Dr. Leslie Pitner, D.D.S., M.S.

I grew up in a world of teeth – my father John Pitner was an orthodontist and began this practice, but as a kid I knew I didn’t want to be an orthodontist. Clearly his job was pretty strange – who wants to put their hands in people’s mouths? Yuck (and this was before gloves!). In fact, after college, I began a Ph.D. program in Art History on track to be a professor. But I realized I was not happy spending time just reading and writing. I wanted to do something that made the world more beautiful, but also made a difference in people’s lives. Suddenly my dad’s strange job started to look pretty amazing. So I made the switch and went to dental school and completed my residency to specialize in orthodontics. Once I started treating patients, I quickly began to see how a new smile transforms lives and decided I wanted to study the psychology behind the smile, so I completed a unique Masters degree in Applied Positive Psychology. Now I am doing the work I always dreamed of – creating beautiful smiles that truly transform people’s lives! Over 20,000 people in the Columbia, South Carolina area have had their lives changed with a smile from Pitner Orthodontics. Because of my research on the importance of a smile, I wrote Improve Your Smile, Transform Your Life: A Guide to Orthodontics for Adults. I know that a smile can change your brain and your life in ways you may have never imagined. A confident smile can take you to places you never dreamed and the benefits continue to build over a lifetime.

Background & Education

I graduated from Chapin High School in 1986 before attending Williams College, where I received my undergraduate degree in 1990. At Williams, I majored in art and graduated with highest honors, earning membership in Phi Beta Kappa. After completing a master’s degree in art history at the University of Pennsylvania in 1995, I decided to pursue a career in dentistry. I graduated with distinction from the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry in 2002, where I was elected to membership in OKU, a dental honor society. I also completed my specialty certificate at UNC and received my Master of Science in Orthodontics in 2005. Beyond my technical training in dentistry and orthodontics, I also completed an unique master’s degree program in positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania in 2007. Positive psychology focuses on personal growth and happiness (rather than pathology and mental illness) in human development.

Orthodontist Dr. Pitner in the Office


Teaching and Service

I love to teach and share what I have learned. I have lectured across the U.S. on aesthetic orthodontics, primarily on hidden lingual braces. I have also lectured on the psychology of the smile based on the original research I did for my masters degree in positive psychology. I continue to be active in teaching and research and, most recently, have given seminars at the University of North Carolina and the University of Illinois. I also serve on the board of reviewers for the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, the most prestigious scientific journal in orthodontics.


I am happy to be part of the business community in my hometown of Columbia, SC. My husband, Kirk Kicklighter, and I enjoy living in downtown Columbia. I am still passionate about art – both making it and collecting it. I love finding new artists among my patients and you will find many pieces of mine and theirs in the offices. I am also endlessly curious, so I love to read and write about new ideas and travel to new places. I also spend a few weekends a year at road tracks racing my Miata.

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