At age 81, UB professor still helping to launch orthodontic residents into careers

Stephen Aszkler pictured in a dentist office setting.

Stephen Aszkler, DDS, started teaching in the Orthodontics Department in 2008. At age 81, he continues to connect with residents and alumni. Photo: Douglas Levere

Orthodontics Department creates award in Stephen Aszkler’s name, celebrating service and commitment

Release Date: June 11, 2024

Thikriat Al-Jewair.

Thikriat Al-Jewair

“Stephen Aszkler is always supportive of our residents. Even after graduating and establishing their own practices, our alumni consistently seek his advice on patient management and practice operations.”
Thikriat Al-Jewair, L.B. Badgero Endowed Chair and associate professor
University at Buffalo Orthodontics Department

BUFFALO, N.Y. — When Stephen Aszkler, DDS, opened his Orchard Park orthodontics practice in 1973, metal braces were wrapped around each individual tooth, X-rays were developed in darkrooms, and few adults opted for orthodontic treatment.

Today, in the era of ceramic brackets, clear braces, digitized scans, and a whopping 27% of U.S. orthodontic patients being voter age or older, Aszkler not only keeps up with the changes, but he also passes along his expertise to future generations of orthodontists at the University at Buffalo. He joined the UB School of Dental Medicine in 2008 as a volunteer faculty member in the Department of Orthodontics and officially became a clinical assistant professor in 2010. Now, as he’s closing in on his 82nd birthday, Aszkler is still teaching two days a week in Squire Hall on South Campus.

“When my youngest son, Robert, graduated from UB’s dental school and joined the practice, he became the catalyst for a lot of change. Many things became computerized; he brought us into the 21st century,” Aszkler said. “Working with him and collaborating with other faculty members and residents at UB, has kept me current on contemporary practices.”

Technology may have changed the profession in noticeable ways but the expertise on how to deliver confidence-inducing smiles and work with patients, some of whom are young and frightened, has not.

The Department of Orthodontics honored Aszkler for his commitment to its residents and exemplary service to the department with the inaugural S. Aszkler Distinguished Service Award on June 8 at the Richardson Hotel in Buffalo. The department presented the award to Aszkler during a graduating ceremony for third-year orthodontic residents. About 75 guests, a mix of department faculty, staff, graduating residents and alumni, attended.

“Stephen Aszkler is always supportive of our residents,” said Thikriat Al-Jewair, the L.B. Badgero Endowed Chair and associate professor in the Orthodontics Department. “Even after graduating and establishing their own practices, our alumni consistently seek his advice on patient management and practice operations.”

The goal of the award is to recognize outstanding service and commitment to the department and the community, Al-Jewair said, adding that the department intends to present the award every year going forward to a UB faculty member or alumnus with a specialty in orthodontics.

“There are many deserving faculty and alumni we hope to recognize through the years,” she said.

True Blue since 1960

One thing Aszkler said he tries to convey to residents is the importance of thinking your way out of a problem without a roadmap.

“Things are going to come up that you didn’t see in school,” he said. “Think of how you’re going to deal with it.”

This is a lesson Aszkler has applied to his life since he was a young man.

A Lackawanna native who worked summers in the steel mills as a teenager, Aszkler started at UB as an undergraduate in 1960. He earned a bachelor of arts in history, graduating magna cum laude in 1964, and originally planned to pursue a career in law. Despite being accepted into law school, Aszkler had a change of heart the summer after graduation. Instead of purchasing textbooks on constitutional law, he took courses at UB in organic chemistry, physics and biology so that he could go into dentistry instead. The pivot worked, and he earned his doctorate of dental surgery in 1969.

Just a few days after receiving his DDS, he reported for active duty in the U.S. Navy, where he provided dental care during the Vietnam War. He was stationed briefly in California, and returned to UB for his orthodontic residency where he completed his certificate of proficiency in orthodontics in 1973. He married his college sweetheart, Mary Joyce, and they raised three sons in Orchard Park.

In March of 1973, he opened Aszkler Orthodontics, where he straightened the smiles of thousands of adolescents and some adults. In 1990, he opened a satellite office in Derby, New York. When Robert Aszkler, who is also a member of the UB orthodontic faculty, took over the practice in 2010, the senior Aszkler began serving as an adviser. They have since opened an additional office in Hamburg.

Always willing to help

Aszkler said it was an honor to be recognized by the department and dental school.

“I will try to uphold my end of the bargain,” he said with a smile. “I came to UB to make our residents more confident and capable when they leave. My main goal is for them to have a successful practice.”

Al-Jewair has seen that desire put into action with Aszkler’s cheerful interaction with the residents and willingness to assist his colleagues.

 “We’re humbled and honored that he continues to work with our residents sharing his valuable clinical techniques,” Al-Jewair said,

Although most of his contemporaries have retired, Aszkler said he isn’t planning to slow down any time soon.

“It’s stimulating to be around young people and work in the dental school,” he said. “Like Vikings, who died with their swords in hand and their boots on, I want to die with my latex gloves and mask on.” 

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