Practice History

Our practice has a rich history in the area that dates back more than 50 years.

Founded by Dr. John Shell in Morganton in 1967, the practice quickly grew to include satellite practices in Hickory, Marion and other nearby towns. Dr. Shell brought on and trained Dr. Russell E. Martin as one of his associates in 1983, and Dr. Martin went on to purchase the Marion office, running the practice as a solo practitioner for 15 years. Dr. John Shell’s son, Dr. Keith Shell, then joined the practice and purchased the Morganton and Hickory locations, and Dr. Martin—looking for a change of pace in order to be with his two small children—sold the Marion location and returned to the Morganton and Hickory offices as an associate in 1998. Tragically, Dr. Keith Shell died in a plane crash two years later.

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Several orthodontists in the area helped Dr. Martin and Dr. John Shell to care for the practice’s patients in the wake of this tragedy, and Dr. David C. Small—who had been practicing in Florida for 5 years but whose wife, Gena, was from Hickory—ultimately purchased the practice in 2000. Dr. Small and Dr. Martin grew the practice as “Small and Martin Orthodontics” for 20 years, eventually moving locations, building a new, state-of-the-art facility in Morganton in 2017 and purchasing a second Hickory practice originally founded by Dr. Dick Garlitz, a longtime pillar in the North Carolina orthodontic community. Dr. Christian Piers joined the practice in 2019 and was fortunate enough to be mentored by Dr. Martin before his retirement. Dr. Piers became a partner in 2020.

At Small and Piers Orthodontics, we are proud of our orthodontic genealogy, and we owe a great debt to the talented, foresighted, hardworking and compassionate orthodontists who have come before us. Some of our team members have worked with or trained under Dr. John Shell, Dr. Keith Shell, Dr. Dick Garlitz, and Dr. Russell E. Martin, and the values that are now mainstays at Small and Piers Orthodontics—honesty, integrity, excellence in orthodontic outcomes, and caring about patients like they’re family members—have been a part of this practice from the beginning. The very beginning! We’re excited to get the chance to pair those timeless principles with cutting-edge technology and our own brand of fun to provide the one-of-a-kind orthodontic experience our patients have come to expect here in Hickory and Morganton.

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