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

Stephen Aszkler in a dental operatory.

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


Published June 14, 2024

“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. ”
Stephen Aszkler, clinical assistant professor
School of Dental Medicine

When Stephen Aszkler 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 also passes along his expertise to future generations of orthodontists at UB. 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 the 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 says. “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. The department presented the award to Aszkler during a graduating ceremony for third-year orthodontic residents on June 8 at the Richardson Hotel in Buffalo. About 75 guests, a mix of department faculty, staff, graduating residents and alumni, attended.

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

The award is designed to recognize outstanding service and commitment to the department and the community, Al-Jewair explains, 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 says.

True Blue since 1960

One thing Aszkler says 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 notes. “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 BA 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 he could go into dentistry instead. The pivot worked, and he earned his DDS in 1969.

Just a few days after receiving his degree, 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 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 says it was an honor to be recognized by the department and dental school.

“I will try to uphold my end of the bargain,” he says 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 says.

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

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