Column: Hamilton orthodontist enjoys ‘the art’ of his job

Dr. James R. Zettler Jr. celebrates 50 years at his orthodontics practice that includes his sons

Fifty years is a long time to be working at something, but to paraphrase the idiom, if you love what you do, it’s not really work.

Dr. James R. Zettler Jr. celebrated this month 50 years of being an orthodontist in Hamilton. He has been an orthodontist for a little longer than that, working for Dr. Harvey Oury after orthodontic school, but said “after about six months or so, I decided I wanted my own office.”

“I continued to work for him part-time while I started my own practice, but I felt at the time that Hamilton needed an orthodontist, and I didn’t want somebody to beat me in there because it’s my hometown, so I thought I better do it while I can, so I did,” he said.

Many successful people are standing on the shoulders of others, and Zettler is no different. He credited Oury for being “a very good teacher” when he started out, but his professional colleagues helped him along the way, a who’s who in the dentistry and orthodontics field decades ago.

“Those guys were very accepting, very kind, very helpful,” he said. “It wasn’t a competitive thing; we were all colleagues.”

One of the biggest influences in his life was his dad. He was in dentistry school at the University of Kentucky and wanted to quit and go into the family funeral business.

Zettler recalled his dad saying, “No” and he had to “stick it out.” So he stuck with it and wouldn’t want to do anything else. Sticking with it led him to a 650-square-foot office he quickly outgrew and then about seven years after he started, moving two doors down on Park Avenue in Hamilton, and they’re still there today.

“I enjoy the logic of it,” he said of orthodontics. “And the biology, and the art. It’s an artsy field. You want something to look pretty and ask ‘How can I arrange these teeth so they look a little nicer?’”

His next growth in the business came in 2007 after his son James J. Zettler joined him and they opened in the Beckett Ridge area of West Chester Twp. His son Steven Zettler joined in 2014.

But his sons aren’t the only family who worked for him. When he started out and still working part-time for Oury, his wife, Anne, answered phones for him. Also, his daughters, Julie Holderbach and Diane Bierbaum, and three of his five sisters, Mary Lou Hartman, Connie Turner and Patti Walker, worked for him for a while.

His staff, though, is just like family. Most have been there for at least 20 years, and some more than 30 or 40 years, and it makes it easy to be in one field for five decades, though he doesn’t have a full patient load. His sons have taken most of the load. He is 78, but he’s not ready to retire quite yet.

Though he still sees some patients, he enjoys talking to the parents of the juvenile patients as well as the adult patients who come into the office. “I have more time to talk to people and explain dentistry and orthodontics to them, and why we do what we do, and how biology works relative to orthodontics,” he said. “I guess I got a little teacher in me.”

Saxaphone, played in high school, and quit for nearly two decades, and picked it back up with some other

8 piece to 18/19 pieces with the vocalists, and they play every Monday night at Pohlman Lanes in Hamilton.

“We call it a rehearsal but there’s about 50 or 75 people a lot of times.”

Band is called After Hours Band -- a bunch of us were doctors when we started it, but this is our after hours fun so we called it the After Hours Band. A couple of other dentists that play.

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