By Jessica King
Whether he’s talking about his work or his family, Ramona’s newest dentist is as passionate as they come — and for good reason.
His humble beginnings in Mexico and his not-always-easy path to financial security have shaped Dr. Rodolfo Orozco into a man of devout faith and appreciation.
Orozco, a licensed dentist in California since 1991, opened Ramona Oak Dental at 1721 Main St., Suite 201, this month. The new office is a complement to Orozco’s longstanding practice in Alpine, named Alpine Oak Dental.
“I really love what I do,” said Orozco, who does a lot.
His services range from the basic to the complex, offering difficult wisdom teeth extractions, root canals, implants from start to finish, orthodontics and, for patients 13 and older, sedation dentistry. He sees children and adults, and offers free service to missionaries and disabled children by referral.
Orozco was born in Mexico and grew up in an adobe house, owning only one pair of shoes, which he was only allowed to wear when going to church or school.
From a young age, he started dreaming about a girl with blond hair and blue eyes, and he somehow just knew he’d find her in the United States one day.
In 1980, Orozco moved to Texas. The legal resident attended dental school in Mexico and drove a taxi in Texas to make ends meet, at times living out of his vehicle and showering at his local 24-Hour Fitness center.
Around 1985, Orozco, armed with his education and determination for a better life, joined the Army. Though he initially thought he would be able to work as a dentist in the Army, his then lack of citizenship meant the best he could get was an enlisted position as a combat medic, which he dutifully accepted.
One night, while out with some Army buddies, Orozco met his wife-to-be, Judy, who was then a recent college graduate and secondary school teacher.
Orozco, then 22, knew the moment he laid eyes on her that she was the girl from his dreams, a thrilling albeit scary moment, he said.
“And when I talked with her, she laughed exactly the way the girl of my dreams did,” he said. “And later, when we danced and I got to hold her hand, I don’t know how I knew, but her hand, it felt like the hand of the girl from my dreams.”
At the end of the night, after Orozco told her about his dreams, she told him he was crazy and said she wasn’t interested in seeing him again.
Not willing to give up so easily, he convinced her to take his phone number and hold onto it for two weeks. She did and exactly two weeks later, she called and they’ve been together ever since, he said.
“She made me sweat a little bit,” joked Orozco.
Eventually the couple married, Orozco finished his time in the Army and his wife joined the Navy, bringing the couple from Texas to California.
Their first home in California was in San Diego Country Estates in Ramona and both said they loved the area but later moved “down the hill” due to the taxing commute.
They had four daughters and moved throughout California for Judy’s career before settling in Alpine, where Orozco opened Alpine Oak Dental, but they never forgot about Ramona, he said.
More recently, with his daughters all grown up and out of the family home and Judy’s retirement from the Navy, the couple decided to return to Ramona to open Ramona Oak Dental.
“I believe that God leads you in a certain way and if you just follow the hints … everything works out,” said Orozco. “When I first came to Ramona, I didn’t have as much training. I wouldn’t have been as much of a service to the area as I can be now. I’ve learned from every step I’ve taken to get here.”
Orozco, a believer in continued education, is looking into getting additional training to sedate patients under 13 so that he can help more disabled children.
“I’ve always looked at my patients as someone to whom I owe so much, because without them I wouldn’t be able to feed my family and put a roof over their heads,” he said. “To me, the best way I can repay the debt I owe to my patients is by always training and always trying to be better than myself — not other dentists — myself, every day.”
When he’s not working or training for work, Orozco is happy to brag about his four daughters and his three grandchildren.
He’s also a licensed pilot and shares a passion for flying with his wife. His other hobbies include anything artistic, from woodworking to pen making.
For now, Ramona Oak Dental is open three days a week: Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Orozco works alongside his wife, who handles the day-to-day business operations and assists during procedures when needed.
The couple, married for 28 years, plans to open more days as he gets more local patients.
For more information about Ramona Oak Dental, call 760-440-9000 or visit ramonaoakdental.com.