Dr. Amy Jackson founded Retainers for Life to mitigate the daily headaches that retainer and retention-related emergencies were causing in her own practice.
Fulfilling orthodontic and entrepreneurial dreams
What can you tell us about your background?
I was born and raised in Texas, and like any true Texan, my dreams were big. As the oldest of two, I saw my parents work tirelessly, and they instilled in me the core values of family and hard work. It was these very values that drove me to become only the second person in my father’s family to pursue a higher education. I attended Baylor University for my undergraduate degree where I studied science and was a cheerleader. For my postgraduate studies, I attended the University of Texas Health Science Centers in Houston for my dental training and San Antonio for my orthodontic residency.
Is your practice limited solely to orthodontics, or do you practice other types of dentistry?
I believe no practice is ever limited to just orthodontics. As orthodontists, we must perform as entrepreneurs, CEOs, managers, negotiators, and strong, active members of our communities. These experiences gave me the skills to fulfill one of my dreams: to create a new company that betters our industry and improves the lives of doctors and patients. With these values in mind, I founded Retainers For Life®.
Why did you decide to focus on orthodontics?
During my junior year in dental school, I worked in a lab that studied the transcription factor PAX9, which is critical for patterning and morphogenesis of teeth and taste buds. In the lab, we worked with families, taking buccal swabs that allowed for sequencing and studying of this missing signaling factor leading to tooth agenesis. When a patient is missing teeth, it affects both function and esthetics, and I was working with multiple families affected by this generationally. During my journey with these families, I witnessed how orthodontists quarterback treatment plans and guide esthetic outcomes. This was the first time in my journey that I really understood the importance of orthodontics in the dental profession and felt drawn to a specialty with the ability to help these individuals and families.
Do your patients come through referrals?
Yes, most of our patients come through direct in-office referrals from patients and family members in combination with referrals from colleagues in the dental profession. I take pride in the relationships I have with our families; they are our livelihood. This is precisely why I believe we need to continue care in the retention phase of treatment once active treatment is completed.
How long have you been practicing orthodontics, and what systems do you use?
I have been practicing orthodontics for 16 years. For diagnosis and treatment planning, I use the Kodak 9500 Cone Beam 3D System, and Robbins and Rouse Global Diagnosis. I use a variety of different aligner systems, Forestadent BioQuick® brackets, Pitts21® philosophy and system, iTero® scanning, and of course, Retainers For Life to continue orthodontic care through the retention phase of treatment.
Who has inspired you?
Some of the people who inspired me professionally are Drs. Vincent Kokich, William Robbins, Jeffrey Rouse, Olin Vaughan, Ronald Roncone, and Tom Pitts, who is finding time to teach the next generation. I also find inspiration in my resident classmates making positive differences in their local communities; those individuals are superheroes to me. My biggest personal inspirations are my family, who support me and my dreams, and working moms because I know how challenging that can be.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your practice?
The most satisfying aspects of my practice are the interactions with patients and their families and seeing positive treatment outcomes improve someone’s self-worth and confidence. I also hold the pro bono work I do for fallen firefighter and military families close to my heart. I feel as orthodontists, we are incredibly lucky to have such a rewarding and satisfying job.
Professionally, what are you most proud of?
I’m a problem solver. When I see a problem starting to become a pattern, I get excited at the prospect of investigating the problem and providing a solution to fix it. One such solution was Retainers For Life when I started it inside my practice. I was experiencing firsthand the daily headaches retainer- and retention-related emergencies were causing. I’m proud to say with Retainers For Life, I solved that problem inside my practice, fueling my inner geek.
What do you think is unique about your practice?
Because we want to be the best part of the patient’s day, we listen and communicate. We also offer the most advanced technologies, but what really makes us shine is how we continue providing orthodontic care once active treatment is complete. Ultimately, what we’ve seen by using Retainers For Life, is that our patients never lose touch with us. They enjoy the Amazon-like replacement retainer ordering experience and value (especially the busy moms) the direct-to-door delivery experience.
What has been your biggest challenge?
I believe our industry is facing a huge challenge. Patients are demanding less appointments, more virtual treatment, and they value and want more free time. These convenience factors are why companies like SmileDirectClub™ and Byte experienced success. However, the quality of care suffers when patients are not being seen by doctors. DIY dentistry and orthodontics is dangerous. This is not a passing fad, and orthodontists need to think outside the box to continue to remain relevant.
What would you have been if you didn’t become a dentist?
If I hadn’t gone into orthodontics, I would have become an algebra teacher. My love of problem solving, teaching, and inspiring our next generation of humans would have been my Plan B, but I can’t tell you how happy I am that my Plan A worked out!
What are your top tips for maintaining a successful specialty practice?
Never give up the love of learning, and work to improve your skill and knowledge every year. Hire thoughtfully; fire quickly. Work to foster the relationships and morale of your team. Provide excellent customer service and be proactive to solve problems. Celebrate the small wins, and design a unique bonus system every year that targets the key metrics that you want to see improve. Monitor your key performance indicators. Complete your patients’ treatment plans when you say you will, and find a solution to continue providing care into their retention phases of treatment.
What advice would you give to budding orthodontists?
Be the best part of the patient’s day. Stop and take stock to appreciate how far you have come, and find time to give back to your community and profession. Never stop learning. Protect your work-life balance, and recognize your professional career is a marathon, not a sprint!
What are your hobbies, and what do you do in your spare time?
I make time to volunteer and love going on mission trips with our church. The Special Olympics and National Charity League are very close to my heart. My priority is to spend time with friends and family. I believe strongly in a good work-life balance; that’s not saying I’m good at it, but I’m doing my very best!
For more information on Retainers for Life, read this product profile: https://orthopracticeus.com/retainers-for-life/