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A salute to the pioneer who jump-started the cosmetic dentistry industry … and supported Dentaltown in its earliest days.

Authors : Dr. Howard Farran .

I cried when I heard Dr. Robert Ibsen had died. He was one of my greatest idols, and a mentor for me right out of the gate.

Bob went into dentistry out in California, where he was the absolute first soldier in the war of cosmetic dentistry, when all of these people in Hollywood were asking for white fillings. And back then they didn’t even make the stuff that he wanted, so he actually started his own dental materials company, DenMat, and led that wave.

I have a signed copy of his first book, Adhesive Restorative Dentistry, because before then, people were just sinking silver fillings into a hole. His practice involved gluing on veneers, which weren’t widely known.

Back when all toothpastes were the same price, he pioneered the first high-end toothpaste, Rembrandt. He was a visionary. While all the other dentists kept asking the ADA to advertise to help build up demand (and to this day it still hasn’t), Bob was sponsoring beauty pageants and getting his whitening toothpaste prominently positioned. He was just always 10 years ahead of his time.

I had one dentist on Dentaltown say to me, “Well, I didn’t agree with everything he said.” C’mon, dude—I’ve never met two dentists on Earth who completely agree with each other. And there are two million of us, so of course you’re not going to always agree. And not all of Bob’s ideas worked—which is true for everyone—but, my God, the majority of them did.

More importantly for me, I was a young punk with a crazy idea for a new community for dental professionals, and I decided I was going to start Dentaltown. Back in 1999 we came out with the magazine and pitched it to every advertiser we knew—and they all laughed and said, “You’re going to have go out and prove yourself first.” But Bob told me, “I don’t know if your idea is going to work or not, but I believe in you.” And he bought all the premium spots in the magazine for years—the inside front cover, the inside of the back cover and the back cover itself.

A Big Apple beginning

I started lecturing in August 20, 1990, at a Sheraton hotel in Manhattan, and Bob was one of the first people who told me that he loved my message and delivery. He hired me to speak at the openings of all of his symposiums on cosmetic dentistry. He said, “You’re a draw! You fire up the crowd and get them in the right open frame of mind, and then we go in and teach them other stuff.”

In my half-century on Earth, I’ve found that the true leaders and visionaries of companies that just keep going all have one thing in common—well, in addition to honesty, integrity, curiosity, work ethic and a passion for learning—and that is making a religion of availability. Whenever I went out to Bob’s neck of the woods and told him I wanted to see him, he’d ask, “Do you want to spend the night at my house? Come by my office? What works for you?” That’s just the way Bob was, even when he was at the zenith of his career.

You could call him anytime—and it wasn’t just me, it was other dentists, too. Bob would get on Dentaltown message boards and if dentists complained about one his products, instead of coming out and getting like most dentists do when they see a bad review for the practice—“I’m going to call an attorney and sue you for saying that about me!”—he’d reply, “Why don’t you come down and spend the day with me? Maybe you’ll teach me something I hadn’t thought about.” Even if you didn’t like his product, he had a religion of availability and was the most professional in responding to those kinds of comments.

I’ve got to end with a great story: One time I showed up at his house with four kids, and he had a golf course in his backyard. And while we were sitting out there talking, me ranting about some idea I had, I looked up and saw that about 100 yards away my boys are having a golf cart race … on his putting green, and even where I was sitting I could see the skid marks. I almost died, and said, “Oh, my God, Bob—they’re tearing up your golf course.” He looked over and replied, “Oh, I wouldn’t say that. They look like they’re having the time of their lives. And the gardeners are on salary and I don’t use it, so now the gardeners will have something to do.” He was just that type of guy.
 

 

 

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