What’s keeping your patients from starting ortho treatment?
Dental patients crave straight, glowing smiles, but that perfect look requires an orthodontic journey with their trained general or pediatric dentist. Orthodontics is one of the only fields in dentistry that can completely transform a smile both cosmetically and functionally, yet there are patients who are apprehensive about pursuing orthodontics because it is often associated with discomfort.
What many patients soon realize after beginning orthodontic treatment, however, is that even with slight discomfort, it is very rewarding to see their overjet or crossbite corrected.
When you speak to your patients about beginning orthodontic treatment, be prepared to answer some difficult questions. Sure, the cost and time frame of braces are common subjects, but patients want to know all the ins and outs of orthodontics before committing to treatment.
It is wise to have a small pamphlet or service page on your practice’s website to help answer these questions when patients are at home scrambling for answers after office hours. Patients want to know that their orthodontic needs will be met by their dentists before making such a major health decision.
Some of the most common issues patients have with orthodontics tend to include the following.
1. Eating Difficulty
Most patients want to know beforehand how long it will be before they can eat normally. It is a valid question as most adults don’t want to be going without their favorite foods for 18 to 24 months.
It is helpful to review good foods to eat and foods to avoid with orthodontics. It typically takes a few days to adjust to braces, but after a while, most patients can consume their typical diet. As a rule of thumb, patients with braces should avoid hard, crunchy, and sticky foods (think corn on the cob, ice cubes, whole apples, nuts, and seeds) and instead turn to softer, less textured foods, such as yogurt, berries, cooked vegetables, ice cream, and frozen yogurt.
2. Speech Problems
Adults prefer not to have a lisp or speech problem with braces at all, but it’s best to let your patients know that any speech issues are usually temporary. It takes time for the patient’s mouth to adjust to braces because technically it is a foreign object, but after some time, they won’t even notice their braces, and speech sounds normal again.
3. Orthodontic-Adjustment Pain
One of the things that bothers patients most is getting orthodontic adjustments because they put pressure on the teeth to move into their proper positions. Knowing that they will spend the next day or two in discomfort is incredibly off-putting. The best solution is to tell them to use over-the-counter pain relievers, stick to a soft-food diet, and apply wax to brackets as needed.
4. Orthodontics Cost
There is typically a large price tag associated with orthodontics, so there is no question that patients are concerned with how they can make those payments. Prior to beginning any orthodontic treatment, it is necessary for your administrative staff to review all insurance benefits and any out-of-pocket costs.
Some offices offer in-house “insurance” plans or payment plans patients can sign up for to finance orthodontic treatment. Once you review the investment of braces and how it is beneficial in the long run, it is easier for patients to make that financial commitment.
5. Time Commitment of Braces
Unlike most other dental treatments, orthodontics is not an overnight procedure. When you take an ortho course with the American Orthodontic Society, you will learn how to estimate a patient’s treatment time based on the severity of their malocclusion.
Patients can become impatient and may seem like they’re constantly asking when their orthodontic treatment will be complete. It’s best to be transparent and let them know that in order to create the best bite and smile for them, it sometimes requires up to 24 months or more.
Many Americans suffer from teeth grinding (bruxism) at night and are unaware they have a malocclusion, tongue-tie, or restrictive palate that is causing an airway issue. They want you to treat their bruxism and don’t know why you’re recommending something as major as braces.
Help patients to understand the big picture and how braces will impact their condition. Most patients improve significantly following braces because their teeth are in their correct positions and they have the proper palate shape, allowing their tongue to rest comfortably at night.
7. Appearance Concerns
Patients’ cosmetic concerns can be a deciding factor in getting braces. Some fear the way they will look with braces, but the best way to navigate this issue is to discuss why they want braces in the first place. Usually patients want to correct buck teeth or improve their appearance.
Showing patients the dramatic changes braces offer by showing before-and-after photos from other patients or clinical photos from your ortho course is a fantastic way for patients to feel more comfortable.
8. Finding a Dentist
Investing in braces is no easy decision. Patients want a dentist they trust has their best interest in mind and takes the time to listen to their concerns. This is one of the best features of offering orthodontics as a general or pediatric dentist: providing specialized treatment without the need for your patients to go to another practice.
With proper training from reputable orthodontic courses, dentists can treat the orthodontic needs of nearly 70%-80% of cases. Discuss your experience from the CE courses with the American Orthodontic Society and how, unlike most courses, these span several months rather than a weekend. It requires hundreds of hours of both didactics and clinical treatment, in which you feel confident and competent to now treat patients.
9. Cleaning Around Braces
Patients find it bothersome that orthodontic appliances get in the way of typical brushing and flossing. Review the proper brushing technique and show them how to floss with floss threaders. Ensure you reinforce the importance of good oral hygiene during orthodontics. Getting an oral irrigator is also beneficial because it helps clean between the teeth while bypassing brackets and wires.
10. Retention Difficulty
Good retention with either fixed or removable retainers is just as important as the orthodontic treatment. Explain to patients that retention is a lifetime commitment so that their new smile remains the same as the day their braces are removed. Without retainers, there is a high chance of relapse, and patients are unhappy after investing much time and finances into orthodontic treatment just for relapse to occur.
The American Orthodontic Society can help you introduce orthodontics into your practice.
The best thing about undertaking a Straight Wire Orthodontics course with the AOS is that you will be offering your patients a way to achieve a happy, healthy smile with a dentist they already know and trust. And knowing what your patients are most worried about allows you to address these concerns up front so your patients can start treatment sooner with fewer questions and concerns. If you are interested in introducing orthodontics into your practice, visit the AOS website and discover our courses today.
To learn more about our popular orthodontics courses for pediatric and general dentists, check out one of the upcoming events below.