Retainers and Maintenance: Preserving Your Patients’ Investment

One of the most overlooked — yet extremely important — stages of orthodontic therapy is that of retention. After all, we all know that relapse is a serious concern for anyone who has recently completed their orthodontic treatment. Yet for many patients, there just isn’t as much concern for a retainer as there is for their braces.

Emphasize Home Care

Your patients remember how important it was to keep their braces, appliances, and other orthodontia completely clean. While they’re still in the same mindset, shift that concern to the maintenance of their retainers before they ever leave your office.

The closer you compare retainers with braces, the easier it is to shift that concern so that they are one and the same. For example, you may want to roll over some of the same “rules,” like:

  • Clean your retainer with lukewarm tap water. Hot water could cause removable appliances to warp and not fit properly.
  • Use only approved cleansers to lift away debris and prevent buildup, as harsh chemicals could lead to the material becoming brittle, breaking, or discolored.
  • Do not eat with your (removable) retainer in place, as it could cause it to break.
  • Clean around fixed retainers with the appropriate oral hygiene aids, such as a floss threader or water flosser. Don’t let the patient leave without them first watching and then demonstrating the proper oral hygiene method during their retainer “try-in” appointment.
  • Encourage them to see their dentist regularly for preventive care appointments.
  • Removable retainers must be worn for a set number of hours per day, or number of days per week, to avoid tooth movement. (Patients with clear removable aligners may relate to this example the most.)
  • If something breaks or comes loose, call your office office immediately to have it repaired.

Fixed vs. Removable Retainers

Compliance with any orthodontic treatment is hard. Between removable bands and clear aligners, adding in a removable retainer is just as challenging. There are many benefits to incorporating fixed retainers, especially for patients that may be less likely to comply with wearing a removable device.

However, it’s vital that these individuals have a firm understanding of how to clean areas that are not visible on the facial surfaces of their teeth. Someone who wore lingual braces may be more likely to feel dedicated about flossing under a fixed lingual retainer than, say, someone who wore removable alignment trays.

Removable retainers are still sometimes the best option. When selecting the type of retainer, opting for a clear Essix-type of prosthesis may be better for your adult patients than a Hawley version. When aesthetics is a concern, adults are more likely to better care for their retainer and clean it as advised. Not to mention, many of them like the idea of utilizing their clear retainer as a whitening tray.

More than likely, you’ll know which is the better option for your individual patients based on their past compliance, age, maturity level, and the likelihood of relapse due to their unique anatomy.

Part of planning for your retainer will be keeping records on hand like models and cephalometric x-rays. The extra angles of interpretation allow you to take various orofacial anatomical structures into consideration: not just the alignment of the teeth. Not to mention that digital ceph films can easily (and securely) be stored in the cloud by off-site providers like CephX for you to conveniently access them anytime in the future. When and if anything needs to be analyzed or re-analyzed months to years down the road, the data is available at your fingertips.

Follow Up Appointments: Make Them Worthwhile

Once an adult or teenager gets out of braces, most orthodontists never see or hear from them again…unless there’s a problem. The best way to avoid common problems — like lost or broken retainers, and tooth relapse — is to intermittently assess their bite.

Like a jeweler who inspects a wedding ring or diamond jewelry once a year to ensure that the prongs are holding everything in place, an orthodontic patient can benefit from having his or her bite reassessed on an annual basis from their orthodontist.

The intermittent appointments allow you to monitor retainer use, oral hygiene, maintenance of their prosthesis, and if any adjustments need to be made. As with other type of dental appliances, an orthodontic retainer can gradually wear out or break. Communicate with your patient that this is normal, and they need to have a new retainer made 5-10 years down the road. You might even want to consider offering the retainer for free as a “courtesy” to people who make their annual follow-up appointments and have been wearing their previous retainer on a routine basis.

Retention is for Life

It can’t be emphasized too much: an orthodontic retainer needs to be worn regularly for life. Even if it’s 20 years down the road, this must be stressed to your patients. Unfortunately, many orthodontic offices do not push this concept enough. As such, many adults come back for re-treatments due to lack of retention strategies following treatment as a teenager or busy college student.

For individuals that have — or still are battling — oral health conditions such as periodontitis or TMJ disorder, maintaining proper tooth placement is part of a comprehensive approach to their overall dental care. Be sure to get their family dentist or specialist on board by sending a letter back to their practice once your treatment has been completed. If you haven’t heard from the patient in a while, consider asking his or her dental provider to refer them back for a follow-up appointment.

Implementing Digitally Advanced Strategies to Enhance Care
In the days of digital patient information and images, it’s important to know that your patients’ data can be stored safely and securely…especially when you don’t see them for months at a time. At CephX, our cloud based record keeping systems are secured and accessible from any device, anywhere in the world. Now you can securely back up your patients’ old x-rays and other records without them taking up extra space in your office. Contact us today to learn more about our digital AlgoCeph analysis and more.

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How to Get Your Kids Excited About Getting Braces

A lot of kids look forward to the day when they finally get to have their braces put on. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for all of them. Either they may have a bad outlook on dental care in general, have fears related to discomfort, or even struggle with sensory issues when another person is working on their mouth.

Ask Lots of Questions

Orthodontic therapy can be just as much about a teen’s self-esteem as it is their dental health. During the initial exam or consultation, ask children what they like best about their smile, or if there’s anything they wish they could change. A concerned parent may think that diastema between 8 and 9 is a big concern, while your patient feels it adds character!

Connect with each child personally and add notes into his or her file to remember their interests or hobbies the next time you see them. Are they headed to the state soccer tournament? Did they get a new pet? Maybe they’re taking up a new hobby that they can’t wait to share. With all of the face-to-face time that you’ll be getting in the coming months, a personal connection is vital. With kids growing up in your office, they’ll usually leave as a “friend” once treatment is over with.

Let Them See the Pictures!

Kids love to see pictures of themselves. Whether it’s a profile shot for their digital file, a cephalometric x-ray, or a 3D digital scan, there’s something about being able to sit back and see what you “really” look like.

In orthodontics, we’re able to capture a number of different digital images, scans, photos, and gather other data that a general practice usually does not. With adults, it’s common to use these images to “co-plan” treatment, but we often overlook children’s interest in the same information. Just because they might not understand the same things an adult patient would doesn’t mean they aren’t beneficial during the orthodontic process.

Show-Tell-Do

Use pictures and non-invasive equipment to show kids what’s going to happen during the orthodontic application process. This is a great opportunity to have models on hand or before/after flip charts to go over.

Explain things in simple, easy-to-understand language that is age appropriate. Remember to leave out negative phrases like “hurt,” “sore,” etc. Stick with positive phrases that deflect anxiety and make things seem more straightforward. Talk through the treatment in a non-threatening manner, leaving “scarier” topics like surgery to private conversations with the parent.

Finally, talk the child through what’s going on during the actual braces application. They’ll hear you repeating what you’ve already discussed, so they know exactly what to anticipate.

Get Them Involved

Have a mirror handy during exams, so that kids can watch what’s going on, or even use a cheek retractor while you’re taking photos. With them being a part of the action, they’ll feel independent and responsible.

Go High-Tech

Some offices use mobile apps or iPads in the office with interactive videos to review home care, treatments, before-and-after shots, and what’s expected. Kids love high-tech tools, so these are a great resource to utilize in private practices…they also save time on patient education, so that your team doesn’t have to repeat the same thing 20 times each day.

Make Oral Hygiene Fun Again

One of the biggest challenges during orthodontic treatment is paying attention to good oral hygiene practices. Everyday brushing or flossing becomes mundane at times, especially if there are extra appliances to clean around or the child doesn’t already have good brushing habits.

You can encourage mom or dad to invest in special toothpaste, electronic toothbrushes, or water flossers to make tooth brushing a little more fun than it usually is. Or you can consider making these aids available as part of the package price of your treatment. When kids are the only one in the household to have a fun new dental “toy” to play with, they’ll be a bit more inclined to put it to good use.

Reward Good Behavior

    Positive reinforcement is a great motivator for things like:

  • Keeping your orthodontic appointments
  • Showing up on time
  • Maintaining good oral hygiene
  • Wearing removable appliances or orthodontic aids as directed
  • Eating foods that are safe for orthodontic appliances
  • Following home care instructions

Consider offering quarterly rewards or drawings in your office. Let kids earn tickets or entries into the drawing when they do thinks like stay cavity free, have good brushing habits, keep appointments, etc.

Don’t forget about having a “hall of fame” on the wall. Kids usually love to have their photos taken. Consider asking them if they want their picture on the “new braces club” board, or on the wall with everyone’s “after” portrait. It’s an exciting thing to look forward to, once they do finally get their braces on.

Highlight Customized Appliances

From different shaped brackets to unique band colors, kids love to customize their smiles with their favorite school colors and more. Find out who their favorite sports teams are or show them which selections might go along with the current holiday. They’ll have something to look forward to at each appointment.

There are even companies now that allow orthodontists and dentists to use brackets that are shaped like stars, footballs, and other popular shapes. For someone who is going to be wearing appliances on their smile for several months at a time, this can add a fun twist on conventional orthodontic therapy.

Be There for Them

Attentive care is vital to running a successful orthodontic business. Your patients — whether adult or child — want an attentive staff and provider that pays attention to them. One of the ways you can do this is by offering accurate therapies that are carefully mapped out, for the most successful outcome possible.

At CephX, we utilize innovative AlgoCeph technology so that orthodontic providers around the world can access professional image analysis within a matter of minutes. The data is securely stored and backed up, so that you don’t have to worry about additional privacy concerns. Contact us today and schedule a consultation to learn more!

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How the World Wide Web Brings Peer Dentist Together for the Better Good

It’s no surprise that the internet has changed dentistry just as much as the rest of the world around us.

While you might initially think that the world wide web has nothing to do with the way you treat a patient in your dental chair, we at CephX beg to differ. In fact, dentists that go online are able to provide resources and services to their patients that they otherwise never would be able to.

Here are a few examples…

Study Groups and Continuing Education

Being in a dental study club doesn’t mean driving an hour away once a month anymore. Now you can find like-minded professionals who share cases, experiences, and data online 24/7. If you’re passionate about a particular type of orthodontic therapy or new technique, you can share your same interests with others…even if there’s no one in your physical vicinity.

Cloud sharing resources allow you to safely and securely share images or notes regarding cases to offer advice, experience, or insight on new data that’s coming out.

Formal CE providers are finding that mail-in self-taught courses are a thing of the past. While many state boards used to not grant credit toward online learning courses, many are starting to change that. Depending on where you live, most areas allow dentists to learn online or at least fill a portion of their continuing education requirements with credits offered over the internet by approved sources.

If the nation’s top colleges can do it, so can continuing dental education providers!

On-Demand Videos for Training and Professional Development

Distance learning has been around for well over a decade. In the past, it was restricted to text you read on your own time and a mail-in quiz or essay that you had to complete. Gradually it phased into videos you watched on a home television and had to mail back. Thankfully, it’s better now than it ever has been before. Now, people are learning just because they want to…not because it’s a mandatory part of their license renewal.

Today’s modern self-directed education involves live webinars where you can interact with experts in other time zones, or oven YouTube surgical procedures for a first-hand look at a particular technique. Internet learning and on-demand educational resources for dentists provides some of the best learning tools than have ever been available. Some might even say there’s too much to choose from!

If there’s anything you want to learn about to improve your current skills — whether it’s interceptive orthodontic techniques or mapping out anatomical landmarks — it’s simply at your fingertips. You just have to hop online and do a quick search for it.

Real-Life Advice for Hard to Manage / Unique Patient Cases

Even the most experienced dental practitioner can sometimes have their doubts about a particular patient case. Maybe they’ve run into a wall when it comes to treating a chronic problem or relapse issue that has never come up before. Networking online with other dentists and specialists enables providers to receive guidance from those who have dealt with similar patient cases in a successful manner. As such, they can troubleshoot problems before things get worse, and provide their patient with the best outcome possible. Rather than having to refer your patient out for a second opinion, you can have extra eyes see the same things that you do, without ever having to step foot inside of your practice.

Digital Dentistry and Teledentistry Enhances Quality of Care by Widening Their Access to Other Technology

With the aid of teledentistry methods and the ability to electronically transfer patient data (such as digital ceph films,) dentists can access resources that might not otherwise be available in their own physical practice.

For instance, if a particular piece of technology is available for use digitally, the dentist can upload their patient’s information or data to remotely access the tools made available. This way they can bypass more tedious, unfamiliar, or lengthy steps that would otherwise have to be used. How else is it possible for labs on the completely opposite side of the world to work in real-time with orthodontic specialists and providers? It isn’t!

Work Smarter. Not Harder.

Being a committed worker is important, no matter if you’re an orthodontist or the receptionist setting appointments. Hard work means good work and respect…both among your peers as well as your dentists. But sometimes it’s better to work smarter instead of pouring extra energy into your work, when there’s a better way to do things. Being exhausted doesn’t necessarily mean that you did things better.

That’s exactly what today’s modern orthodontic providers have to do:

decide when to do the work themselves, implement technology that makes the task easier, or delegate it to someone who can do it for them. With the internet, the latter two are no problem. Whether you’re crowdsourcing for better ways to treat something, looking for a specialist to refer to, or need to assign the step to someone who can put extra time back into your hands, there are more options than you previously thought.

Case in Point: Revolutionizing Your Orthodontic Services

At CephX we know first-hand how the internet has revolutionized dental care. Our experts work with orthodontists and dentists worldwide to provide fast, live, reliable resources in patient care. As such, our clients are able to confidently treat their patients in a more efficient and predictable manner.

That’s exactly what today’s modern orthodontic providers have to do:

What does CephX do to help? We use technology that’s compatible with all operating systems and devices, so that dentists can store patient records and receive professional cephalometric analysis within a matter of seconds. When you don’t have time to spare or would rather an expert provide the service for you, our dentists and orthodontists accurately examine and measure your patient’s digital images to record all of the information that you need.

CephX users can access records anywhere (even their mobile device) with the confidence of knowing their patient records are securely stored.

Ready to find out more about our on demand AlgoCeph and analysis services? Contact CephX today. We’re a leading global provider of cephalometric diagnostics and labeling, empowering dentists and orthodontics with more freedom and time for hands-on clinical patient care. Request your complimentary consultation to get started.

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Digital Dentistry: How it Increases Patient Quality of Care

In the past decade alone, the dental industry has witnessed a revolution from within. From two-dimensional diagnostics to high-definition 3D dentistry that’s analyzed by specialists at remote partner sites, our patients are deserving of the most advanced oral health care now more than ever before.

Visualizing the Experience for a Higher Case Acceptance Rate

Seeing is believing. Digital dentistry means giving patients the ability to view their oral health needs on monitors to “self-diagnose” problems like decay, impacted teeth, or bone loss, without having a degree in dentistry. As you guide individuals through the visualization of their x-rays and intraoral photography, it’s hard to deny what they can see for themselves.

Some offices even implement a “before and after” makeover system where patients can see what their portrait looks like after undergoing various proposed treatments, such as braces, veneers, clear aligners, or teeth whitening. When placed adjacent to their “before” photo, your patient can visualize what their investment can deliver once the treatment is completed.

Enhanced Quality for Predictable Outcomes

Remember when CAD/CAM dentistry became available? Without any gooey impressions or gagging on your patients’ part, you could take an extremely accurate digital impression of a prepped tooth with no fear of materials warping, bubbling, or cracking. The virtual scanning systems used for stand-alone in-house ceramic crowns are now used for everything from multi-unit bridges to orthodontic impressions. Even if you’re still using an off-site lab to create a restorative or orthodontic prosthesis, you can save valuable time by avoiding the transportation and processing of a conventional impression.

Without the fear of or room for human error, digitized dental equipment means fewer re-appointments, no re-impressions, and a faster, accurate delivery of your fixed or removable appliance.

Highly Efficient Procedures Reduce Treatment Time

Conebeam imaging is just one example of how patients now have access to faster, better treatment. Dentists can now place dental implants using computer guided technology, when these patients would have previously been told that they would never be a candidate due to unique or specific anatomical bone needs. Digital dentistry changes the lives of the patients being cared for.

This same 3D imaging allows technologies used for orthodontic treatment planning and diagnosis to pinpoint unique tooth movements and create a virtual mock-up of the overall treatment experience before therapy even starts. Due to the omission of human error in treatment planning and diagnosis, orthodontists can assure that they’ve empowered their patients with the very best possible outcome (assuming patients are compliant in all areas with their treatment plan!)

Access to Professional Support Outlets

At CephX, we understand better than anyone how digital dentistry brings professionals together to collaborate in the patient care experience. As you may know, we offer cephalometric X-ray analysis through AlgoCeph technology so that orthodontists and orthodontic providers can have their patients’ images analyzed, marked, and returned back to the practitioner in an extremely short period of time. This frees the orthodontist up from having to tediously mark up the cephalometric images for each patient, without compromising their quality of services or spending less time with their patients.

Opening Teledentistry Opportunities Free of Geographical Barriers

Teledentistry is quickly gaining ground when it comes to bringing patients in touch with dentists and specialists like orthodontic providers. Now, people can snap a photo or even take an impression of their teeth to start the consultation process for handling a dental emergency or even begin an orthodontic treatment. While these may not always be the choice method of starting patient treatment, they dissolve geographical barriers or even financial hindrances when it comes to individuals and their families getting access to the oral health services that they need.

In fact, teledentistry is such a big thing now, that dental boards are adopting appropriate legislative steps to ensure that both patients and providers are protected. This means that patients can only receive “care” or consultations with licensed dentists, without having to fear that the person on the other end of the wire is putting on a false front.

Less Space to Safely Store Patient Records.

HIPAA compliant cloud-based data storage means that dentists and orthodontists can save their patient files securely on the world wide web. As such, multi-location practices can access charts at any time, without having to transfer records or worrying about losing a paper file.

Small practice owners can free up space in storage or their reception area, as no physical areas need to be set aside to store patient files.

Programs like CephX’s AlgoCeph system mean that orthodontists can even access their patients’ records from mobile devices and iPads in or out of the practice. Everything is securely backed-up and secured, so that 3rd party access isn’t a concern. Yet it’s available at an instant, so that you never have to worry about misplacing or losing a file during your patient consultations.

Virtual Treatments With Data Read-Outs for Enhanced Accuracy

With the touch of a button, dentists and specialists can now see real-time analysis during clinical procedures (such as root canal therapy) on a monitor adjacent to their patient. From analyzing the pressure involved to performing accurate measurements in and around the teeth, dentists can know they’re providing extremely meticulous restorative work in every situation that they find themselves in.

Changing Everyday Dental Care in Your Practice

At CephX, digital dentistry has transformed the way our radiographic and orthodontic experts work with orthodontists and general practitioners worldwide. When you see patients for an orthodontic consult and record a cephalometric film, you can use our secure, cloud-based system to have the image thoroughly screened and analyzed in just a matter of seconds. That way you can spend more time talking with your patients, answering questions, and less time away from the chair.

What’s preventing you from providing the very best in orthodontic care to your patients? Do you need the assurance of working with a team of orthodontists and analysts to provide greater efficiency and productivity in your practice? Digital dentistry may be the solution. We invite you to contact CephX today to learn more about our AlgoCeph technology and cloud resources for the independent and multi-group practice.

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Increasing Case Acceptance in Adult Orthodontic Patients

Most dentists and orthodontists are seeing a tremendous increase in the number of adult patients they’re seeing for orthodontic therapy. While there are a variety of reasons for this, many of them are related to the fact that today’s adults didn’t have access to getting braces as children. There’s also a greater appreciation for the health and alignment of the teeth, and how those characteristics affect someone’s personal, private, and professional life.

Unfortunately, getting patients through the front door to schedule an orthodontic consultation is only half of the battle. The other half involves finding a treatment plan that meets the physical and emotional needs of adult patients and getting them to move forward with treatment.

Aesthetic Considerations Need to be Addressed

Which type(s) of braces you offer may impact whether or not your adult patient wants to move forward with treatment. For some, a traditional alignment system is not of much concern. Or, ceramic brackets are adequate to ease the worries about what it looks like to wear braces as an adult. Even still, clear alignment tray systems can completely eliminate this barrier when it comes to moving forward with treatment.

We recommend offering at least two to three different options to your adult patients, allowing them to review the benefits of each. As you guide them through your recommendations, they can judge whether or not the aesthetic aspect of their appearance during treatment outweighs other concerns (such as cost and time.) They may not even realize that it is a concern, until you point out other alternatives that may be available.

Time Constraints for Busy Professionals and Parents

Time away from one’s professional and personal commitments may be a deciding factor in moving forward with orthodontic treatment. Although this is something that an orthodontic provider has little control over, there are steps to ease the inconvenience for your patients.

For instance, your practice may want to:

  • Explain that certain types of treatments generally do not require as many or as long of appointments as other types of therapies. Include this benefit during the explanation of the options that are available. Take care to not draw too many negatives into your discussion, but highlight the positives that certain forms of adult treatments bring to the patient’s benefit. For example, mentioning “Because these aligners are removable and computer generated, your follow up appointments will typically be much shorter and easier to work into your lunch break or on your commute home from work.”
  • Provide alternatives, such as “cosmetic” or “fast” braces systems that treat aesthetic misalignment in a shorter period of time. Again, take note to not point out negatives with any of the treatments that you offer, but instead offer an alternative if it appears your patient is hesitant to commit the next 12 months to wearing orthodontics.
  • Make special accommodations in your office schedule for your adult patients. Perhaps this means coming in early at 7am on Friday mornings, or staying late one night a week, so that adults can book their visits before or after work. The simpler you make the scheduling process, the fewer excuses an adult has in finally enjoying a straighter smile.

Making Assumptions About the Price

One of the final straws in accepting a recommended care plan is the cost of the treatments. That’s why we recommend automatically including a financing program as part of your case presentation. Occasionally you may get someone who says “Never mind that, I prefer to pay for it all up front,” but this usually will not be the case.

Regarding your financing plan, try to offer at least two different options. Perhaps one has a larger down payment and smaller monthly fee, while the other is no down payment with a fixed monthly fee for a set period of time. If it’s interest free, it’s even better!

You never know what a person’s financial status is. They may appear to be well off, but struggling to make it between paychecks. Or, they may seem to have a fairly modest lifestyle, but have plenty of extra funds tucked away as they’ve been saving up for treatment. Leave that decision up to them without making anyone feel embarrassed. By presenting at least two forms of payment options, you can help to reduce the financial burden of moving forward with what may seem like an elective treatment.

Never make someone feel as if they can’t pay for something, but do be proud of your fee schedule. Your fees reflect your quality of care and dedication to patients. Just be sure to provide an avenue to make it financially attainable for the population in your practice area.

Giving Virtual Data Aids in Treatment Plan Acceptance

Finally, some people need to see things for themselves before deciding that a particular treatment is right for them. When you make patients an active part of co-planning and co-diagnosis, they feel more responsible for choosing the type of treatment to correct their needs. One of the best ways to do this is to implement high-definition imaging technology into your operatories and consultation rooms.

Bringing the photographs, X-rays, and diagnostic imaging onto the screen allows your adult patients to see what it is that you’re talking about, as you explain how things came to be, or can be changed. The old saying “A picture is worth 1,000 words” has never been truer than when you’re explaining dental procedures and orthodontic therapy to your patients.

At CephX, we take orthodontic and digital imaging to the next level. Orthodontic providers (specialists and general practitioners alike) can save time through our professional ceph exams, measurements, classifications, and insights. That way you have more time to spend talking to patients and closing the “sale” of having them move forward with treatment. Plus, all our records are fully secured on the cloud and backed-up to save you valuable storage space.

To learn more about our mobile-friendly AlgoCeph technology, contact CephX for a complimentary consultation with one of our orthodontic imaging and diagnostic experts.

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