A flip of the phone book decided his fate.
Irv Anders had been a civil engineer for some time, but the politicking part of the job was just not for him. He liked the mechanics of the work but wanted to do something that would better provide for his family and allow him to work more independently. So, after a day at work, when he was told to “look busy,” he began flipping through the yellow pages to see what other people did with their lives.
He landed on “D” and found dentist, and to him, it seemed like it would be a good fit. “I thought, maybe I should consider that,” Anders said.
He talked to his wife Ellen and it wasn’t long before he had enrolled at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. Anders
pored over the medical journals with his colleagues, studying the anatomy of the mouth, and learning general dentistry, but he had yet to consider orthodontics. “They teach you how to spell orthodontics [in dental school], but it’s considered a specialty and they don’t let you anywhere near it,” he said. It wasn’t until his last year of dental school, when he wrote to correct the author of a dentistry textbook on an engineering fallacy, that orthodontics became a possibility.
“I saw that a section on engineering principles was all wrong, so I wrote Dr. Graber a letter. He responded and said that he had checked it with the engineering department at his school and I was right,” Anders said. “Dr. Graber said he would be updating the info in his next edition. I was just glad to have helped – I was surprised when I got an invitation from the University of Nebraska to come be part of their orthodontics program.”
Once again, his wife supported the change in place, and they moved their family to Nebraska. “She said, ‘Well, we have nothing now, how much less can we have?’” Anders said. It was a good move.
His civil engineering background was a perfect fit for the new career, and as he studied the mechanics of the way orthodontics worked, he realized that there were many of the same underlying principles. “Orthodontics encompasses a lot of forces,” he said. “You move everything through force systems, and it’s the same analytic process for building bridges or buildings.”
The work fascinated him enough that he spent 41 years practicing as an orthodontist in the Midwest and teaching orthodontics at the Montefiore Einstein Medical Center in New York. “I’ve been blessed to be able to do something I enjoy,” Anders said.
He’s loved working in the field so much that he couldn’t bear to retire, even though he tried. Despite the change of pace and a move to White Rock, B.C., he was left with the nagging feeling that he should be working. “I don’t think people are meant to retire, unless it’s for medical reasons. I really missed it,” Anders said.
An opportunity to work with Borderview Dental in Blaine was the perfect antidote to his empty days.
Now, Anders spends his time consulting with patients and suggesting lines of care for their teeth. It’s everything he could want. “I have a nice time,” he said, and it shows. His jovial nature and engaging chair-side manner quickly puts patients at ease, and he’s quite thorough in how he explains his diagnosis.
“You have to be conservative,” he said. “Because if you’re not, then you’re pulling unnecessary teeth. Early intervention is my philosophy. Some guys will tell you to wait until all the adult teeth come in, but by then, you’re getting into extractions.” Anders finds that the American Association of Orthodontists recommendation that children be seen by age six is spot on. It allows him to find the best course of treatment for his patients, while the bones are still forming. “Baby molars are bigger than permanent teeth underneath, so they leave extra space,” he explained. That space is key for moving other teeth around, and gives Anders the most options for correcting the malalignments and skeletal problems that might become problematic in the future. “It’s comparable to kids when they are young and have scoliosis – you can modify it while they are still growing. Once fully grown, it requires surgery.”
He stressed that just because you come in to be seen at age six doesn’t mean you’ll start treatment immediately. “It’s just so we can get a baseline and begin monitoring it,” he said.
Just two weeks into his new practice, he’s excited that he already has a good set of patients. “It’s really been picking up,” he said. “Orthodontics is fun.”
Anders works with Borderview Family Dentistry & Orthodontics in Blaine located at 341 C Street, Blaine. For more information call 360/332-8737.