It’s an exciting era in orthodontics as innovation continues to abound. Whether improvements to bracket and alignment systems or the emergence of completely new orthodontic technology, I’m a firm believer that these innovations enable us to deliver a more effective and efficient treatment experience to our patients. It’s important though that we maintain high-quality clinical standards with newer technologies. That means that we have to stay abreast of the latest research, and even more valuable I believe, is learning from each other’s clinical experiences. Considering this input, decisions are ultimately made based on what we find works best in our own practices.
Through experimenting with different products and systems, I’ve found that orthodontic innovation has contributed to the economic success of my practice in three areas: enhanced clinical capabilities, improved patient motivation, and increased referrals.
Many of the recent orthodontic innovations are designed to make the clinical process more efficient, resulting in less chair time for patients. Take, for instance, self-ligating brackets, digital scanners, improved plastics for aligners, or vibratory orthodontic devices. These technologies make it possible to reduce the number of appointments and streamline processes.
The “cool factor” of technology translates into improved patient motivation. One reason for this could be that consumers have become accustomed to technology playing a significant role in many aspects of their day-to-day routines. Think beyond just products, and consider how you can be innovative with your systems and protocols to improve patient cooperation. Well before there was an official recommendation for weekly aligner changes, I “rewarded” patients who had good compliance by gradually reducing their aligner wear intervals at each appointment. We found this to be a great way to motivate patients in our practice and manage expectations.
Lastly, we’ve experienced an increase in patient referrals, which we believe is tied to the fact that we use the latest advancements in orthodontics to help patients finish treatment faster. These patients have been more eager to refer their family, friends, and colleagues to our practice. In this regard, technology pays for itself because the return on investment is evident in new patient starts.
For example, let’s take the impact that AcceleDent® has had on our bottom line to illustrate these points further. Clinically, the carefully calibrated micro-pulse technology that this device employs creates improved efficiency during treatment, enabling me to achieve better tracking with aligner patients and to reduce or greatly eliminate the need for refinements. This results in patients finishing treatment faster, opening up chair time and appointments for me to see new patients. Since the patients use AcceleDent daily outside of the office, they are playing an important role in their treatment process, which has fostered increased patient cooperation throughout treatment, not just with AcceleDent, but also with elastics, aligner wear, and other aspects of treatment that rely on compliance. I emphasize that they get to actively participate in their own treatment — a wonderful motivating feature. These satisfied and impressed patients then go on to tell other people in our community about the technologically advanced treatment they experienced at our practice.
There is significant economic opportunity for practices in the wave of innovation that we’re currently experiencing in the orthodontic industry. With research and experimentation, it is possible to apply these technologies to improve patient satisfaction and enhance clinical outcomes, both of which positively impact the practice bottom line.
David S. Ostreicher, DDS MS, MPH