teeth didn’t correctly align.
“I did the braces to prepare her for the oral surgeon who did the surgery to correct her bite,” Parrish said. “She was so grateful – and she had a beautiful smile, too.”
Brandon Parrish, a 2000 graduate of Bishop Dwenger High School, said his career was influenced partly by a 2003 trip to Samoa. He went with several professionals, including his uncle, Dr. Jim Orban, a periodontist who specializes in gums and the supporting tissue.
“After seeing how dentists could help people, I fell in love with dentistry,” Brandon Parrish said.
He described his most gratifying patient as a 13-year-old girl with a serious overbite. Two years after completing treatment, the teen was more talkative and confident.
“Her smile was completely different,” he said, “proudly showing off her teeth.”
But a future in orthodontics isn’t all smiles, according to the president of the American Association of Orthodontics.
“Keeping up with technical advances is difficult and expensive,” said Dr. DeWayne McCamish, who has practiced near Chattanooga, Tennessee, for 43 years. “More than 27 percent of graduating orthodontists leave school with $400,000 in debt.”
Laura and Brandon Parrish estimated their dental training debts at $300,000 each.
Perhaps the most daunting challenge, McCamish said, “comes from corporate dentistry, with its demand to do more with less.” Corporate dentistry refers to clinics, often located in malls or shopping centers, owned by chains rather than dentists who provide the care.
Nevertheless, dentistry continues to rank at or near the top of professions in studies like one done in 2015 by U.S. World and News Report, McCamish noted. That study said dentists “deftly balance patient care with turning profit,” while earning a median salary of $146,000 annually and enjoying a favorable stress level and work-life balance.
It also cites the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which indicates the number of dental jobs available is expected to grow by almost 16 percent by 2022.
Brandon Parrish said the best way to thrive despite competition is to provide quality work at a fair price.
“Much of our business is based on referrals from other dentists or satisfied patients,” he said, “and we intend to keep those referrals coming.”
While the Parrishes are focused on their practice, they also make time for their two sons, Noah, 4, and Ty, 2.
“For the last six years,” Laura Parrish said, “I’ve been working two days a week so I can spend as much time with them as possible and still work in the career I love. We’re also lucky to have Brandon’s parents in town, who help out when I do work.”
Asked about the possibility of their boys becoming orthodontists, Laura Parrish replied, “We’d love that. It would mean we could work with them some day. We just want them to find something they’re passionate about – no matter what.”