As an orthodontist and certified life coach, RJ Jackson, DDS, is helping kids—and parents—navigate life with his new podcast and bookrecently listed as a #1 international best seller in the United States and France.

By Tonya Johnson

One in 5 high school students reported being bullied on school property (prior to the COVID-19 pandemic) and more than 1 in 6 high school students reported being bullied electronically in the last year—that’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additional CDC data indicates that in addition to physical injury, social and emotional distress, self-harm, and even death, the consequences of bullying can increase the risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school.

This is one of the reasons why RJ (“Dr RJ”) Jackson, DDS, became an orthodontist in 2012. He wanted to help teenagers regain their confidence and feel good about themselves. But, soon after opening RJ Orthodontics in Austin, Tex, he realized that even with a perfectly straight smile, making a teenager happy from the inside out is not always an easy case to solve. The reality is today’s young people are often overwhelmed by so many issues.

Jackson went into orthodontics to help teens gain confidence and self-esteem.

Stepping Up to Coach

Jackson saw how true this was when the mother of a teen patient approached him to ask if he could speak to her child who was struggling. The teen was in therapy for an eating disorder, but the mother was looking for additional support and knew Jackson frequently mentored teens. Jackson talked to the teen, but quickly realized the teen was struggling with depression and recommended she continue with therapy. But then another parent with another teen, and then another, approached him as well to ask if he could talk to their children. Jackson knew he wasn’t equipped to help them. They needed the help of a therapist. But he knew he wanted to help.

As a board-certified orthodontist in the Austin area, Jackson had experience working with a life coach back at HBCU Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn, where he earned his dental degree. He thought a life coach could be a helpful addition to the first teen’s life. So, he began searching for life coaches throughout the state of Texas, but couldn’t find a match. That’s when he decided to step up. Jackson received his certification through the Institute for Profession Excellence in Coaching, and has since been working as a professional leadership and success coach for teens—alongside his thriving orthodontic practice.

A Podcast for Parents

Jackson pictured with his wife and children.

Once he began coaching teenagers, the married father, who is raising two toddlers, started to notice a critical disconnect between parents and their teens. Knowing that this relationship gap “creates tension,” Jackson launched a new podcast series in March, titled “A Teen’s Perspective: Helping Parents See the Future.” The podcast has reached 20,000 downloads.

“I started the podcast because I wanted parents to hear from teenagers, see things from their perspective, and understand how they are going through these experiences,” says Jackson, who completed his orthodontic residency at The Ohio State University. Now he coaches teenagers all over the country.

Life Scholars

Before the pandemic, Jackson coached teens one-on-one and in group sessions. But with COVID-19 everything changed. Jackson saw a significant uptick in the number of people reaching out to him for support—many affected by the financial hardships created by the pandemic. Jackson realized that one-on-one coaching was not going to be enough. In response, he founded the Life Scholars Academy, a peer life coaching certification program for teenagers. The certification program is designed to enable teens to better support their peers.

The program recognizes that social life is huge for teenagers. So every Sunday Jackson teaches on a different principle related to helping teens in these situations. A recent topic: How to develop unshaking confidence in life—academics, sports, or socially. “Children oftentimes fall into the background because they are shy. So we worked on the topic of confidence,” Jackson shares. Other topics specifically developed for this teen audience have included leadership, goal-setting, extracurricular activities, and relationships.

“We have a wonderful turnout. It’s supposed to be 30 minutes, but I always go up to an hour, and everyone is fully engaged the whole time. It shows how much they are learning and enjoying it!”


The Academy is currently concentrating on school success, and the thought processes that youth should avoid, specifically what Jackson refers to as “limiting beliefs.” That type of thinking, he says, can impact a student’s overall success in school.

“On-campus school is no longer the current norm, so I’m trying to help the youth understand that they have the power to achieve whatever they want, despite the chaos that’s going on around them,”  he adds. “I want to guard them against these limiting beliefs like ‘Oh well it’s online schooling and I’m not good at online schooling.’ That’s a limiting belief.”

As students continue to learn online, Jackson is encouraging tweens and teens to stay motivated, inspired, and find a hobby to get excited about—especially in light of a report from the Pew Research Center that found anxiety and depression top the list of problems that teens see most among their peers

“They have to realize that the mind and the body are connected, so it’s important to keep moving. Oftentimes, teenagers get into a mode where they want to stay in their rooms all day, stay up all night on their phones, and then sleep until noon. That is a clear and perfect ingredient for depression, because you need movement, you need sunshine, and you need to go out and exercise. They are not interacting enough with friends, and they should be interacting with their family,” says Jackson.

Whether it’s painting, gardening, or learning a new language, Jackson says the body needs to move, and the mind needs to grow.

How to Train Your Superhero recently became a #1 international best seller in the U.S. and France.


With more and more children struggling with unhappiness during these uncertain times, Jackson released his debut book this month, which coincides with National Bullying Prevention Month. How to Train Your Superhero, recently recognized as a #1 international best seller in the United States and France, is an illustrated book geared towards children, and introduces readers to Captain Smile who is here to teach kids how to harness positivity to defeat “the most diabolical villains of destruction and negativity.” As Jackson says, “My mission is to create smiles both on the outside, and more importantly on the inside. Therefore, I wanted to share the secret to happiness with our youth so that they can start to experience the one emotion that all of us desire, happiness.”


Jackson found his calling in orthodontics but wasn’t afraid to embrace an additional calling in helping teens navigate life. As Jackson puts it, his peers shouldn’t be afraid to do the same. Like his students, Jackson’s orthodontic colleagues may need to overcome that “limiting belief” system.

“You went to dental school all these years to become an orthodontist, so you think ‘that’s all you can do.’ Don’t feel like you are created to focus only on one thing. It’s fine to have a career and a passion. I call it ‘a passion and a purpose,’ because I’m passionate about orthodontics, but I believe my purpose is to serve teenagers. I’m a big fan of having your cake and eating it too. You can do both.” OP

Tonya Johnson is associate editor of Orthodontic Products.