WAXHAW – Dr. Shane Markey is drawn to orthodontics for the art and science of fitting a smile to someone’s face.
“When you get down to the final stages of treatment for anybody in braces or aligners, it’s down to your eye and your eye for fine detail,” Markey said. “Orthodontists work to within a millimeter to create a smile. That change, as small as it might be, can be huge for a smile or a bite.”
Such attention to detail has helped Markey make Three Leaf Orthodontics an intricate part of the community.
Discovering his strengths
Growing up on an Irish farm with four siblings in a town without an orthodontist, Markey wasn’t able to get braces like many of his peers, whom were fitted in neighboring towns.
Markey realized he wanted to explore dentistry as a career when he was 15. Some of his older sister’s friends were dentists, and she encouraged him to shadow one. He followed one around for a couple of days and was enamored by the outcomes of the experience. He noticed patients leaving appointments feeling less pain or more confidence.
Markey had always had an aptitude for such a career. He remembers wanting a chemistry set for Christmas at age 10 in hopes of creating chemical reactions. He entered science competitions in high school, earning Young Scientist of the Year honors for Ireland and the United Kingdom.
He left Ireland to study at the University of Liverpool School of Dentistry, where he received a bachelor’s degree in dental surgery. He stayed in England, where he opened his own practice.
Finding an opportunity
The story didn’t end there as Markey traveled across the pond to New York City, where he’d be close to family and able to pursue additional education at NYU College of Dentistry. He earned a doctorate degree in dental surgery there.
He enrolled at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health at the University of Rochester, N.Y. to go deeper into dentistry.
Orthodontics appealed to him for several reasons. It was a challenging field that allowed him to work with younger patients. Plus, he enjoyed taking someone with crooked teeth and giving them a perfect smile.
After finishing school, he worked as an orthodontist in Arizona for a year before heading to Charlotte, where friends from college were living.
“I knew within a matter of months, this is where I’m going to drop my anchor,” he said.
Markey worked with a broker to find the right site for a new office. He chose Waxhaw, specifically a location in the middle of the Cuthbertson, Marvin Ridge and Weddington school clusters.
His first impression of Waxhaw was that it felt like home. He was reminded of Ireland not only by the greenery but also how the business community was locally minded and focused on forging connections.
Realizing his dreams
Markey had the opportunity to design his dream office.
It houses state-of-the-art technology, such as a digital impression system that creates 3D models of the teeth and gums without putting putty in patients’ mouths.
The office includes a large open bay design, which reduces the uncertainty of the procedures for younger patients. Adults have the option of getting examined in a private office.
The office includes photography of landmarks taken by Carolyn Ann Ryan that include the Marvin Efird Park barn, the wooden pedestrian bridge over the railroad and the Waxhaw Water Tower.
“I wanted families to come in and feel like this is part of the community,” Markey said. “I want them to enjoy it as much as I enjoy coming here to work – like it’s a second living room.”
Markey patterned his brand after the three-leaf shamrock, which conveys faith and kindness. It aligns with the family-centric practice he sought to create.
Connecting with community
Three Leaf Orthodontics has been active in the community since opening Jan. 2.
Markey has partnered with several area schools by sponsoring extracurricular activities, donating services for raffles, teaching nutrition and oral hygiene classes and explaining what he does for a living at career days.
Markey finds orthodontics especially enjoyable because he’s treating mostly young people.
“They are very funny,” he said. “There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t laugh out loud.”
He has supported charities such as the Misty Meadows Mitey Riders, which provides therapeutic horseback riding to children with special needs, as well as the South Charlotte Dog Rescue and the Isabella Santos Foundation.
The office offers a rewards program in which patients can earn points for good grades, positive behavior and community activities that they can redeem for prizes or vouchers.
Markey has embraced social media apps like Facebook and Instagram. His office posts a lot of photos of his work, especially of grinning patients.
“If I do the right thing by the patient, everything else falls into place,” he said. “Because you can sleep well at night knowing, I recommended the right treatment.”