Payson’S First Dentist Looks Back On His 40 Years

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Payson’s first full-time dentist and the man who greatly influenced the town’s future through his contributions to schools, athletics, family, patients and church is celebrating almost 40 years in the Rim Country.

Dr. R. Scott Anderson and his wife LouAnn arrived in Payson July 19, 1971 to begin the town’s first dental practice.

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Roundup file photo

Dr. Scott Anderson is pictured with his son Eric, who is also a dentist at the Anderson Dental Group.

Somewhat ironically, on opening day, he welcomed 19 patients.

Today the Anderson Dental Group has grown to include thousands of patients, three full-time dentists, 18 employees and a visiting orthodontist.

Through the years, Scott Anderson has trained and employed hundreds — including throngs of Payson High School students enrolled in school-to-work programs — as dental assistants, office managers and front office personnel.

One of those who saw a career opening in what she was learning under Scott as a dental assistant was Jodi Ross.

After working several years, she stepped away and traveled to the Midwest to attend college. Eventually she earned a degree in dental hygiene and returned to work for Scott where she continues her career.

“Dr. Scott gave me the opportunity 20 years ago to pursue a career in the dental field, he helped shape my future from a dental assistant to a hygienist,” said Ross.

“He has not only been a boss, but a friend and mentor.”

One of his most tenured employees was Kay Foster who worked for him as office manager for 18 years before retiring in 2005.

“He was a great dentist to work for, very helpful and understanding,” said Foster. “He is so generous and has done so much over the years for both his patients and those who worked for him.”

One of his truly generous gestures was to begin a “Kids to the Dentist” program in which schools bussed elementary-aged children to his office on Beeline for dental exams.

The program has grown to now include all Payson dentists.

When Anderson was asked about his patients, he refused to single out any saying they were all special to him and he’s extremely grateful for their support over the years.

“I was honored to treat them,” he said.

What is known about his patients, however, is that he treated some of the town’s most amusing characters including the comical Dee Anderson and Emmett Davis.

“Those two are where I got all my jokes,” Anderson said.

He also treated College Hall of Fame coach Frank Kush, celebrities visiting the Rim Country, local medical doctors, law enforcement officers and throngs of children and teens.

One of his longest running patients is Star Valley businessman and Payson Rodeo Boss Bill Armstrong.

But treating him wasn’t always about filling a tooth or teeth whitening.

Over the years, Armstrong has taken some nasty hits going nose-to-nose and hoof-to-foot with livestock inside the rodeo arena.

It was Anderson who usually patched up Armstrong when he came out on the losing end of a man vs. bronc brawl.

Armstrong loves to tell the story of visiting Scott in the mid 1970s to have a dental procedure done.

“Dr. Anderson told me he’d guarantee it until I was 70 years old,” said Armstrong who is now 70-plus. “A while back I went in to have more done, and he said, ‘Bill, your warrantee is up.’”

All the while Dr. Anderson looked after the dental care of patients, he also found time to assume a leadership role in the LDS church. He’s served it in just about every capacity including bishop, counselor, president and on the high council.

Over the years, Anderson has also been a strong supporter of youth sports, high school athletics, school programs and even served a term as Rotary Club president.

When two of his sons, Mike and Eric, took an interest in football as elementary school students, he agreed to assume the presidency of the local league.

Years later, when the two moved on to high school where they became all-region and all-state performers in football, wrestling and track and field, he took a leading role in supporting extra curricular activities.

To this day, Dr. Anderson is highly respected in the coaching fraternity by those who coached his three sons in the 1980s and 1990s.

He’s known as a parent who completely backed coaching decisions even when he might not have agreed with them, never laid blame and was completely supportive of the programs.

One former coach has called him “a breath of fresh air” in a town that has seen its share of overly critical and unknowing parents create havoc in school sports programs.

It was on a football homecoming night in the early 1990s that Anderson enjoyed one of his most memorable moments in prep athletics.

Because the Longhorns coaching staff wanted all their players in the halftime locker room for adjustments and strategy changes, fathers of homecoming king attendants were asked to take the place of their sons in crowning ceremonies.

Jason Anderson, the youngest of four boys, was voted homecoming king, but it was his father who escorted the queen to the center of the field where the two were crowned royalty.

“I was homecoming king at over 50 years old,” he chuckles.

The Dr. Anderson family was a staple at homecoming with all three boys serving as homecoming kings and the two daughters, Nicole and Krista, serving as royalty.

The sisters were also huge contributors in student government.

The early years

Anderson arrived in Payson after graduating from Utah State University, Case Western Dental School and serving a stint in the U.S. Navy as a military dentist with the rank of lieutenant.

It was while treating a Marine at Camp Pendleton that he first learned about Payson.

“The Marine told me he had a brother-in-law that worked at Frontier Market and that (Payson) was a great little town,” Anderson said. “I found an Arizona Highways that had a story about the town so we decided to visit.”

The next thing he knew, Anderson was signing papers with Realtor Barney Swartwood to open the dental office in the Swiss Village shops where it remains today.

Dr. Anderson’s son Eric, who followed in his father’s footsteps and became a dentist, now heads the practice along with partner Levi Haught.

“Knowing the kind of man my dad is, made me want to become a dentist,” Dr. Eric Anderson said.

“I learned so much from him and want to carry on the tradition of good service and care that he began.”

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