WHITESVILLE — For more than 60 years, Dr. Emanuel Kostas has given many Whitesville and other Boone County residents something to smile about as one of the area’s longest working dentists.
“I have actually had patients from five generations. I started my dental practice here in Whitesville after I came home from World War II,” Kostas said. “I have some patients that up until this point I am the only dentist they have ever seen.”
However, many recently stopped by his office in Whitesville not just for a regular checkup, but to say goodbye. Kostas, 89, retired from his practice due to changes in his eyesight after serving the community for more than six decades in dentistry.
“I feel great but my eyesight has gotten to the point where it’s not as great as it used to be,” he said.
Earlier this month, Kostas celebrated his 89th birthday and announced his decision to close his dental practice. He spoke fondly of the patients and friends he has developed close relationships with both in and out of the dental chair.
“It’s been a pleasure to serve my community for all these years,” he said. “I’ve had more hugs from people in the past few weeks than I’ve ever had in my life and it’s been touching.”
Kostas built his practice on a foundation of providing quality dental work and commitment to his patients, who in turn have consistently come back to him for years.
A native of Boone County, Kostas knew that dentistry would make a major impact in his life at a young age.
“My dental practice actually started during World War II,” Kostas said. “I was studying dentistry so the Army had me practice dentistry during the war.”
He opened in practice in Whitesville in 1949 to serve the patients in the Big Coal River Valley, and he was absent from the practice only during his time to serve in another war – the Korean War in the 1950s.
Kostas grew up in coal camp town of Dorothy. He attended Clear Fork High School and West Virginia University. He went to dental school at the University of Maryland and also had some courses at Ohio State University while in the U.S. Army.
Kostas said he started with an office his father built him over the Kroger’s grocery store. He said my things in dentistry have changed since those days.
“Air and water has changed the way dentistry is practiced,” he said. “The enamel on teeth was harder than the drill bits. Now with the new diamond bits and high pressure hand pieces, it’s like cutting through butter.”
Although technology has changed drastically in his field since he began, Kostas said his focus has always been teaching patients proper care of their teeth and providing dental work that lasts.
Kostas’ son-in-law, Mike Dolin, was a patient for 47 years.
“He was my dentist from 1963 to 2010,” Dolin said. “He really knows how to take care of his patients.”
Kostas has not only been committed to his profession, but also taken effort to make the Whitesville community a better place for residents.
“I worked six days a week because there was such a need in this area,” he said. “I enjoyed helping those I grew up with and their families. It has brought great joy to my life. Once you have established a relationship with the community it becomes a part of your life. I am going to miss everyone.”
Kostas says he plans to retire and spend time with his daughter in Lake Forest, Illinois, and his grandchildren. He has other family living in Washington, D.C. and Orlando, Fla., all of which have become very successful professionals.
Kostas’ wife, Helen, died of cancer in 1992.
“His family grew up in Logan,” he recalled. “We met at my brother’s wedding. She loved horses and was a wonderful woman. I really miss her.”
Kostas says he still preaches proper dental care and hygiene.
“Today, we are seeing children with dental problems from too much sugar in the soft drinks and snacks,” he said. “Also, all the fast foods are not helping when it comes to children’s teeth. Brushing and flossing are just as important today as were when I first started all those years ago.”