Ben Burris Lines Up New Clinics, Supports Nonprofit With Braces

Arkansas Business 20th Annual 40 Under Forty
The original Class of 2011 profiles
2013 Updates from this week's digital edition of Arkansas Business.

Ben Burris helps provide braces for the kids, but he makes entire families smile.

A member of the Arkansas Business 40 Under 40 Class of 2011, Burris was planning to open two new clinics when he was honored two years ago but has shifted gears, selling the Central Arkansas Orthodontics Associates practices he owned with a partner and, in March, purchasing Arkansas Orthodontics.

Burris now owns Braces by Burris and Arkansas Orthodontics, with 10 clinics, five under each practice.

“It’s that old Starbucks thing about staying small while getting big,” Burris, 41, said.

Among his many sidelines, Burris is co-founder of Hixson-Burris Media, which delivers market-driven content to orthodontists and dentists and includes the Progressive Orthodontist Magazine. He is a clinical professor at Roseman University in Henderson, Nev., maintains a blog and conducts speaking engagements and presentations.

Perhaps the most rewarding of Burris’ “extracurricular activities” is the Smile for a Lifetime Foundation, the nonprofit founded by Burris. Through participating orthodontists around the country, Smile for a Lifetime helps provide orthodontic care to those who may not have the means to afford it.

Burris said that last year Smile for a Lifetime, with 140 chapters in the United States and Canada, gave out more than 1,000 scholarships, the term Burris prefers.

Noting that the national average cost for braces is close to $6,500, Burris stressed the foundation is not doing charity work but rather selecting deserving children who are well-behaved and good students. “The coolest thing is the parents call you and say, ‘Thank you for giving my kid something I couldn’t,’” Burris said. “Who gets to do that?”

Burris, planning a reunion of the first Smile for a Lifetime chapter in August, said the reward is watching children who are afraid to even make eye contact at first suddenly become proud of their smiles.

As for the practices, the backbone of the operation, Burris said he is in the process of integrating the 10 clinics while allowing doctors their individuality. “Let’s say we all have the same golf clubs but we play a little differently,” Burris said.