by Christopher Piehler

Christopher Piehler

In this issue’s “Word of Mouth” department, Marc Bernard Ackerman, DMD, suggests that orthodontics would benefit from rebranding itself into what he calls the “appearance enhancement category.” He makes some compelling economic points—but don’t take my word for it. Go ahead and read his article, then come back. I’ll wait.

See? Marc has some powerful ideas, and to those I would add this: from a patient’s perspective, there are two—and only two—relevant questions about any medical or dental treatment: how much will it cost, and how long will it take before I see results? As writers in this magazine have shown, orthodontists have done very well at keeping costs to the patient low relative to other expenses, as well as offering a variety of payment plans to make sure that money doesn’t get in the way of treatment.

The question of time is a bit more challenging, especially if we are comparing orthodontic treatment with other aesthetic medical procedures. For example, according to my next-office neighbor Jeff Frentzen, the editor of Plastic Surgery Products, the recovery time for a $5,000 facelift is 2 months at the outside. As a patient with a finite amount of money and time, which would you choose: a facelift that reshapes your face in 2 months, or a “bracelift” that takes 2 years? Of course, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison, but my point is that patients looking to transform their looks have been conditioned to expect a quick return on their investment.

And orthodontics is getting faster. For example, on page 41, we look at STb Social 6 and In-Ovation-LMTM, two lingual systems that offer treatment times from 3 to 9 months. And just last month, researchers at the University of Southern California successfully used a patient’s own bone to help him recover after a corticotomy, perhaps paving the way for periodontally accelerated osteogenic orthodontics to become more common.

Now I’m sure some orthodontists are saying, “I don’t do lingual. I don’t do corticotomies.” And maybe you don’t need to. But sooner or later, in one way or another, we all have a need for speed.

Christopher Piehler