TUPELO -- Dentist Dr. Abby Raymond brings a world of experience to his Tupelo practice.
The Indiana-born Raymond, who took over Affordable Dentures and Implants a year ago, lived in Somalia as a child and served in Afghanistan as a U.S. Army dentist.
"My goal is just to give back," said Raymond, who served 5 1/2 years on active duty and remains a member of the Army National Guard.
Service is a family tradition. Raymond's father served as an Army combat medic in Vietnam and his grandfather served in the Army Air Corps. Raymond trained as a dentist through the U.S. Army Health Professions Scholarship Program.
"I always wanted to serve in some capacity," Raymond said. "I've always been attracted to the army" with its emphasis on ethics and personal integrity. "It's something I value."
During his service with the 4th Combat Brigade Team of the 101st Airborne Division and 7th Special Forces Group, Raymond and his team were responsible for the oral health of U.S. soldiers and coalition forces. The care ran the gamut from filling cavities and performing root canals to dealing with trauma injuries. While he was deployed in Afghanistan, he performed procedures for more than 800 U.S. and coalition soldiers. He also trained other medical professionals in triaging in dental emergencies.
It was rewarding work because he could focus exclusively on what was best for his patients, even in austere conditions.
"In the Army, I didn't have to worry about (patients) affording the procedure," Raymond said. "I could always give them the best."
In his civilian practice in Tupelo, Raymond is focused on more specialized care for those with teeth that can't be saved and creating prosthetics with dentures and implants that give them back the ability to eat and smile.
"You can see the effects of what you do," Raymond said. "I recreate people's smiles."
The work is more than cosmetic. Implant secured dentures can give his patients the ability to chew and eat normally, Raymond said.
"You need teeth to be able to function," Raymond said. "It's a game changer for a lot of people."
Affordable Dentures and Implants has its own in-house lab, and Raymond enjoys the process.
"I'm an artist," Raymond said. "I've always been good with my hands."
Raymond and his family, wife Asha, and children Hasna, 12, and Zakaria, 9 months, have enjoyed settling into Tupelo.
"I've liked Tupelo," Raymond said. "The community has been very welcoming."
Caring for vets
Even as a civilian, Raymond finds a way to take care of veterans. He offers a military appreciation discount to active duty military, veterans and their spouses.
In November, Raymond and six members of his team -- Susan Durham, Juaneisha Finnie, Amanda Foster, ReErica Guines, Robert Joseph Pannell and Kelly Stevenson -- were able to provide free dental care to veterans in Phoenix through the Brighter Way Institute, a charity dental program. Affordable Dentures partnered with BioHorizons Implants and Implants Pathway to create the training program that provided $35 million in free dental care in 2017.
"I always believe in taking care of soldiers first," Raymond said.
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