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Dr. Grant Collins, The Braces Guy, takes TikTok by storm

Rochester orthodontist has 3.2 million followers.

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Dr. Grant Collins, of Collins Orthodontics, works on producing a TikTok video in his office Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Rochester. Dr. Collins, @thebracesguy on TikTok, started using the video-sharing social media network regularly at the start of the pandemic, and has millions of followers. "Sometimes they're educational, sometimes they're funny," he said of his TikTok videos. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
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Between you and me, Dr. Grant Collins is a horrible dancer.

So you won't see the Rochester orthodontist performing dance duets or shuffles on TikTok, but as "The Braces Guy," Collins and his 20-member staff at Collins Orthodontics have been a sensation on the infectious social media app.

Their short videos have racked up 3.2 million followers and 180 million likes.

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And they achieved that success in the most unique way imaginable: By using TikTok to channel advice and useful tips to people who wear braces.

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From Collins' short video skits, people learn such smile-widening insights: How to mitigate the pain from wearing braces; how underbites can be transformed into radiant smiles; and tips for handling braces-related mishaps, like what do you do when your retainer breaks.

Collins had dabbled with other social media platforms before, but it wasn't until he opened TikTok two years ago that his audience began to soar to stratospheric numbers. It was, to say the least, a surprise to Collins.

"It really wasn't an expectation of mine at all," Collins said. "Again, I enjoy the video. I like the creation part. I try to make sure that we're doing this for the right reasons."

The Braces Guy's popularity perhaps isn't so surprising. Take a tour. The 30-second videos are slickly produced and edited (Collins does the editing after work). There is an element of zaniness and fun about them.

When Collins isn't sporting his blond pompadour, he might be wearing a blue or gold wig, posing as the foul-tempered "Karen The Hygienist" who mock-shames people into wearing their retainer or making sure they floss their teeth. He is a character, in the best sense of the word.

The Braces Guy features staff dancing and holiday-themed videos, but the vast majority of the videos are educational in nature. Collins said the videos are an enhancement of the clinic's mission, which is to create a "memorable guest experience" akin to going to Disney World, Chick-fil-A or Starbucks.

"We really hone in on training our team to provide excellent customer service," Collins said, "and TikTok is an expression of that."

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The videos address both the anxiety and dread, hope and excitement associated with one of those pivotal events many teens go through: Getting braces. Whether it's to fix an overbite or underbite, crowded or crooked teeth, few things are as life-changing as having one brace's removed to reveal ... a new smile.

"It's a big life event for people," Collins said. "And to be able to be a part of that and be alongside of them during that journey and be there with them when they get to see that transformation -- nothing beats it."

A 2002 graduate of Century High School, Collins earned his orthodontics degree from the University of Minnesota Dental School and spent his residency at Mayo Clinic. Collins Orthodontics opened seven years and is owned by Grant and his wife, Kimberly Collins, who is also the office manager.

Collins said he was first introduced to TikTok by a patient and observed early on how many people, even doctors and dentists, used it for light, airy content. He saw the potential for using it as an educational medium, particularly for debunking myths about teeth and braces.

Collins hopped onto the app in March 2019, and six month later, had chalked up 1 million followers. The pandemic and downtime caused by it allowed Collins and his staff to amp up production.

One of his earliest creations was a short video on teeth whitening. All toothpaste has an abrasive component to it for removing stains on teeth, but some brands have higher much levels. Charcoal toothpaste, for example, is like rubbing sandpaper on teeth, scrubbing away both stain and tooth (Collin used sandpaper to illustrate his point). The message: Don't use charcoal toothpaste.

Today, Collins makes three to four videos a week. Because the videos are so popular with fans, The Braces Guy has been designated as a "verified" account by TikTok. The exposure generated by the app has been an undeniable benefit to the practice. Young people, the primary audience of TikTok, come to Collins Orthodontics in southwest Rochester longing to meet The Braces Guy.

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Along the way, there are other opportunities and temptations that come with being a popular content creator. Brands come knocking with offers and ad opportunities, but Collins said he says no to most of them.

"I think it's important for me to be authentic and make sure that people are getting an honest opinion about things," Collin said. "I don't accept money from dental companies to give advice. I think it's important to make sure that people are getting an honest opinion about things."

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Dr. Grant Collins, of Collins Orthodontics, works on producing a TikTok video in his office Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Rochester. Dr. Collins, @thebracesguy on TikTok, started using the video-sharing social media network regularly at the start of the pandemic, and has millions of followers. "Sometimes they're educational, sometimes they're funny," he said of his TikTok videos. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Dr. Grant Collins, of Collins Orthodontics, works on producing a TikTok video in his office Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Rochester. Dr. Collins, @thebracesguy on TikTok, started using the video-sharing social media network regularly at the start of the pandemic, and has millions of followers. "Sometimes they're educational, sometimes they're funny," he said of his TikTok videos. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Dr. Grant Collins, of Collins Orthodontics, works on producing a TikTok video in his office Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Rochester. Dr. Collins, @thebracesguy on TikTok, started using the video-sharing social media network regularly at the start of the pandemic, and has millions of followers. "Sometimes they're educational, sometimes they're funny," he said of his TikTok videos. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Dr. Grant Collins, of Collins Orthodontics, works on producing a TikTok video in his office Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Rochester. Dr. Collins, @thebracesguy on TikTok, started using the video-sharing social media network regularly at the start of the pandemic, and has millions of followers. "Sometimes they're educational, sometimes they're funny," he said of his TikTok videos. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Dr. Grant Collins, of Collins Orthodontics, works on producing a TikTok video in his office Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Rochester. Dr. Collins, @thebracesguy on TikTok, started using the video-sharing social media network regularly at the start of the pandemic, and has millions of followers. "Sometimes they're educational, sometimes they're funny," he said of his TikTok videos. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Dr. Grant Collins, of Collins Orthodontics, works on producing a TikTok video in his office Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Rochester. Dr. Collins, @thebracesguy on TikTok, started using the video-sharing social media network regularly at the start of the pandemic, and has millions of followers. "Sometimes they're educational, sometimes they're funny," he said of his TikTok videos. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Dr. Grant Collins, of Collins Orthodontics, works on producing a TikTok video in his office Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Rochester. Dr. Collins, @thebracesguy on TikTok, started using the video-sharing social media network regularly at the start of the pandemic, and has millions of followers. "Sometimes they're educational, sometimes they're funny," he said of his TikTok videos. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Dr. Grant Collins, of Collins Orthodontics, works on producing a TikTok video in his office Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Rochester. Dr. Collins, @thebracesguy on TikTok, started using the video-sharing social media network regularly at the start of the pandemic, and has millions of followers. "Sometimes they're educational, sometimes they're funny," he said of his TikTok videos. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Dr. Grant Collins, of Collins Orthodontics, works on producing a TikTok video in his office Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Rochester. Dr. Collins, @thebracesguy on TikTok, started using the video-sharing social media network regularly at the start of the pandemic, and has millions of followers. "Sometimes they're educational, sometimes they're funny," he said of his TikTok videos. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Dr. Grant Collins, of Collins Orthodontics, writes down notes to follow while working on producing a TikTok video in his office Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Rochester. Dr. Collins, @thebracesguy on TikTok, started using the video-sharing social media network regularly at the start of the pandemic, and has millions of followers. "Sometimes they're educational, sometimes they're funny," he said of his TikTok videos. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or mstolle@postbulletin.com.
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