Ron Farris has been in the dental profession for 47 years. “I have always felt this business was my calling,” and with a smile Ron continued, “Sometimes I think it is a curse. The long hours dedicated to my passion for fabricating successful dental appliances for my patients sometimes keep me awake at night.”
Ron joined the Navy in 1970 and was pleased with his East Coast assignment and orders to attend dental assistant school. This experience was comprehensive and invaluable to his future career in the dental business. Since there were no dental hygienists in the Navy at that time the dental assistants did everything chairside including exams, x-rays, scaling, restoratives, injections and, yes, impressions. However, he was enticed by the dental laboratory. He noticed they were laid back, wore dungarees and you could hear laughter coming from the dental laboratory “down the hall” and they were making things; they were actually making dental appliances. Ron spent as much time as he could “hanging around the laboratory” and was thankful when he was offered the chance, given orders, to attend dental laboratory school. When Ron graduated from this school, number two in the class, he knew he had found his calling.
Ron was assigned to work in a large laboratory in San Diego, CA which delighted him because he could live on his sailboat, row to shore and jump on his motorcycle. He received valuable experience working in this laboratory which included 35 techs with 8 operatories, all dedicated to prosthetics. However, this assignment was interrupted by a serious motorcycle accident which required a few weeks stay in the Navy Hospital Balboa. Bored, he asked if there was a dental laboratory at the hospital and if so could he visit.
As it happened there was a maxillofacial department with an almost unused dental laboratory. Within a few days Ron was making gold crowns and processing them in three days instead of the normal three weeks. His skills earned him an eight month assignment which he says was a huge confidence builder for a 20 year old kid. He was painting and processing prosthetic eyes, taking impressions of ears and noses, but it also afforded him the opportunity to use his dental laboratory skills and experience making gold crowns.
Ron says he enjoyed his military experience and would be forever grateful for the excellent education he received and even though his decision to leave the military and return to his home in Oregon was emotional it was an easy decision. Jobs were abundant and he chose a laboratory needing an experienced person for “fixed” work (crown and bridge) but as it turned out, he spent most of his time fashioning removables. Being independent minded, Ron soon obtained his first of three CDT credentials and opened his own laboratory. He enjoyed his work, especially working chairside with a prominent oral surgeon who was pioneering implant dentistry; gaining valuable knowledge he would use later in his own practice.
His client base grew but keeping up with the dentists’ demands, “How fast can you do it? How cheap can you make it?” took its toll. So after ten years running his own business he decided to join the Kaiser Permanente Dental Laboratory, a large commercial lab. It was at this company that he met Gene Miller, a denturist, and you could say the “rest is history.” He enrolled and was graduated from the Oregon Denturist College. He is also a graduate of Mills Grea College.
Ron, concerned the licensing policies were not meeting the standards of a healthcare profession, challenged the state and stricter criteria were implemented. The profession was proving so successful that the program was approved to progress from Advisory Council Status to requiring a governor appointed board of directors and Ron was asked to accept chairmanship of the new board. During his leadership, the Oregon Attorney General approached Ron saying since the progress of the profession had proven all the statutes, rules, legal requirements, etc., to meet licensure requirements, he recommended they apply to move from certified denturist status to licensed denturist status. At this time Ron was called to active duty with the Fleet Marine Force during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, but the Oregon denturists keep the issue alive and when he returned home and working with the Board and committees, licensure was approved.
This did not go unchallenged, but Ron was determined denturists should stand tall as an educated member of the oral healthcare team and pushed this step toward educational and professional standards and recognition. Ron was obviously pleased as he said, “I believed in this goal and it proved to be my best work.” This recognition has been far-reaching and beneficial for the profession in many areas. Even though it required legal action against the Oregon Dental Service Insurance Division for refusing payment to denturists for patient oral examinations, Ron’s determination prevailed and this victory established credibility with most insurance carriers. The challenge continued and the success to broaden the denturists’ scope of practice to include partial dentures ultimately went back to the people who again voted their approval. Ron said one of his proudest moments was helping to deliver the thousands of supportive signatures to the capital. Oregon’s licensed denturists now have a broad scope of practice that includes all oral removable appliances except orthodontia.
Knowing the value of education Ron helped establish the International Congress of Denturists Study Group which met monthly for the last 27 years. Not only did this group enjoy educational lectures, they evaluated and tested industry products, helped trouble shoot difficult cases and took the opportunity to fabricate dentures for the less fortunate or low income patients.
He has served on the Board of Directors and as a committee member for the Oregon State Denturist Association, The Oregon Health Licensing Office, is a member of the National Denturist Association, USA and the International Federation of Denturists. He has been an invited speaker for these organizations.
Ron says he is now living the dream serving patients at his private practice and acknowledges much of the success he is enjoying is credited to his excellent staff that “makes him look good!” He expresses appreciation for his constituents who have supported his “loud voice of opinion promoting education” and is thankful for the opportunities education has afforded him. When not serving patients Ron enjoys traveling the country on his Victory Crossbow.