As he celebrates the 10th anniversary of his Ahwatukee practice, there’s little doubt who inspired Dr. Chris J. Woolaver to choose the career that he did.
It was the orthodontist who helped him through a childhood ordeal.
The Nova Scotia native was born with a cleft lip and palate, and his first orthodontic experience was when he was only six months old, when his cleft was surgically repaired.
But that was only the beginning of his ordeal, one that didn’t end until he was able to dump his last set of braces at age 29.
“For a number of years he had a facemask headgear, expanders – everything,” said his office manager, Theresa Bauer.
Through this ordeal, his orthodontist had such a positive impact on life that he decided when he was only 11 years old what he wanted to do in life: help his patients “have a healthy bite and improved self-confidence with a smile they could be proud of.”
So, he went to the University of Alberta and got his dental degree in 1996 and, five years later, realized his dream when he earned his master’s in orthodontics from the University of Manitoba.
His other big move in life was when he came to Ahwatukee, where he lives with his wife Allison and their two children – daughter Maya, a freshman at Desert Vista High, and Ben, an eighth-grader at Altadena Middle School.
Having grown up in cold Canada, he and his wife wanted to leave the gray skies and chilly air behind and seek the desert sun.
He opened his practice at 4425 E. Agave Road – three miles from his home – because he wanted to work in the community where he lived.
Besides, he also likes to give back to the community and has contributed over $150,000 in services, monetary donations and gifts in three different ways.
Through various foundations, he provides pro bono treatment to needy kids “because everyone deserves to smile.” He also supports local Kyrene and charter schools and youth sports.
Starting a practice from the ground up wasn’t easy. He started with one staff member and on a good day he’d see maybe as many as three patients.
Today, he has 10 employees and sees between 60 and 80 patients daily.
“I’d say what makes him tick is taking care of his patients and doing orthodontics,” Bauer said. “He understands being a business owner is part of the deal, but running the back end of the business is definitely not his passion.”
Over the course he’s been practicing, orthodontics has come a long way as a result of improved technology.
Back in the ‘80s, orthodontics often meant metal braces for two or three years. Adult tooth extractions were common, and the appliances, such as headgear, that marked his childhood were bulky and unattractive.
Through extensive research and development, the profession has provided for less invasive treatment options, utilizing minimal appliances with less extractions.
Woolaver uses advanced technology, including clear, self-ligating brackets or Invisalign treatment options, to significantly reduce overall treatment time from years to an average of 15-18 months and eliminate much of the discomfort that came with older treatments.
Though his patients are of all ages, Woolaver recommends that parents bring their children around age 8, when they can spot subtle problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth while some baby teeth are still present.
Most patients get braces around age 12, when all of their adult teeth have grown in.
Information: 480-240-9393 or clearsmilesaz.com