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Dentists head back home

WINFIELD - Steve and Missy Warnick graduated from West Virginia University's dental school, worked a bit in the state and then moved to booming Greenville, S.C.

"We went in with another guy and built a big fancy office. We went out there thinking we'll be gone forever," said Steve, a native of Winfield.

Fellow Winfield native Todd Semder did the same thing, heading to Myrtle Beach to join a practice.

All three could have been just another story of West Virginians migrating to greener pastures, except for one thing.

They missed home, enough to give up established practices and start over, which they are doing together in St. Albans and in a newly opened Winfield office.

It wasn't a decision made easily. It takes about five years to build patients in a dental practice, and Steve, 34, said he and Missy, 35, "were just getting it humming."

But with two children now 6 and 4, they wanted to be closer to family, his in Winfield and hers near Elkins.

Todd Semder, 30, and his wife, Mary Beth, who have a 1-year-old baby, felt the same way.

Todd and Steve went to Winfield High School together, though in different class years. Their moms are best friends, so when Todd's mom learned he wanted to move back to West Virginia, she suggested he call Steve.

"We all kind of felt this catalyst to do something," Steve said. "We took a calculated step sideways."

The Warnicks moved back two and a half years ago, first buying out the practice of a retiring St. Albans dentist.

The full-range practice grew to the point that when Todd called earlier this year asking if they needed help, the answer was yes. He settled temporarily in Ripley, working for a practice there and with the Warnicks.

And then the three were ready to expand.

Two weeks ago, they opened a new office on Winfield Road.

Opening a new office is an expensive proposition, so the dentists rolled up their sleeves and got to work to save money.

"It's typically $200,000 to set an office up, and that's if you're doing it smart," Steve said. They wanted to be smarter than smart.

Todd's dad is a contractor, and they were the subcontractors - literally spending long nights hanging drywall and laying floors.

They found a year-old X-ray machine for half price. Missy sought organic and natural dental products, something she strongly advocates.

"We're excited to put away the tool belts and be dentists," Steve said as he surveyed the new office.

Both offices are fully staffed with hygienists, and the dentists will split their time between the two locations. The computer systems are linked so that all scheduling, billing and patient information is easily accessible from both sites.

"It's a little bit risky," Todd said of the new practice. But he and the Warnicks believe with the range of services they provide - everything from children's dentistry to reconstruction, Invisalign tooth alignment, implants, crowns, caps and veneers - they will be plenty busy.

Managing successful practices means understanding the business end of things, particularly in the modern world. To that end, the three say they are open to all of the modern media at their fingertips - a website, Facebook, texts and emails among them - to stay in touch with patients and promote the practice.

Ultimately, they're happy to be back in West Virginia. 

"Winfield needs a dentist," said Todd, who plans to move his family back to Putnam County soon. "And it feels comforting and warm to be in our hometown."

For more information, visit the website at

Contact writer Monica Orosz at or 304-348-4830.


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