Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Shopper Client Stories


Celebrating 30 years of high quality, compassionate service

by Rob Lauer

From left, Drs. Kelly Paxton, Brian Midgette and James Baker

From left, Drs. Kelly Paxton, Brian Midgette and James Baker

This year, Dr. Brian Midgette is celebrating a major milestone in his career. Thirty years ago, he established Midgette Family Dentistry in the Western Branch area of Chesapeake. Since 1987, the practice has flourished, with Dr. Midgette and his associates- Dr. James Baker and Dr. Kelly Paxton- serving thousands of satisfied patients from across greater Hampton Roads.

Looking back over the past three decades, one might expect Dr. Midgette to wax philosophic when asked why he decided to pursue a career in dentistry. Instead he flashes a boyish grin and says the decision was all a matter of biology.

"In my family we kind of had healthcare in our blood," he explains. "My grandfather was a physician who practiced in Norfolk during the 1940s and "50s. My mom worked in a hospital. It just seemed natural that I'd end up practicing some sort of medicine."

"In my family we had healthcare in our blood.
My grandfather was a physician who practiced
in Norfolk during the 1940s and "50s.
My mom worked in a hospital.
It just seemed natural that I'd practice some sort of medicine."
- Dr. Brian Midgette

Pursuing a career in dentistry was never a consideration until at age 12 when, like so many adolescents of that age, he made his first visit to the orthodontist to be fitted for braces.

"Like many other Western Branch and Churchland kids who wore braces back then, I went to Dr. William Debnam," he recalls. "I became fascinated by his practice. When I started asking questions, he was happy to explain things to me. He really became something of a mentor to me. By the time I was in 10th grade, he hired me to work for him. At first I just cleaned up his lab, but eventually I began learning how to do things that were more directly related to the practice- like making plaster models of teeth and retainers."

By the end of his sophomore year of high school, he'd decided that he wanted to be a dentist. Dr. Harold Heafner, a long-time neighbor, was another major influence in shaping the type of dentist Dr. Midgette would eventually become.

He cites his mentors and the benefit of their experience that he received during his first two years of his practice

"Two or three times a week, I'd go out to lunch with Dr. Heafner and Dr. William Dodson, another dentist in the area," Dr. Midgette recalls. "They took me under their wings. Spending time with them, listening to them discuss their practices and their patients, talking to them face-to-face- that was invaluable. I learned so many things that can't be learned from a book. Nowadays with so many of us spending so much time communicating through social media, I wonder if younger people pursuing a career in dentistry have the opportunity to develop that kind of personal, face-to-face relationship with their mentors. Having those relationships certainly affected how I deal with my associates and my patients."

After graduating from Western Branch High School, Dr. Midgette pursued a degree in biology from Old Dominion University, graduating with honors.

Based on the quality of his undergraduate work, Dr. Midgette earned an early admission to the Medical College of Virginia's School of Dentistry. He graduated with a degree in dentistry, with honors, but his life took a major turn on the first day of class.

"I met my wife, Lisa, in my very first class," he says. "She was studying to become a dental hygienist and she pretended that she needed me to help her study."
What was the class?

"Gross Anatomy," Dr. Midgette says with a laugh.

In 1986 the couple married and went on to raise a family.  "We have two exceptional daughters," Dr. Midgette beams.  Older daughter, Chelsea, now lives in San Diego where she works in computer programing, while younger daughter, Channing, attends Virginia Commonwealth University where she is following in her parents' footsteps, pursuing a dental hygienist degree.

Since the inception of his practice, Dr. Midgette has been heavily oriented toward continuing education- earning a Mastership in General Dentistry from the Academy of General Dentistry. In addition to keeping abreast of the rapidly evolving technologies used in dentistry, he has dedicated himself to offering high quality, compassionate care to all of his patients.

In 1996, with his practice having outgrown its original space, Dr. Midgette built his current office at 3326 Taylor Road. "At first, we only used one half of the building while leasing the other half," he explains. "But as we continued to grow, we eventually took over the entire building."

From left, Drs. Kelly Paxton, Brian Midgette and James Baker

From left, Drs. Kelly Paxton, Brian Midgette and James Baker

In 2002, Dr. James W. Baker joined the practice. A native of Portsmouth who graduated from the Medical College of Virginia with honors, Dr. Baker is a past president of the Tidewater Dental Association, and has been selected for fellowship in the International College of Dentists and the American College of Dentists. Before joining Dr. Midgette, Dr. Baker was in private practice for 26 years.

In 2006, Dr. Kelly Paxton- a Michigan native with a degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry- joined the practice. 

In addition, the Midgette Family Dentistry staff includes a gum surgeon- Dr. Eric Niver- and a team of dedicated hygienists and dental assistants.

"The longevity of our employees is impressive," Dr. Midgette says with pride. "Many of them have been with us for 15 to 18 years.  Recently, we celebrated one staff member's 20th anniversary. Even our custodian, Marie Harris, has been with us for 28 years. Not many associations can last that long."

Though many of the staff members of Midgette Family Dentistry have remained the same over the past 30 years, the technology they use has continued to evolve at an astounding rate. The digital revolution of the last 15 years has had a major impact on the day-to-day practice of dentistry.

 "X-rays used to be on film," Dr. Midgette says. "Now they're digital. One of the most cutting-edge procedures we perform is called Cone Beam Computerized Tomography. This machine is an adjunct to  digital x-rays. It's used to better evaluate teeth and bone. It generates much less radiation and gives me an extraordinarily clear and detailed picture of the patient's mouth. Additionally, the images are in 3-D, allowing me to make assessments from many different angles. This gives me and my staff the ability to perform a more thorough evaluation of a problem so that a more accurate diagnosis can be made."

Another new technology that has revolutionized dentistry is CAD/CAM- computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing.

"Everything we do- every service and treatment that we have available-
stems from our commitment to offer all of our patients
high quality dentistry and compassionate service."

- Dr. Brian Midgette

"Up until the early 2000s, a patient who needed to get a crown for a tooth would have to come in for numerous visits over an extended period of time," Dr. Midgette explains. "Now with CAD/CAM, we can do everything from start to finish in just one visit. Scans are taken of the patient's mouth. Then a small block of porcelain is put in a machine and it carves the crown, applies the color- does everything that's needed right here in the office while the patient waits. Most other dentists aren't using CAD/CAM yet, but it is a huge timesaver."

While x-rays and crowns are as much a part of going to the dentist as cleaning teeth and filling cavities, Midgette Family Dentistry is a comprehensive practice, offering a full array of dental services and procedures related to one's overall health.

During a new patient's first visit, Dr. Midgette conducts a thorough interview- discussing at length that patient's extended medical history, in preparation for a thorough oral exam.  In addition, patients are tested for other conditions.

"Every year nearly ten thousand Americans die from oral cancers," Dr. Midgette points out. "In addition to tobacco and alcohol use, the spread of the human papilloma virus (HPV) is a major cause of this. It helps that so many people are having their teens vaccinated for HPV. Since the vaccine is  still a recent development, an oral cancer screening can be a life-saving procedure. That's why we insist that each new patient undergo this important test for early detection of oral cancer."

Most people don't readily associate dentistry with sleep disorders, but the most common form of sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue of the palate relaxes during sleep. Besides depriving people of much needed deep sleep, this disorder can cause more serious health problems if too little oxygen reaches the brain. Because of this, all new patients are screened for sleep apnea.

Doctors Midgette, Baker and Paxton are specifically trained in the treatment of the disorder. In select cases, and with the recommendation of a neurologist, Dr. Midgette can treat patients with a custom-made dental appliance, which can greatly aid in relieving the symptoms of sleep apnea. It can replace the bulky CPAP equipment many sufferers now have to wear at night.

Over the last decade or so, more adults- middle-aged or older- have decided to have their teeth straightened. Even some who wore braces as adolescents now look at their smiles in the mirror and notice that their once straight teeth have changed over the decades. Whereas wearing unsightly metallic braces for several years was once the only way to straighten teeth, newer less-visible "clear" treatments such as the popular INVISALIGN® are now available. INVISALIGN® appeals not only to naturally self-conscious adolescents but to older adults, eager to have their teeth straightened but not wanting to advertise the fact to everyone with whom they come into contact.  Not only is Midgette Family Dentistry an Authorized Preferred INVISALIGN® Provider, but interest free and long-term financing are also available, making the treatment accessible to more patients.

"Everything we do- every service and treatment that we have available- stems from our commitment to offer all of our patients high quality dentistry and compassionate service," Dr. Midgette insists.

His patients certainly agree.

"I've been a patient of Dr. Midgette's for more than 15 years," Betty Burnell, a retired government worker and the Minister of Music at Westhaven Baptist Church, says. "Everyone in the office is so congenial and helpful. Dr. Midgette and all his team are just the best. I always recommend them to my friends and relatives."

Midgette Family Dentistry

3326 Taylor Road
Chesapeake, VA 23321