This solo-practice dentist offers everything from fillings to crowns to cosmetic enhancements, all in a hometown office where everyone knows your name - and your smile.
- story by LB Kovac
He was inspired to pursue his career by a friend of the family, a dentist, also from Mississippi. “He was left-handed,” says Dr. Conaway, “and I was left-handed. It just seemed important.”He went on to study dentistry at the University of Mississippi in Jackson and completed a one-year training residency before he looked to set up his own business.
His love for his home state and its people was part of the reason he decided to start his practice right here in Bay St. Louis almost thirty years ago. “My college roommate (at Ole Miss) was from Bay St. Louis,” he says. “When I was looking to start my own practice, I came to visit and saw that the area needed a dentist, and I put two and two together.” The local beaches and vibrant local culture couldn’t have hurt either.
And Bay St. Louis was a great place to put down roots. When he started his practice in 1990, it “was before the casinos were around,” he says, as well as before Hurricane Katrina hit. “The little town has changed dramatically over the years – for the better.”
Dentistry has changed as well.
Back in 1990, wire bracket braces were the norm when it came to tooth alignment. And electronic braces, hardware that had tiny chips that individually regulated how much pressure was applied to each misaligned tooth, were the so-called “future” of dentistry. Space-age devices like that have long since been abandoned in favor of invisible incremental alignment aids like Clear Aligner.
The end of the millennium also marked a downturn for a particular type of dentistry – the solo practice. Due to economic pressure, many dentists have turned to group practices as a way of defraying costs and sharing expenses.
Dr. Conaway’s office has remained a solo practice. He runs his dental office with the help of a close-knit team of assistants. And he’s quick to point out the benefits of his model. “I’m the boss – always an advantage. And I feel like, at our practice, we have a family. It’s a little more personalized.”
He knows the names of all of his patients and their dental histories, and he can provide a more specialized experience. “Teeth are a challenge. Some people have it easy, based on their biology, but some people have it hard,” says Dr. Conaway. A generalized approach just won’t help everyone he sees. “You have to individualize what you’re doing for them.”
With the changing times, Dr. Conaway has also adapted his practice to better serve his patients in the area.
“I do it all– fillings, crowns, cleanings, you name it,” he says. Dentures, partials, teeth bleaching, and veneers are offered as well. And, he's also added Botox injections and other non-surgical cosmetic procedures to his list of services to help people look their best and feel more confident.
In short, Dr. Conaway is a good dentist to have working on your smile. He received a Mastership Award and Lifelong Learning Service Recognition from the Academy of General Dentistry. Between appointments, he’s traveling across the United States to administer licensing exams to prospective dentists. He also currently serves as president of the State Board of Dental Examiners.
His best dental advice? Break out the floss. “There’s still nothing that substitutes for floss,” he says. The American Dental Association says that as much as 80% of plaque can be removed by flossing daily.
That’s something to smile about.