Going Beyond General Dentistry With Orthodontics
Sometimes patients suffer silently from orthodontic problems because they are simply unaware they have an issue. Others don’t have a dentist who is trained to diagnose orthodontic problems let alone treat them. There are many orthodontic problems that exist aside from obvious crowding and spacing. Yet because there aren’t enough dental providers trained in orthodontics, many malocclusions that contribute to eating problems, TMJ, and pain go undiagnosed.
The best thing you can do for your patients is to get educated on orthodontic problems and how to diagnose, treat, and refer out if necessary to avoid patients suffering from orthodontic issues. Even if you opt not to treat these patients yourself, just the knowledge and awareness from taking orthodontic courses for general dentists is important. Without a general dentist providing proper orthodontic care, patients may have long-term dental and overall health problems. Here’s how you can help.
1. Early intervention is key.
You may be seeing patients as young as age 7, when an orthodontic evaluation is crucial to determine if there are impacted teeth, missing teeth, or bite problems that can affect the eruption of permanent teeth or the need for surgery. Learning orthodontics for your young patients is important to help them avoid needing more involved orthodontic treatment later. It’s also beneficial for identifying issues that can be addressed early on, like a high palate or crossbite that contributes to teeth grinding and sleep problems.
A basic orthodontic course designed for general dental practitioners is the first step in identifying issues early and preventing your young patients from suffering as adults. As children, they may be fortunate to have parents that can afford orthodontics or insurance that covers a portion of care, but as adults, they may not be as lucky. Taking a course through the American Orthodontic Society (AOS) will give you the tools you need to learn about expansion and when to refer out for Phase II if you choose.
2. Patients may not trust another orthodontic specialist.
Many general and pediatric dentists don’t treat orthodontic cases because they lack the experience and confidence. Your patients don’t know this and may not understand why you can’t treat all of their oral health needs when they trust your judgment and treatment.
Many times a patient is referred out to another specialist but doesn’t actually follow through with treatment because they are seeking all care under one roof, they don’t get around to it, or they are apprehensive about seeing a new provider.
Avoid your patients delaying the orthodontic care they need by diagnosing orthodontic problems and incorporating it into your normal evaluations and treatment services. Your patients come to you because they are loyal and trust your experience and recommendations. If you explain how orthodontics can improve their oral health, create a beautiful smile, and prevent dental problems like tooth decay, periodontal disease, TMJ, etc., they will appreciate you even more.
3. Retention rates are poor without proper care.
Can you believe that orthodontic retention is considered a phase of treatment and is the longest part of orthodontics? Following debonding, dentists and orthodontists expect patients to wear retainers, at least part time, for life. Yet when researchers look at data on retainer failure, they see fixed retainers debond at least one tooth in 22% of patients, and approximately 17% experience total retainer loss.
One reason that likely contributes to poor retainer use is the lack of follow-up by patients with their orthodontic specialists. Patients and providers equally don’t make a follow-up appointment, causing relapse after years of orthodontic treatment and high expenses.
Yet if you offer orthodontic treatment in your practice, patients are less likely to develop orthodontic relapse or have poor retention with retainers since you will see them at least twice a year to evaluate their oral health. And if there is a small problem, you can fix it quickly in comparison to an orthodontic specialist that a patient hasn’t seen for years.
4. Provide comprehensive care.
Only monitoring your patients’ orthodontic problems causes them unnecessary suffering when their issues are correctable. Patients may report chronic grinding or a food pack at each visit that is causing a periodontal problem. Help your patients out by giving them the straight, healthy smile they deserve by taking an orthodontic course with the AOS and understanding how to diagnose malocclusions.
If you opt to only learn how to diagnose and refer cases out, you are at least doing your due diligence by giving your patients the knowledge they need to move forward with appropriate treatment. Some general dentists feel comfortable treating mild cases only or doing early Phase I on adolescents. While Phase II treatment is lucrative for you and beneficial for your patients, you need to feel confident in your orthodontic skills. After taking the Basic Straight Wire course with the AOS, consider taking intermediate or advanced courses that will give you the self-esteem to offer orthodontics in your practice.
Benefiting your patients for years to come.
Providing your patients with orthodontics is not just about adding another treatment service to your repertoire. It’s about making a positive impact on your patients’ lives. Both children and adults often suffer unknowingly because of an orthodontic problem that can be easily corrected with expansion or braces. You can offer the help your patients need to have a healthier smile—all because you took the initiative by taking an orthodontic course for general dentists.
To learn more about our popular orthodontics courses for pediatric and general dentists, check out one of the upcoming events below.