I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I arrived where I am, what I do, how I do it and why. It’s probably because I’m rethinking my mechanics and practice model while we are in the process of fully implementing Invisalign, but no matter the reason, it’s a good idea to reflect on those who helped us along the way. As I sit here, classroom style in Scottsdale along with my fellow Orthodontic Exchange members and marvel at the fantastic Invisalign cases presented by Jonathan Nicozizs and Maz Moshiri, I feel like a newly minted orthodontist learning how to treat patients all over again. Change is good and we must keep up with innovations in thinking, mindset and technology if we hope to stay relevant but it’s always a struggle. I keep thinking about all those who helped me become who I am and to think like I do and I decided to share my experience with all of you. I also wanted to thank those who gave so much of themselves to the profession for the benefit of us all:
The first mind-warping experience that came to mind was reading Dr. Ackerman’s Enhancement Orthodontics textbook. It had a profound effect on how I think, what I do and how. Dr. Marc Ackerman was well ahead of his time and he took a lot of grief for it, but he fully understood and explained the multi-factorial morass that is treating a patient in the modern era while the rest of us tooth nerds still thought “putting the plaster on the table” was the most important thing we orthodontist did. Ideal is nothing but an idea and ideal is unattainable when dealing with asymmetric and variably compliant human beings. More often than not, ideal is not even applicable in adult cases. Read this textbook. Do it now. Start the process of eradicating the brain damage that we all accumulate during our lives as career students. You must understand the difference between school and private practice and do so quickly if you hope to survive and thrive in the new reality. We are in the people business working on teeth not the teeth business working on people! Dr. Ackerman was right and his textbook is still the best antidote I know for the mass myopia our profession suffers from.
Then came a flood of memories about educational experiences that happened in the fuzzy time right after graduation from residency. I didn’t know enough to know what I was witnessing at the time but looking back, I was fortunate to have such incredible encounters:
Dr. David Sarver – I took his Future Visions Course twice in a row right out of school and learned more in those two days than I did in 3 years of residency. I recently took his course again and it was new, improved and ridiculously underpriced for what the attendee gets. The controversial ideas like the “smile arc” that Dr. Sarver put fourth a decade ago are now givens that all orthodontist accept. I am sure in 10 years we will be able to say the same thing.
Dr. Dwight Damon – I went to a course Dr. Damon gave in Atlanta soon after I graduated and though his ideas were controversial at the time, it was like hearing everything I’d ever read about the biology of tooth movement actually applied to orthodontic treatment in a systematic way. I immediately applied what I learned and still incorporate many of his protocols. His “controversial approach” is now the norm and applied in most practices to all kinds of appliances. As an aside, I remember Dr. Damon saying that he could often hear what kind of malocclusion a patient had when they talked – we all thought he was crazy but a few years and a few patients down the road and I can’t argue with him! The man is a genius.
Dr. Terry Dischinger – Dr. Dischinger is an Olympic gold metal winner, NBA player, Herbst Appliance Champion, successful orthodontist and so much more. I attended Dr. Dischinger’s in office course in Lake Oswego, OR right after graduation. His office, his team and the man himself were marvels to behold and the experience radically changed how I went about treating patients. Dr. Dischinger’s appliance therapy that was considered “outlandish and controversial” is now standard practice. He brought growth modification theory into widespread practice and acceptance among orthodontists and changed the profession forever. Though I don’t use class II correctors any longer, Dr. Dischinger had a profound effect on how I thought about orthodontic treatment and care delivery at the doctor-patient interface.
Dr. Vince Kokich, Sr. – I can remember the first time I saw Dr. Kokich standing on stage flipping two sets of slides projected on side by side screens behind him while he talked about the images without even looking at them. It was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever witnessed! He made clinical orthodontics interesting in a way I’d not seen before and have rarely encountered since. Dr. Kokich was a prolific researcher but I particularly enjoyed his surveys that displayed the difference in perception between laypeople and orthodontists when it came to different aspects of the smile. I’ve found the knowledge he mined, refined and shared so eloquently invaluable in my thinking and practice since the very first time I heard him speak. He was a scientist, clinician, pragmatist and an excellent teacher who also had the rare ability to connect with individuals and audiences. Dr. Kokich changed our profession of the better in massive and enduring ways.
I cannot thank these orthodontists enough! I would not be who I am or where I am without them. As I look toward the future, I wonder who among the up and coming clinical experts will be the next Damon, Sarver, Ackerman, Dischinger or Kokich. There are lots of possibilities but who will seize the day, help their fellow orthodontists and shape the future of what we do and how we do it? Will it be Derek Bock? Jonathan Nicozisis? Jeff Kozlowski? Antonino Cecchi? Maz Moshiri? Adam Schulhof? Someone else? Let me know who you think will take on the mantles of the greatest generation and let’s watch how it plays out together.