Family practice: Dental profession proves nice fit for another Estes

By Loretta Fulton
Abilene Reporter-News Staff Writer

With a dazzling set of teeth fit for a toothpaste commercial, Gwin Estes never had any doubt about a career.

She was destined to be a dentist. Even if it weren't for the teeth, her name alone put Estes on an inside track for dental school.

When she graduated from Abilene Christian University last month, she joined a long line of kinfolk who earned a degree at ACU and then set their sights on becoming dentists or other medical professionals.

In Abilene alone, Estes is preceded by four relatives who fit the dental mold: her grandfather, Dr. John L. Estes Jr.; her dad, Dr. John L. Estes III; her aunt, Dr. Jane Estes Tindol; and a cousin, Dr. Gary Linn.

Estes' mother, Angela, is an ACU nurse; her twin brother, John L. Estes IV, is a pre-med major at ACU scheduled to graduate in December; and a cousin, Dr. B.J. Estes, is a well-known Abilene physician.

Estes grew up at her father's and grandfather's side in the dental office they share and was immersed in dental hygiene at home.

"Our dad brushed our teeth until we were 4 or 5 at least," Estes said.

In August, she will start school at the Texas A&M University System Health Science Center's Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas. With a biology major and a 3.46 grade point average, Estes was accepted by all three dental schools in the state, but chose Dallas. The proximity to home was appealing and the man she will marry Saturday already has a job there.

Nobody is happier about Estes' decision to become a dentist than her dad and granddad. Both are flashing big smiles at the thought of perhaps another Estes returning as a dentist in four years.

"When she graduates from school, I'm going to give her my office," her 77-year-old grandfather said. "I'm looking or her."

If Estes chooses to return to her granddad's office, it would be a natural fit. She spent much of her childhood there, either getting her teeth checked or helping out.

"She's been sort of granddaddy's little girl all her life," her grandfather said. "She was right by my elbow."

That adoration turned into admiration in later years when Estes took part in summer mission trips to Zambia.

Helping people desperate for dental care was appealing to Estes. She watched people suffering from tooth decay rush to the edge of a village when they heard the "dental clinic" was arriving.

The pain they had endured made a trip to the dentist sound good.

They are so excited when you pull their teeth," Estes said.

Wherever she sets up practice after dental school, she is certain that mission work will be in her future. Serving others is also a part of her heritage. The Estes family has long been associated with ACU, and the eldest, Dr. John Estes Jr., counts five former ACU presidents as patients.

Wherever the mission field takes the newest Dr. Estes, her family is keeping a chair open just in case she comes home to stay.

"That'd be wishful thinking on her father's part," said her dad, Dr. John Estes III.

Contact higher education writer Loretta Fulton at 676-6778 or




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