Most residents have a preferred family doctor or dentist they visit for routine checkups and medical exams. But few have a doctor they’ve been seeing since the debut of Post-It Notes and the Rubik’s Cube.
David S. Groy has been working on Loudouners’ teeth since he set up his private dental practice in downtown Leesburg on Wirt Street in 1980. Throughout the past four decades, he’s seen upwards of 20,000 patients. Now, after 39 years spending his days inspecting and working on close to a half-million teeth, Groy sold his practice after a conversation with his wife when they decided to retire and enjoy a more passive lifestyle while they’re still in good health.
Groy, 68, was born and raised in the Philadelphia area and by the time he was ready for college, he knew what he wanted to do with his life. He said three factors were at play when he decided to pursue dentistry—he liked working with his hands, he enjoyed the sciences, and he was fond of his dentist’s work.
But when Groy arrived at Gettysburg College and noticed that he was hunkered down focusing on schoolwork all the time while his friends were out having fun, he said he thought to himself, “oh my heavens, I can’t do this.” So he switched his major to business administration. When he graduated in 1972, he went to work for DuPontas a salesman.
Once Groy noticed the energy his fellow salesmen exhibited—an energy he said made them seem like they could do anything—he decided to go back to school to give dentistry another shot.
For the next year and a half, Groy piecemealed his schooling together between Penn State University and Rosemont College, all the while living like a hermit but glad that he did it, he said. Eventually, he got into dental school at Temple University and spent the next four years either glued to dental books or immersed in the medical world. He completed his residency at Philly’s Albert Einstein Medical Center.
In 1978, the summer before his senior year in dental school, Groy and his wife traveled from Newport, RI, to Savannah, GA, to see where they wanted to settle down and start their lives, and careers, together. Groy said they visited Loudoun because his wife knew the area from working for a handicap riding program in Leesburg in the mid-1970s. The rest was history. They decided on Leesburg and Groy set up his dental practice on Wirt Street. “This seemed to be a good fit,” he said.
For the first 10 months of operation in 1980, Groy, his wife, their daughter and their dog lived in half of the 1,670-square-foot office, which didn’t even have a shower. Instead, the couple drove about 10 minutes south to the gas station at the corner of Rt. 15 and Harmony Church Road, owned by one of his patients, to get cleaned up.
In the early years, Groy operated his dental practice by himself with one exam room. As the years went on, he added more operatories and grew his staff. Today, the practice employees two dental hygienists and three front desk/assistants. Some of the staffers Groy has employed throughout the years worked alongside him for decades.
Groy said that while he can’t recall any particular dental procedures as being more challenging or memorable than others, he did describe an instance in 1980 that will always stick with him. He said that when his very first patient came in, he realized that he was out of hand soap and went next door to get some. When he came back, his dog was licking his patient’s mouth as he sat waiting for Groy to begin cleaning his teeth. “It was OK. They were nice people,” Groy said.
Tens of thousands of patients, cleanings and procedures later, Groy decided to step aside and sell the practice to Jennifer Pham, who’s been practicing dentistry in the area for 10 years.
Groy said he’ll miss his co-workers and the patients, some of whom are the children and grandchildren of his first patients. “That’s really hard to not see them come as I have over the years,” he said.
But, he said, the practice will be in good hands. Groy and Pham agreed that, because they’re both Temple graduates, their philosophy on dentistry is much the same. Groy said Pham is “a really nice fit” at the practice, which has been renamed from Groy Family Dentistry to Downtown Family Dental of Leesburg.
Aside from their similar takes on dental practices, Groy said he’s also happy about Pham’s arrival because he “didn’t want that vibe of corporate taking over.”
Pham said she’s looking to maintain the patient comfort aspect of the practice and bring in more modern technology to the office, like laser dentistry and an ability to install crowns on patients’ teeth inhouse.
Retirement was never Groy’s goal and he now works two days a week with the Northern Virginia Dental Clinic, which provides dental care for low-income residents. “I really enjoy that—it allows me to stay in dentistry,” he said.
Groy said he also plans to essentially pick back up where he left off in dental school, before he ran out of time to do much other than practice dentistry and raise a family. Forty years after going on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, Groy said he’s now focused on continuing those kinds of trips once a year. “I’d like to keep my fingers in dentistry,” he said.