By LYDIA BERGLAR
Dade County’s newest dental practice, Trenton Family Dentistry, is opening on December 18th. Providing another nearby dental service option for the local area, the practice carries on the legacy of the Ownbey/Filler family.
Our new dentist, Dr. Harrison Filler, is the great-grandson of Dr. Roscoe Everett Ownbey. Filler was born and raised in Alabama, and now he’s returned to where his great-grandfather settled a hundred years ago.
Dr. Ownbey moved from Missouri to Sand Mountain, Ga. in the late 1920s and began his medical practice. Filler said, “The story is that he had to ride a mule to get up Sand Mountain. It was a medical mission, like going out to the frontier to an area that had no medical coverage.”
Ownbey was known for delivering babies. Filler said, “If you talk to somebody in their 80s, he’s the doctor they’ll talk about. Generally, the story they’ll tell is, ‘Dr. Ownbey delivered me and my three siblings.’”
Ownbey’s daughter married Dr. Judson Filler who moved from Pennsylvania to Dade County in the 1960s. Dr. Filler was also a physician, and he and Ownbey served the area for decades. Of his grandfather, Filler said, “A big thing people remember with him is home visits. You don’t see too much of that these days, but he would visit a lot of patients in their homes.”
Dr. Filler practiced through the late 2000s, with an office in Trenton and a joint office with his father-in-law on Owenby Filler Road near the family’s land. Filler noted that he is the fourth generation of his family to live on their Sand Mountain property, yet Ownbey, Dr. Filler, and himself weren’t born here.
He said, “It’s cool having a road with your name on it.” Interestingly, the road name was misspelled when named in honor of Dr. Ownbey. Filler confirmed that the true spelling of the family name is Ownbey, and he hopes to have the road name corrected.
Like his grandfather and great-grandfather, Filler has an interest in gardening. “In the world before cell phones, patients would seek them after hours, drive out to the farm, and find them on the tractor.” His previous home in Birmingham didn’t have a yard, so he grew plants on the balcony. Now, growing plants on his family’s land, he reported, “I grew tomatoes this year, even though I came up here late in the season, and they were the best tomatoes I’ve ever grown.”
Filler’s father, Steven Filler, was born in Dade, yet he moved away. He had a career at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) on the academic side of dentistry. While Filler and his father are both dentists, Filler said, “Our careers are night and day different from each other.”
Although Dade County has a need for another dentist, Filler chose the area because of the community. “I picked this place because it’s where I want to live, and I’m very lucky that it happens to also need a dentist.”
At a 2022 memorial service for Filler’s grandparents, he saw how many people from the local community attended and talked about the family’s impact, both professionally and personally. Filler said, “I realized I could work just as hard, care just as much, and do all the right things in Birmingham, but nobody would come to my memorial service. I think it’s a lot easier to be part of a community here in Trenton than in the suburbs with 100,000 people.”
When he was 16, Filler moved from Birmingham to Collegedale, Tenn. He shadowed a dentist in his senior year of high school. “I realized that he loved what he was doing. I saw a lot of dentists who had an excitement and genuine enthusiasm to show up to work.” He graduated college from Southern Adventist University and returned to UAB for dental school, graduating in 2018.
Filler reflected, “There’s an opportunity to enjoy serving the community as a doctor, but also being involved as a citizen and knowing my neighbors. Everytime I go to Corner Coffee, Keel knows who I am. Everytime I go to CVS, Caleb, the manager, asks me about progress on the building. I’d never been to a coffee shop or a CVS where somebody knew who I was, and I’d never received a call from the county executive asking me about my business until I moved here.”
In addition to Filler, the practice has a clinical coordinator, a hygienist, and a smile concierge, all of whom are from this area. The practice currently has two dental chairs, but the building has space for six, and Filler plans to expand the staff. His simple Facebook ad for the clinical coordinator position led to interviews with about ten applicants who had extensive experience. Filler told those he didn’t hire that he hoped to be calling back with open positions in the near future.
Of the services offered, Filler said, “We’ll try to give patients no reason to have to go across state lines to seek dental treatment. Trenton is small, but it’s not so small that it shouldn’t have a full-time dentist.”
Services include preventative care, cleanings, fillings, root canals, and extractions. Filler said he’s had inquiries about dental implants, which he will be offering at some point. “Some of these things take a lot of time and money to set up. They won’t be ready on day one, but absolutely in year two. I think there’s a lot of demand and a lot of need.”
The practice hopes to treat all ages, from birth to the grave. He said, “When it comes to kids, we’re talking about prevention. We’re interested in seeing them right away as they’re getting their very first teeth.”
Regarding end-of-life care, Filler says, “We’re hoping to maybe equip a service to be able to see people who can’t come to us.” His wife, Becky, works at Dade Health and Rehab as a speech pathologist, and Filler has ideas about visiting patients at the center. “It could be reminiscent of the house visits my grandfather used to make.”
Filler is building a network of specialists so that he can refer patients with particularly complicated cases or procedures. He already has several connections, such as an orthodontist and an anesthesiologist, from Birmingham who are now in the Chattanooga area. He also has hopes of bringing specialists to Trenton one day. “I don’t think we can bring specialists to the building any time soon, but that is a vision of mine.”
Filler and his wife are both fluent in Spanish, and he is eager to treat patients who want to communicate with their doctor in their native tongue. “I have been a patient and felt frustrated at how hard it is to navigate the medical system. I can only imagine how difficult it would be in another language. My team is actively practicing Spanish.”
Regarding costs and fees, Filler said, “A big part of dentistry is that people are afraid of the expense. We are going to be in-network with more than a dozen insurances. We’ll also have competitive prices and financing available so that you don’t need dental insurance to be seen.”
The practice is located at 11804 South Main Street just south of Dollar General. The December 18th grand opening will begin with a ribbon cutting at 9 a.m., followed by an open house with tours and consultations for the rest of the morning. Visit www.trentonfamilydentistry.com, call (706) 906-6965, or stop by during the grand opening to learn more.