Longtime Wilton orthodontist Dr. Gregory Sanford introduced a new, homegrown partner to his office at 44 Old Ridgefield Rd. last year. Dr. Ian Bolin, a celebrated graduate of Emory University and the Columbia University Dental School, joined the practice in July. Having grown up in Weston, Bolin himself was a patient of Sanford, who unknowingly sparked his journey into the profession.

“As a patient, I was in this office to see Dr. Sanford maybe 20 times, and every single time it seemed like he was having a great day,” said. Bolin. “It struck me that this was a profession where people seemed to get real happiness from their jobs.”

Sanford agreed with his take. “My staff has been with me for close to 40 years. We’re all here because we enjoy seeing our patients, treating teeth, and improving smiles.”

“I think patients appreciate orthodontists because they can see the difference the work is making right there in the mirror,” Bolin added.

The two reconnected in 2019 when a mutual acquaintance in the field mentioned Bolin, then a dental resident, to Sanford.

“I never had a clue that he was interested in being an orthodontist when he was a patient,” Sanford said, explaining that success in the profession requires not just dedication, but a combination of intelligence and manual dexterity. Bolin quickly distinguished himself on all counts.

“Did he tell you he was the valedictorian of his dental school?” Sanford asked. “The chairman of the department really felt that he was special. He was already asked to teach, which is a great honor for a younger orthodontist. I’m so happy that we reconnected while he was in his residency program. He’s a perfect fit for our conservative treatment philosophy.”

After a six-month transition, Bolin joined the practice full-time last summer. Although he still lives in Manhattan, reverse commuting to Wilton Monday through Thursday and teaching at Columbia on Fridays, he has been enjoying his time back in Fairfield County.

“When you grow up somewhere, it’s easy to take things for granted because it’s all you know,” Bolin said. “Now years later, I’ve come to really appreciate the peace and serenity of life here. Almost every day, I stop at Village Market to buy lunch and walk around Schenck’s Island. I didn’t realize how much I missed this area.”

He also brought with him training on a range of new techniques that will improve the patient experience, including scanning tools, Invisalign, and the use of alloy materials.

One of Sanford’s only hesitations, he said, was Bolin’s baking ability — or lack thereof. For years, the office has famously baked a “celebration cake” for each patient when they come in to have their braces removed, and then takes a photo to commemorate every successful smile. Parents have been known to call years later asking for the recipe, when a spouse or sibling requests a celebration cake of their own for birthdays and graduations. Unable to take over baking duties, Bolin has vowed to find another way to congratulate patients who complete their orthodontic journeys.

And yes, somewhere in office files there is a photograph of young Bolin holding his cake from Sanford, on the day his own braces were removed.

“Wilton is very lucky to have him,” Sanford said. “I care deeply for all of my patients and it feels so great that — when the time is right — I can pass on my legacy to someone of this caliber, talent, and training. When the time comes, I know everyone will be in good hands.”