When Dr. Shira Tor was 11 years old and looked in the mirror, and saw a smile lined with freshly applied braces, she didn’t think about the pain or newfound inability to chew gum. She saw a girl with a beautiful smile in progress, a girl who didn’t have to let her teeth define her.
“I would hide my smile to people,” Tor said. “When I ate, I would hide my teeth. When I would smile, I would hide my teeth. I begged my mom to take me to the orthodontist to get my teeth fixed, and as soon as I got my braces on, I just kind of looked like everybody else. I started to get more confident.”
The impact Tor felt was immediate, and it was when she no longer felt a need to be embarrassed by her smile that she had her calling to become an orthodontist; all thanks to the orthodontist who gave her this self-esteem: Dr. Ira Weiss.
With pure determination and a goal to help others find the confidence she was able to gain, Tor informed Weiss that she would follow in his footsteps and become an orthodontist just like him.
And to his surprise, not only did Tor become an orthodontist, but the two eventually opened a practice, Weiss & Tor Orthodontics, in 2017, with locations in Orange and Middleburg Heights.
“Shira was an inquisitive teenager as I remember back to her treatment years,” Weiss, a resident of Solon who attends Solon Chabad, wrote in an email. “A little shy, as are many of the patients I see during their adolescence, but she wanted to know why we recommended certain treatment modalities and what the desired outcome would be related to the mechanics proposed.
“Once her teeth began to straighten, she came out of her shell and told me over and over that some day she would become an orthodontist. I was very flattered. As an orthodontist, we impact peoples’ lives by changing their smiles and giving them the self esteem that they are searching for, but with Shira, it was different. She was determined and she would mention it almost every time she came in for an appointment.”
Tor’s dedication and relationship with Weiss, 63, followed even after her braces were removed. She shadowed Weiss at his practice during high school and college, learning firsthand the work that goes into being an orthodontist and the special way Weiss connected with all of his patients. He told her she’d have to work very hard to move through the years of school, shadowing and internships to become an orthodontist. He was there for her when she had questions, whether those questions were orthodontics related or what schools would be best to get her education. And when it came time for Tor to apply to enter the highly competitive world of dental school, she went back to her mentor for help.
“I remember coming back and sitting in his office and talking about it,” said Tor, 35, a resident of Shaker Heights who attends Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood. “We would always keep in touch, so I had that connection with him. I would always joke with him that I would go through all this and that I would come back and work with him one day. I think he was definitely surprised when I told him I got into dental school, and then when I told him I got into residency, I told him, ‘Be ready for me! I’m coming.’ I think he was very pleasantly surprised.”
It was after Tor completed dental school at the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health in Mesa, Ariz.; general practice residency at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., to be certified to treat patients with craniofacial disorder; and orthodontic residency with the Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia that her “joke” of joining forces with Weiss could be a reality.
“When Shira got into dental school, she reminded me of her dream of becoming my partner,” Weiss said. “Again, I was very flattered and said I would be honored to have such an ambitious person to share my practice with. As she entered orthodontic school some 16 years later, this discussion we had for such a long time was starting to become a reality. It was at first a little scary but also exciting to see that my practice of some 30 years was big enough for another orthodontist. It made me so proud to be able to share my dreams and my passions of treating patients with someone I had known since she was a child.”
Tor moved back to Cleveland after completing her years of orthodontics school and started as an associate at Weiss’ practice in 2014. Tor bought into the practice as a 50% owner in 2017, and Weiss & Tor Orthodontics was born.
From Weiss’ years of experience of owning a practice and dealing with patients, Tor learned not only the technical aspects of being an orthodontist, but the human aspects as well. From Tor, the girl who once sat in his orthodontics chair and had her braces tightened, Weiss learned the modern, technological aspects of orthodontics.
“Shira brought with her state-of-the-art technologies that transformed our practice to what it is today,” he said. “We became completely digital. We excelled in Aligner technology and are in the top 1% of Invisalign providers in Northeast Ohio. We are leaders in airway diagnosis and initial treatments with expansion appliances that increase the width in the upper jaw that help children and young adults increase the airflow to their lungs; this leads to decreasing numbers of patients with sleep apnea and other airway issues.”
Tor and Weiss lead their practice with the same unique and personalized care Tor experienced when she was a patient.
As for the future of Weiss & Tor Orthodontics, the two will continue for many, many years, as they both find their work and their work partner enjoyable.
“I always joke with Ira that he’s not allowed to retire and that he has to be here for 20 more years,” Tor said. “We just have a really great time, and when he chooses to retire, whenever that is, I don’t think it would ever be full-on retirement. When that day comes, I do plan on buying the other half from him, but hopefully that won’t be for another 20 years.”
Tor warmly looks back on her mentorship with Weiss, thankful that he took the time to guide her and teach her what he knows. And now as an orthodontist with a practice, she’s had patients tell her they want to be orthodontists like her one day. “It’s awesome hearing that,” Tor said. “If somebody says that, it means that you’ve definitely impacted them in some way, so it’s really exciting to hear that. I always tell them, ‘OK, let me know. I’ll have a job waiting for you!’"
Tor even has one past patient following closely in her footsteps she finds similar to her and the relationship she and Weiss share.
“She shadowed us, and she says she wants to go to dental school and become an orthodontist,” she said. “She still comes and visits us, so I’m hoping that she actually follows through and that one day her name will be on the door.”