Living the legacy
What can you tell us about your background?
I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, with my two siblings in an ortho family. Sports were a huge part of my life. I was lucky enough to be nominated as an All-American Quarter-back by USA Today after our team won the state tournament during my senior year in high school. I then played a few years for University of Louisville before multiple shoulder surgeries ended my sports career. This was really blessing in disguise because it got me focused on a career in dentistry. I attended the University of Kentucky School of Dentistry and New York University for my Orthodontic Residency.
Why did you decide to focus on orthodontics?
I began working around my father’s practices as the yard boy and sporadically helping as an assistant. When I got older, I spent more time assisting in his office. This assisting allowed me an opportunity to shadow my father and see exactly what he did from 8 to 5. I was quickly hooked on all of the interpersonal interactions but mostly the fun my dad and his staff members were having with the patients.
How long have you been practicing, and what systems do you use?
I have been practicing for 6 years and am more motivated than ever to find better ways for us to care for our patients. Our practice software is CS Ortho Trac (Carestream). I use Forestadent® USA self-ligating brackets and some Micro Mini-Twin™ brackets. I am currently lecturing for Forestadent with an emphasis on self-ligating brackets and treatment.
What training have you undertaken?
In residency, I took Dr. Jack C. Fisher’s TAD course, Dr. “Wick” Alexander’s Principles course, some wire-bending courses, and numerous other courses. Post-residency, I have taken Dr. Ron Roncone’s extensive lecture series and too many CE courses to mention. The Damon® Series and lectures from Dr. David Sarver are on my list to attend in the future.
Who has inspired you?
My professors and the faculty members were absolutely amazing and extremely knowledgeable while I was in school, but I’d have to say my father has taught me more than you could imagine. It really has been a blessing to learn from him and to lean on him during difficult situations both professionally and personally.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your practice?
I am truly grateful to be an orthodontist because we have the opportunity to interact with people and help improve their self-image. If I had to pinpoint the most satisfying aspect of my job, it would be the faces and tears of the patients who have had some form of orthognathic surgery. The reactions from those patients and their families are the most moving!
Professionally, what are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the personal relationships we have with our patients, their families, and the community in general. This practice is now seeing three different generations of families coming to Ahrens Orthodontics.
What do you think is unique about your practice?
We have three different office locations, and in each one we treat patients from three completely different socioeconomic regions. So I’d like to think we are very flexible and can accommodate a wide array of
What has been your biggest challenge?
Hands down, the biggest challenge has been being a business owner and managing a staff! As students, we were not properly trained in that aspect of the profession. Luckily, I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel because I had my father to mentor me.
What would you have become if you had not become a dentist?
I really liked the idea of working with athletes, so I’d say a physical therapist. Maybe I might have had a career in coaching football.
What is the future of orthodontics and dentistry?
I really feel that the advances being made in technology are drastically changing the way we practice. With the improvements to wires, brackets, practice software systems, and different X-ray machines, we are treating cases more efficiently than ever before. The future is very bright for our profession, and I am excited!
What are your top tips for maintaining a successful practice?
Set goals for yourself, your staff, and your practice. Try to avoid knee-jerk reactions, and think through all decisions before acting. In residencies, we are not trained about managing businesses or business concepts. We are not taught how to manage a large staff. We are not taught how to effectively communicate with the other professionals, such as the other dentists, pediatric dentists, or surgeons. All of these aspects are crucial to our success. Attending professional meetings, reading orthodontic magazines, and joining study groups are great ways to educate yourself and to become a more proficient practicing orthodontist.
What advice would you give to budding orthodontists?
The more urban populations are very saturated with orthodontists, and a lot of the older practicing orthodontists are not retiring. Set up a practice in more rural populations. Live in the city of your choice, and work in surrounding counties/cities that are underserved.
What are your hobbies, and what do you do in your spare time?
I enjoy traveling, working out, spending time with loved ones, and following the Louisville Cardinals.
Top 10 favorites
- Our amazing staff
- Working with family
- Flexible hours
- 3Shape TRIOS® scanner
- Interacting/lecturing to orthodontic residencies
- I love paying taxes!
- Our Planmeca digital X-ray machines
- Spending time with colleagues, friends, and vendors at CE events
- Signing my father’s paycheck
- Making a positive difference in so many people’s lives