No Label Required

Orthodontics is a notoriously slow moving profession. Distances less than a single millimeter can take months to cover. It’s the ultimate in controlled, methodical movements.

The man behind the wheel depresses the clutch and plunges the gas pedal to the floor. The engine emits a throaty growl as the tachometer winds out a split second before his foot comes off the clutch, engaging the 800 horsepower engine. There’s so much torque unleashed, the inner portion of the tire has rotated 90 degrees before the outside of the tire even moves. In about ten seconds, the man and the car have moved a quarter mile away from where they started.

Orthodontics is a notoriously cerebral profession. It’s not enough that most doctors need to achieve a doctorate in dentistry, but they must also do so finishing near or at the top of their class. All of which earns them nothing more than the right to plunge head first into three more years of education.

The man sits on the edge of the dock with a tow-rope in his hand and a miniature surfboard (officially a wake board) under his feet in the water. He gives an OK and the boat surges away from the dock, pulling him behind it. It’s not an ordinary boat, but a Wake Boat that’s weighed down on one side to create a perpetual wave behind it. After the boat gets up to speed, the man drops the line and begins surfing the boat’s wake. His body whipsaws from left to right at blinding speed. It’s clear from the way he carves the wave, he’s spent many of his formative years doing nothing but riding waves.

Dr. Kim Forrest Rides
Dr. Kim Forrest says the kids enjoy trying to guess which of his vehicles he’ll bring to work each day.

Orthodontics is a notoriously clean cut profession. The doctors must find a middle ground to their personality. They need to appeal to both parents (professional, knowledgeable) and children (fun, trustworthy). Because of the sizeable investment braces typically require, it doesn’t hurt to have a little investment banker thrown into the mix.

The man walks past a line of motorcycles that would make Evil Knievel jealous. There’s the chromed-out chopper that looks like it belongs in an outlaw biker action movie. There’s the European racing bike that will take the rider from zero to 60 in under 3.5 seconds. And then there are the dirt bikes, small, nimble machines made for attacking off road hills and launching the operator high in to the air. It’s a sport that requires precision body control and complete reckless abandon. The man has all the bikes mastered.

The man in each of the outtakes doesn’t come across much like an orthodontist, a profession that’s all about control and making detailed plans that unfold over months and years. But then the man is actually a bit of a risk taker outside the practice, and Dr. Kim Forrest has made it a habit of confounding expectations.

In casual conversation, Dr. Kim Forrest definitely comes across as more of an orthodontist than an outlaw biker, speed demon or surfer dude. He’s articulate, engaging and friendly. While cloaked in scrubs, you can see by the way he moves that he’s in great shape. Like most orthodontists, he’s intellectually curious about, well, everything. He’s incredibly animated, a trait that conveys an enthusiasm that bubbles into everything he does and everyone he meets.

This enthusiasm and curiosity – which began at an early age – is always pulling Dr. Kim Forrest in multiple directions.

“In my school years, I was an athlete. I played baseball, football and golf. I was also an avid surfer – yes, I was the typical long-haired surfer dude. So I sort of fit in with the jocks, but also with the surfing crowd. I was also in the marching band, and on top of that, I was an A student. I was never pressured by one group to leave another. The athletes never gave me grief for making good grades and my band friends never looked at me as an outsider for playing sports. I had lots of very diverse friends,” he says with a laugh.

Growing up in Florida, most kids chose one of the big three schools that dominate the area (Florida, Florida State or Miami). But Kim had other plans. He applied to, and was accepted to the University of Texas at Austin in 1976.

Where many college kids want to put as much distance between themselves and their family as possible, Kim Forrest took a slightly different approach. His roommate his first year of college was his mother, who had been working her way through the educational system.

“I showed her my acceptance letter and she pulled out hers and said, ‘me too!'”

Another high achiever, his mother graduated with a PhD in nursing. She later went on to found the nursing program at Abilene Christian University down in Abilene Texas.

After his graduation, Dr. Forrest practiced family dentistry and orthodontics for a number of years before finally deciding to specialize in orthodontics at the University of Texas Health Science Center Dental Branch at Houston Graduate Orthodontic Program. He served as Chief Resident from 1997 to 1999. During that time he discovered that he liked the higher learning environment so much that he stayed on as an Associate Clinical Professor from 2000 to 2002.

He eventually joined forces with longtime friend Dr. Sam A. Winkelmann, who was interested in divesting himself of his practice at a time when Dr. Forrest was looking to invest in a practice. It was a perfect situation for both men, and the two still work together at Forrest Orthodontics in Katy, Texas.

Along the way, he’s found time to father three girls, Austin (25), Skyler (13) and Summer (6) who like their father, have a competitive streak in them that transcends traditional labels. Competitive cheerleading is their passion, and he’s happy to drive them (carefully) from meet to meet.

Ever since he got his first car – 1969 Mach One Mustang – Dr. Forrest has been a big fan of high-performance machinery. It’s a quest for performance that shaped his search for the ideal bracket.

“We started out as a 3M Unitek™ office back in the day. When self-ligation came out, we tried that. We tried Smart Clips, which was pretty disappointing. We tried a lot…Damon and all the likes. When
In-Ovation R® came out, we were blown away and made the decision to switch. We changed the entire practice – 700 to 800 starts a year – over to self-ligation, 100 percent.”

While he loved the In-Ovation R product, and still uses it (about half the time) there was a voice in the back of his mind that kept telling him that a clear version of the bracket would be the holy grail of brackets.

“When the In-Ovation C® came out, we were overjoyed. It was like someone was reading our mind. We promptly went 100% In-Ovation C.”

To this day, he credits the ceramic In-Ovation C bracket as one of the big keys to building and marketing his practice. That’s because he gives all his patients the ceramic bracket at the traditional bracket price. It’s an investment that’s paid off thousands of times over.

“Every patient in my practice gets In-Ovation C on their upper arch. Even my Phase 1 cases. They all get In-Ovation C clear brackets on the top arch. And I don’t charge extra for them. That’s my marketing. Think about it. When the moms are sitting down at the soccer game, and one kid has the dreaded metal mouth, and another kid has a case using clear brackets…and then the mom’s learn they each paid the same price… well, you can pretty much guarantee I’m going to get the next kid either mom has.”

This brings Dr. Forrest to one of his minor pet peeves; the most common misconception about clear brackets. He’s not sure where they get it, but it drives him a little nutty when parents (and even some practices) avoid clear brackets claiming that you can’t use colored rubber bands on them.

“Kids say it all the time. Since I have clear brackets I can’t use colored bands. Colored bands actually show up on clear brackets even better!”

“Whatever you can do that makes them happier patients, that makes them more compliant, which helps treatment end faster…that’s a good thing. Plus, mom’s gotta be happy too. Clear brackets and colored bands tend to make everyone happy. Most of the time the kids wear colored bands for the first time or two…then they get bored with it.”

Dr. Kim Forrest’s Patient Rooms
Dr. Kim Forrest’s Patient Rooms

While Dr. Forrest has grown older (though he looks like he’s still in his 30’s) and wiser (though he makes it a point to relate to kids on their level), he hasn’t outgrown his hobbies. If anything, his appreciation for them has grown. Hence the motorcycles, the supercars, the monster trucks, the wake surfing…the pizza parties and the sleepover parties.

Oh yes, the pizza and sleepover parties.

“Our practice does a lot of drawings and giveaways each month. In the past, the biggest one we’d do is giving away a movie night where the winner gets to bring 11 friends into the practice to watch movies. We’ll provide pizza and the kids pick the movie. Some of my staff members chaperone the event, giving the moms the opportunity to relax over wine and cheese and just take it easy. Everyone has a great time…even us!”

“Well…we’ve even taken that to the next level where we’ve given away a big party and let the kids do a sleepover, something we do about once a year. Once we had a whole cheerleading team come. It was 32 cheerleaders, 6 moms and a couple of the women from the office. They came to the office, had pizzas and watched movies and the kids slept in sleeping bags all over the practice…and then we had breakfast here in the morning. There were kids everywhere! In our little on-site movie theater, in the waiting rooms. They’re already asking to do it again.”

“What better PR can you get than having 32 cheerleaders who think your office is so cool that they want to spend time there? They all take pictures and post them online. It’s all over Facebook and
Instagram for all the other kids and parents to see.”

After all, who says a building labeled practice needs to act like a practice. Who says a doctor needs to be so formal.

“Forever it seems, the stereotype of a dentist or orthodontist has been that of a nerd, such as portrayed in movies or on television. That’s a part…but it’s not most of it. I want kids to see an orthodontist that is successful, but still rides dirt bikes, choppers, wakeboards, and that surfs and drives cool, fast cars…. really fast.”

Dr. Kim Forrest Movie Theatre on location
Movie Theatre on location

“The same kind of thinking went into my office. My childhood experience with the typical dental office was generally a poor one. You were greeted with that “doctor’s office smell”. So I asked myself what could we do to make a difference? And then it struck me. Cookies, baked fresh every morning and afternoon Who doesn’t love cookies and that smell?”

“Instead of a boring waiting room with 5 year old magazines, the adults have a “living room” setting reception area with a coffee bar, a flat screen TV, and Wi-Fi.”

“The kids have an even more impressive area. Their “hang out” space is an actual movie theater equipped with an 11-foot screen and surround sound. If that wasn’t enough, there is also a gaming station and a popcorn machine.”

While Dr. Forrest likes going full throttle most of the time, he also realizes that there’s a time to ease off and enjoy the scenery.

“We’ve quadrupled the practice since I’ve been a part of it. You want a little bit of growth every year. But I’m at the point where I want to establish a healthy life balance.”

And maybe serve as an example to kids that you don’t need to be defined by your label.

“My message is always the same. Orthodontics is the greatest profession in the whole wide world. Yes, you’ve got to be an A student to become one, or to be a brain surgeon, or an attorney, if you choose. You can still be anything else…anything big, small, impressive or not. But if your grades aren’t great, your options are severely limited. I want kids to be brave enough to embrace success and to not worry so much about being cool. It’s all a state of mind.”

Orthodontics is a notoriously demanding profession. It’s also incredibly rewarding.

The man closes the door on a family sedan. He walks past the performance cars, past the motorcycles and wake boards hanging in the garage. They’ll get their use this weekend, but for tonight, they are inert. He opens the front door and finds a six year old bubbling over with excitement at a new cheerleading move she has to show him. It’s a passion he can’t put a label on, but he knows it’s a groundswell of passion that no car, bike or boat could ever match.


This article first published in 2014 OrthoWorld.

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