The Difference Is Clear by Dr. Justin M. Hughes

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Categories: Orthodontics;
Dentaltown Magazine

Most adult orthodontic patients want aesthetic solutions, so it’s smart to offer them a range of treatment options

by Dr. Justin M. Hughes

As the breadth and variety of available orthodontic options continues to increase, so too does the number of people who choose to pursue treatment. Just like everything else, from clothing to entertainment, people prefer having choices. What may interest one patient doesn’t necessarily interest another; personalization is key. Being able to present patients with a range of treatment options gives an orthodontist a competitive edge.

The modern aesthetic orthodontic market has experienced a dynamic boom, particularly among ceramic brackets and clear aligners. For our practice, offering a portfolio of personalized aesthetic treatment solutions has significantly increased patient confidence and excitement—not to mention new business opportunities.

Orthodontic options for adults
A common misconception is that orthodontic treatment is primarily for adolescents. In truth, there are more adult patients pursuing orthodontic treatment than ever before. A few reasons for this change include growth in aesthetic popularity, increased social media and marketing influences, and greater accessibility to aesthetic options.

Don’t overlook adult patients—and be sure to consult with the parents of your teen and preteen patients, too. Individuals 18 years and older are seeking orthodontic treatment at historic levels.1 According to the American Association of Orthodontists’ (AAO) “Economics of Orthodontics” survey, adults seeking treatment from orthodontists in the U.S. and Canada increased 16 percent from 2012 to 2014, with a record 1,460,000 patients ages 18 or older undergoing treatment in 2014.1 In 2016, an estimated 27 percent of orthodontic patients in the U.S. and Canada were adults, and the number continues to grow.1 You’ll miss out on a significant market opportunity if you only cater to children under 18 years of age.

Often, when adults hear that they need orthodontic treatment, they immediately picture metal braces and rubber bands—they remember what kids wore when they themselves were young. The good news is that metal braces are just one treatment option among many. Aesthetic treatment solutions can work efficiently and effectively, as well as discreetly. Business professionals can sell confidently wearing clear braces or aligners; managers and public speakers can engage positively, without unease or hesitation.

Working with adult patients, it’s important to remember common decision-making factors that influence acceptance. Aesthetics, comfort, efficiency, trustworthiness and cost all play a role. If you’re able to provide solutions that acknowledge these factors, you can increase patient satisfaction. As happy patients share their experiences with friends and colleagues, you can also anticipate practice growth.

One of the decision-making factors that patients consider when choosing which orthodontic option to pursue is cost. In our office, we offer clear brackets for the same price as metal brackets. Depending on the case, aligners may cost slightly more, or may even be equal to the cost of braces. The ability to provide ceramic braces or clear aligners for only a small increase in cost allows us to deliver affordable results that maintain patient confidence and comfort throughout the entire process.

A practice that’s not kids’ stuff
As our team started to recognize this growing trend toward adult orthodontic treatment, we sought to provide a unique, high-quality care environment just for them. Our Adult Smile Center at Hughes Orthodontics was opened in 2017 to solve some of the main issues facing adults seeking orthodontic treatment—and to offer clear choices in an environment where adults could be treated like adults.

The adults-only orthodontic center is a practice within a practice; a cool, spalike atmosphere welcomes patients to a treatment experience that is enjoyable from start to finish. Using the latest advanced technology, including a 3D intraoral scanner, we show our patients simulations of their new smiles to enhance their visit. Complimentary beverages and a private waiting room ensure that adults can enjoy being treated like adults.

The first step in any treatment process at our practice is a free consultation with our team. Patients can visit the office, meet the doctors and discuss any questions they may have. When the consultation is complete, we work to customize every treatment plan to solve each patient’s unique issues. Nothing is cookie-cutter; whether we’re working on a comprehensive care plan or a quick tune-up, everything is planned to fit a patient’s specific wants and needs.

After the plan is put together, the journey begins. By this point, our patients already know that our team will be there for them every step of the way, and this ensures their comfort and confidence throughout treatment. Having our trust is important. Then, we help patients overcome the misnomers that orthodontic treatment is distressing and embarrassing. That is just the old school of thought. Modern orthodontics have come a long way since even the 1980s, and we can offer a variety of clear treatment solutions to alleviate any of their doubts.

Top picks for—and by— adult patients
The vast majority of our adult patients choose to utilize some form of clear brackets or aligners, or a combination of both. The two preferred treatment options offered are 3M Clarity Advanced Ceramic Brackets, and either Invisalign or 3M Clarity Aligners. These options are extremely aesthetic, effective and well accepted. The ability to personalize the treatment using these tools provides a flexible and reliable solution for us and our patients.

Figs. 1–4 illustrate what we call a “combo case,” using the biomechanical advantage of each appliance. For this patient, we started out with ceramic brackets on the upper arch to speed up the process of alignment and allow for faster correction of the anterior crossbite. After this was achieved, the patient was scanned and switched to aligners to dial in the precise spaces for future implants for teeth #5 and #6.

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An immediate impact
Figs. 5–8 are of a patient who transferred into our office with traditional metal brackets. We switched him to Clarity Advanced ceramic brackets, and he was thrilled with the instant change in the brightness of his smile.

Dentaltown Magazine

Benefits of aesthetic solutions
Clarity Advanced ceramic brackets rank first in our ceramic bracket offering because they’re designed to be easily applied and removed. Unlike other ceramic brackets, they ensure predictability and reliability when bonding and debonding with 3M APC Flash-Free Adhesive technology. Plus, patients appreciate their incomparable aesthetics.

With clear aligners taking the market by storm, we’re sure to offer a variety of aligner treatment therapies, too. Unlike ceramic brackets, the removable aligners can be taken off while eating and cleaning. Nearly imperceptible, they’re also effective, convenient and dependable. They are easy for patients to adjust to, and they can be used alone or in tandem with clear brackets.

Sometimes we need to use braces at the beginning of treatment to correct severe rotations. Once we’ve achieved these goals, we’re free to switch to aligners to finish treatment, per patient preference. This flexibility ensures a beautiful smile from day one and we can give the patient what they want without compromising functionality or results.

1. American Association of Orthodontists. (2016, January 28). “New Study Shows Record Number of Adults are Seeking Orthodontic Treatment” [Press Release].

Author Bio
Author Dr. Justin M. Hughes graduated from the VCU School of Dentistry. He completed a general practice residency at St. Barnabas Hospital in Bronx, New York, before attaining his master’s in orthodontics from the University of Iowa. He now practices with his father, carrying on the legacy of Hughes Orthodontics: creating beautiful smiles and providing excellent care to patients in Alexandria, Virginia, since 1958.
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