Welcome to 2022 and goodbye to 2021!

Dr. Ricky E. Harrell asks our reading audience to ponder future possibilities and pursuing new goals for 2022.

2021. A year in which we thought we had gotten a grip on the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses were coming back, vaccines were rolling out of the manufacturing facilities and going into 200 million-plus arms. Life was looking good, and the light at the end of the tunnel was not an oncoming freight train. That glimmer of hope though turned a bit darker as the new delta variant and now the omicron variant worked their way through the population as this is being written.

Ricky E. Harrell, DMD, MA

However, 2022 is looking bright. Never has more of the population received vaccines and boosters as now. Wages are up, and some sense of normalcy, however fleeting, is on the horizon. Orthodontics is booming along with the exponential injection of technology into our treatment-delivery systems. Much of the interjection of technology into orthodontics in the last couple of years has been pandemic-driven.

Remote dental monitoring, fixed appliances that basically are designed with the tooth movements built into the system, 3D-printed __________ (you fill in the blank), telehealth, virtual appointments, increased applications of CBCT imaging, 3D surgical treatment planning and fixation fabrication, improvements in aligner technology, and increased possibilities of orthodontic/orthopedic movements are all technologies that make our practice lives easier, more productive, and eventually, more profitable while delivering superior clinical results.

While some may lament that “orthodontics is not what it used to be,” others have grabbed onto the new technologies and are very thankful that “orthodontics is not what it used to be.” As a specialty, we are fortunate to have come out of 2021 with a $12 billion national expenditure on orthodontics. Currently, there are almost 12,000 orthodontic practitioners in the United States. If one looks at output per provider, the number comes to an average of more than $1 million per practitioner. That is not a bad day’s work.

I would ask that each member of the reading audience take a few moments and not only reflect back on the past year, but also gaze into the future and ask the question, “What if?” If we think the past couple of years have been difficult, let’s think back on what some of the orthodontic greats such as Drs. Angle, Case, Hawley, Strang, etc., faced. They endured World War I, the Spanish flu epidemic, the Great Depression, World War II, and the Korean War. Their suffering makes enduring COVID-19 seem like a walk in the park. And yet they endured and prospered, paving the way for an easier path for future generations of orthodontists who followed in their footsteps.

Our future is bright. Never have more sought orthodontic treatment, never has treatment been easier and more convenient to deliver, and never has there been a job market better for young practitioners. Let’s not dwell on the past but instead, look forward to what is possible in our future.

We should all be thankful to be members of one of the best professions in the world. Here’s to all of you sharing this journey. Cheers to all and a bright 2022 for everyone!


Dr. Ricky E. Harrell


For more insight into Dr. Harrell’s past accomplishments and his thoughts about future possibilities for the specialty of orthodontics, check out his practice profile at https://orthopracticeus.com/ricky-harrell-dmd-ma/

Ricky E. Harrell, DMD, MA, is a 1979 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Dentistry. After serving 3 years as a general dentist in the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, he returned to The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and completed his orthodontic residency in 1984. After 22 years in the private practice of orthodontics in Westminster, Colorado, he entered into full-time orthodontic education at the University of Colorado in 2006. He became Program Director for the PG Orthodontic Residency at the Medical University of South Carolina from 2015-2017 and then came to Atlanta to assume the role of Program Director at Georgia School of Orthodontics in 2017 where he still holds that position.  Dr. Harrell is a life member of the American Dental Association and the American Association of Orthodontics. He is an ABO Diplomate and a Fellow of the American College of Dentists.

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