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Business Smile makers: Arlington orthodontics practice a lasting impression

Smile makers: Arlington orthodontics practice a lasting impression

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

Betty Dillard bdillard@bizpress.net

There have been more smiles than usual around Arlington the past few months. One of the city’s longstanding businesses, Drs. Alexander Orthodontics, celebrates a half century in practice this year. The family-owned practice was started in 1964 by Dr. R.G. “Wick” Alexander, continued with son Dr. Chuck Alexander, who now practices in Colorado, and today is under the leadership of son Dr. Moody Alexander. “Over 17,000 patients have walked through these doors in the last 50 years. We’ve truly had the opportunity of making generations smile since 1964,” said Moody Alexander. “Fifty years means a lot to me and my family. I hope it means just as much to our community.”

 

Like the city of Arlington, Drs. Alexander has grown and evolved over the decades, and has built a reputation of providing world-class orthodontics to patients in Arlington and the surrounding area. The practice, which transitioned from Wick to Moody about seven years ago, continues to expand with new patients but also has second- and third-generation patients. “Fifty years is remarkable for any business. It’s extraordinary. You can’t talk about Arlington without talking about Alexanders,” said Beth Owens. Owens was a patient of Dr. A, as Wick Alexander is affectionately called, when she was a teen. Her son is currently one of Dr. Moody Alexander’s patients. There were only a couple of dozen dentists and one other orthodontist when Dr. A arrived in small-town Arlington to open his practice. Born in Lubbock, he grew up in Amarillo, graduated from Texas Tech University and received his dental and orthodontics degrees from the Texas Dental Branch in Houston. He and his wife, Janna, who was pregnant with Moody, and two-year-old Chuck, set out via station wagon on a search for the right place to set up an orthodontics office. After talking to the chambers of commerce, area dentists and the Methodist ministers in 10 Texas cities, they chose Arlington. “All the other locations we thought about where I had roots and ties didn’t feel right. When we came to check out Arlington it was like bells started ringing,” Wick Alexander said.

He began his practice in the dental office of long-time Arlington dentist Dr. B.J. Fuller. (Moody recently put braces on Fuller’s great-grandson’s teeth.) The practice moved into a building on Benge Street and in 1971, Alexander bought the practice’s current 7,500-square-foot facility on Mitchell Street, which back then was a dead-end road. He leased the back office spaces to several physicians including Dr. Robert Cluck, who is now mayor of Arlington. As the leases expired, Alexander gradually took over the entire building, which has allowed him to do something few other orthodontics practices can match. Beyond the large, open, colorful examination room, dubbed the Rainbow Room, awaits the first of two inner sanctums, a file room filled with patients’ charts back to his very first one. Past all that paperwork – new records are now kept electronically – is the Room of Truth, where 50 years of patients’ dental models are stored. The models are available to dentists and orthodontists for research. Recently, Moody Alexander called his dad from his back office up to the Rainbow Room to see a patient whom Dr. A had worked on 30 years ago.

“It was amazing. I don’t see many patients anymore. This is Moody’s practice now. He’s picked up the ball with it and done a wonderful job. Now when I come in people say to me, ‘Well, I’ve heard about you,’” Wick, 78, said. “For us to see this patient 30 years later warms my heart to know we may have made a difference. We went back into the Room of Truth and found her original models. This is a unique situation and it happened because we just happened to have the space to keep everything. Modest though we are, there’s not another place in the world like this – not any dental schools or programs.” Wick, who primarily teaches these days – he’s been a clinical professor in the orthodontics department of Baylor College of Dentistry for almost 40 years – pioneered the Alexander Discipline, a revolutionary system of placing brackets on the teeth and set of 20 principles presently used by almost 20 percent of the world’s orthodontists. He’s taught this system in more than 57 countries. He also has written a textbook and numerous scientific articles published in various orthodontics journals. “The great staff has helped make the practice successful, too,” said Moody, who joined the practice in 1995. “My challenge has been how to reinvent this and keep it fresh and on the front. The staff helps with that. This practice has always been ahead of the times, I think.”

E=R When Wick was in dental school he read James Allen’s book, As a Man Thinketh, in which he discovered what would become the practice’s business philosophy, called E=R. Moody still abides by it today. “In all human affairs there are efforts and there are results and the strength of the effort is the measure of the result,” Wick recites from the book. “It just hit me like that: E=R. That’s what we have followed.” And along with the E=R business model is the practice’s Wooden Nickel Project. As a reward for being a great patient, patients receive wooden nickels to earn prizes and gift cards. The program also allows them an opportunity to donate their nickels to charity. “That’s a powerful message,” Owens said. “The giving back part is equal to the great practice. It’s tangible to the community. They’re embedded in the community.” Both Wick and Moody Alexander have a long tradition of public service and volunteering at home and abroad. Dr. A served six years on the Arlington City Council, chaired Tarrant County’s United Way efforts and worked with Arlington’s YMCA, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Boys Club. He and Janna are charter members of Trinity United Methodist Church in Arlington, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, too. Moody was the first child baptized there. “Dad’s serving has been phenomenal. There’s not an organization in town that hasn’t been touched by him,” said Moody. “It’s been such joy working with Dad.” Like his father, Moody graduated from Texas Tech. He then spent three years serving Campus Crusade for Christ before earning his dental and orthodontics degrees from Baylor College of Dentistry, where he teaches as well. A diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics, he also lectures on the Alexander Discipline both nationally and internationally. Locally, Moody supports the Downtown Arlington Management Corp., Downtown Rotary Club, Pantego Christian Academy and Dental Health for Arlington. He and his wife, Emily, have seven children, including three adopted from Ethiopia. He expanded his service work to dental mission trips in Ethiopia via EthiopiaSmile, a nonprofit organization he founded. He and a group of 50 volunteers, including 10 doctors, leave Christmas Day for the latest mission trip.

“My brother and I had opportunities many young orthodontists don’t have simply because of who our dad was, which was a gift. We’ve been able to travel and teach and continue the legacy that way,” said Moody. “Ethiopia has been an addendum.” Moody says the practice in many ways is stronger than it’s ever been in the community and the market. He’s hoping to some day pass the practice along to one of his children. “Surely with seven kids one of them will bite,” he said. Seeing the practice he started 50 years ago pass to the next generation is one of Wick’s dreams. “The greatest thing for a parent is to see their children become better than they are,” he said.  

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