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A Different Approach to Orthodontics

Dr. David Sarver has taught clinicians his unique approach to treatment for many years. He’s written numerous books on the subject and has lectured all over the world, educating clinicians about the importance of considering the full face rather than just moving teeth when developing a treatment plan.

But even with all these efforts, it seemed like he wasn’t reaching enough clinicians with his message. Patients were still coming to his office as adults after braces or aligners didn’t solve their problem, because the clinician who treated them just wasn’t trained in the art of full-face esthetics. It was clear to Dr. Sarver he needed to expand his audience, and that’s why he decided to launch Mastering Orthodontics, an online learning community.


Through Mastering Orthodontics, Dr. Sarver is able to reach dentists and orthodontists from anywhere in the world, making it easy to watch lectures on your own time and at your own pace. 

With each case Dr. Sarver breaks down esthetic treatment into three areas: macroesthetics, miniesthetics and microesthetics, which encompass the facial appearance, the smile and the teeth themselves.

How is this different from other orthodontic programs?

Dr. Sarver teaches dentists to go beyond just looking at problems with the teeth and to instead look at the dentofacial complex. This means considering how changing the smile might alter the face and what other treatment, such as rhinoplasty, patients might need to truly get the results they’re after.

The goal is simple: See the full face.


Dr. David Sarver Does Things Differently

When Dr. Sarver first arrived in Birmingham, where he still lives and practices today, he took on a teaching position at the University of Alabama. The vice president of health affairs who hired him had been a dean at the University of North Carolina, where Dr. Sarver went to dental school. The oral maxillofacial surgeon knew the kind of training Dr. Sarver received from trailblazers like Drs. William Proffitt, Ray White, Timothy Turvey and Bill Terry, and that he would be the perfect person to bridge the gap between the oral surgery and orthodontics departments.

“I was the liaison and my job was to see patients with dentofacial deformities, come up with their combined orthodontics and surgical plan and then execute,” Dr. Sarver said. “And what I began to notice right away was most of those patients, virtually all of them, had been through a few sets of braces, veneers, crowns, you name it, all with negative outcomes. That’s because the problem wasn’t the teeth. It was the skeleton and that wasn’t being addressed.”

Early in his career, Dr. Sarver saw what not to do, and that forced him to think creatively. One of the oral maxillofacial surgeons Dr. Sarver helped teach while in residency, Dr. Louis Costa, went on to become a facial plastic surgeon and came back to work with him one day a week in the university clinic. Dr. Costa showed him that dentists tended to concentrate on hard tissue without considering the soft tissue and why that was a problem. Through him, he learned how to approach treatment by looking at the full face.

In 2006, he began appearing on programs such as The Today Show to talk about his treatment approach and knew before and after photos wouldn’t make the impact he wanted. A few of his patients worked at a technology center in town and volunteered to create a solution that would overlay the sequential photographs—demonstrating dynamically not only the immediate movements, but the changes that occurred since treatment. He describes these morphographies as “by far the most powerful teaching tool I have seen in our profession.”

“Knowing the data, I expect facial characteristic to change this way if you’re a female and this way if you’re a male,” he said, “and it’s my job to know that and to plan your treatment appropriately.”


Mastering Orthodontics offers case studies and courses, sharing the lessons he's learned throughout his 40 years of clinical practice.  His lectures are structured around his cases, intended to give you solid didactic material, explained through real situations that will help you learn how to identify challenges, set goals; and finally, walk you through the entire treatment planning process.

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