Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Is the Specialty of Orthodontics Dying?

Has anyone else heard that the specialty of orthodontics is dying?

I was speaking to my local orthodontists, and they introduced me to this idea: Clear aligners have changed everything. Whether you love them or not, you can’t deny that they are the wave of the future (if not already the wave of the present). At the very least, they are not disappearing anytime soon. 

Why would clear aligners kill the specialty of orthodontics? Quite simply, because in the majority of cases, technology has advanced to the point that you no longer need your local orthodontist to complete the case. In other words, advanced software has made it so that you — the general dentist — can treat most cases.

To describe the technique simply, the general dentist can take all impressions and records. You submit the case. The manufacturer’s team of orthodontists and technicians evaluate and treatment plan the case. They manufacture the needed trays. Then, finally, you deliver the clear aligners to your patient. All orthodontic considerations have been addressed by the manufacturer’s orthodontists and technicians using their software. What is missing from the scenario? Your local orthodontist.

One of the cornerstones of a dental practice is that only the doctor can diagnose each case. But that does not mean that you have to diagnose alone. What if you had a team of orthodontists diagnosing along with you? Let’s assume for a moment that this team of orthodontists knows more about orthodontics than you do. Additionally, the team members use a computer database containing hundreds of thousands of completed cases (maybe even over a million). This is the kind of support that enables you to complete many cases yourself.

Remember, these are the same steps your orthodontist performs when he or she uses clear aligners.

It is no secret that general dentists already perform more orthodontic procedures than ever before. Not only are clear aligners being used, but other, relatively fast orthodontic techniques are available to the general dentist as well. In short, those who choose to treat orthodontic cases have several options. You may not like some of those techniques, but there is no questioning that they have simplified orthodontic treatment for the general dentist.

How do patients feel about all of this? Well, I’ll let you in on a little-known secret: Patients don’t like to wear braces, so the acceptance rate for clear aligners is quite high. As for the final result, I have heard that the vast majority of patients are satisfied with the final outcome. Not everyone, but the vast majority. Of course, any orthodontist can tell you this is the same for conventional braces placed by a specialist.

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the first recognized dental specialty may be the first to become obsolete?

Another point to consider. For those of you who use CAD/CAM to make crowns, you’ve already eliminated the role of the dental lab tech. Now orthodontists. Who’s next?

Andy Alas, DDS

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This statement, "manufacturer’s team of orthodontists and technicians evaluate and treatment plan the case" could not be further from the truth, and is why so many general dentists struggle to get similar results as their orthodontic counterparts. It is in fact up to the treating doctor to treatment plan each case, and the greater their understanding of the biomechanics involved in moving teeth, the better their result. This is exactly why it is so important to have a doctor overseeing your case who is as knowledgeable about the process as possible, and why in my opinion orthodontists are far from dying. Maybe they are separating themselves from one another in terms of their digital skills, but not dying.


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