Don’t forget, they’re people

Editor’s intro: To achieve ultimate patient satisfaction, offering a variety of esthetic choices can help to attain excellent results and compliance. 

Dr. Jeremy D. Smith discusses a human approach to winning with patients

People don’t walk into an orthodontist’s office without a reason. They typically seek out orthodontic treatment, so the patients I see tend to have thought long and hard about what they would like changed. And whether these patients had orthodontic treatment in the past or have seen success through their children’s or a friend’s treatment, they know orthodontics can help get them the result they want.

But getting treatment doesn’t mean you have to put your life on hold for a year. When patients walk through my door, it’s up to me to determine how they can get the results they want and need, while ensuring they look and feel good throughout the process. The first step we take for getting them to their ideal result is communicating with patients.

Esthetics has no singular meaning

Communication with patients is key. Whenever someone walks into my office, I want to know what he/she is looking for and determine how I can best deliver those results. Part of that conversation is esthetics. Esthetics are important regardless of your age but can mean vastly different things to people.

For example, when a 12-year-old tells me what he/she is looking for, more often than not the preteen wants fun, bright colors to show off to friends at school. For those instances, clear brackets with colorful O-ties make the perfect fit. But when it comes to adults, most opt for a subtler look. In those cases, I check to see if they’re a good fit for clear aligners. Many adults who come into my office will specifically ask for clear aligners. If the patient is not an ideal aligner case, I check to see if he/she is comfortable in wearing clear brackets. For the patient who isn’t comfortable with clear braces, we consider the option of lingual braces.

Talking about compliance

No matter what avenue we take for treatment, compliance is key for its success. During our initial conversation, I am careful to take time to set expectations with the patient and stress that it will take work to get to that result that he/she is looking for. Especially in aligner cases, the patient is going to have a little “homework!” When having this conversation, I encourage orthodontists to be honest and clear with their patients and to remember that medical jargon or having a technical tone can be intimidating.

When I walk into this conversation, I take a more conversational approach to build trust. After deciding what the treatment needs of a patient are, I will show typodonts of every treatment option. Naturally, a patient is going to be curious about what clear aligners look and feel like. When a patient sees how good the brackets look on the typodont, it goes a long way toward reducing anxiety about the thought of wearing braces. In my experience, the concept of lingual braces is difficult for someone to envision, so having a model on hand is important as well. These typodonts are especially helpful for people who have already been through treatment using older technology.

Technology has come a long way

In our office, gone are the days when patients are required to wear clunky headgear — we certainly haven’t used big metal braces in many years. Improvements in technology have opened a new door for esthetics, and I can see how it improves not only the quality of the results, but also my patients’ self-confidence throughout the process.

When I decided to add clear aligners to my practice, I wanted to find a company that delivered top-quality products and that I felt had the orthodontists’ best interests in mind. My patients come to me because they trust me to do what’s necessary to get them to their end goal. And, in turn, I want to trust that the company I’m working with will help me get to that goal easier. I want a company that I can see is making decisions and improvements to its products because that’s what orthodontists need, not just because it helps the company’s bottom line. Ideally, this partner would allow me to easily purchase just what my patient needs through its purchasing system. I value control and flexibility. So, if I’m doing a combo case or need only a set number of aligners, I want to order them and not have to purchase a full case unnecessarily, meaning decreased overhead costs for my practice.

I ultimately chose 3M™ and its Clarity™ brand of aligners and brackets because they could do all that I asked. From a product standpoint, these trays are slightly firmer, which is an asset to my treatment and has proven time and time again to have better control of the teeth. With these aligners, some posterior expansion for teeth in crossbite is easier to accomplish. Vertical control of upper laterals and rotational control, in general, are more predictable as a result of the secure fit of the aligners that have a greater surface area in contact with the tooth than any other systems.

Build trust and get your results

I’ve been practicing for approximately 18 years. And, like most orthodontists, I’ve tried a lot of systems. While there may be multiple options on the market, I encourage orthodontists to find a product that gives them peace of mind and a company that works with them.

A lot of patients come to us after spending quite some time focusing on something they deem imperfect. It is up to us, as the experts, to build trust with patients by listening to what they are saying, utilizing a product we know will get the job done, and helping them maintain self-confidence throughout the treatment by understanding their esthetic desires.

Esthetic choices include brackets and aligners. To get a closer look at 3M ceramic brackets, read “Importance of design in the strength and function of 3M ceramic brackets.”  

Jeremy D. Smith, DDS, graduated from Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Dentistry in 1999 and completed his orthodontic residency shortly thereafter. He returned home to Northwest Arkansas where he has practiced since 2002. He served as President of the Arkansas State Association of Orthodontists from 2010-2013. Since 2015, he has focused on esthetic orthodontic treatment for every patient. Dr. Smith has lectured across the country on topics such as marketing, team development, and overcoming perceived obstacles to esthetic treatment.

Disclosure: Dr. Jeremy Smith is a key opinion leader for 3M™.

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