Christopher Piehler

It was a day like any other in the glamorous offices of Orthodontic Products: I e-mailed orthodontists. I browsed a few Web sites looking for new products, events, or people to feature. I checked my Google alerts. Then the unthinkable happened: The Internet disappeared.

One little network glitch, and I went from frolicking in a warm blue ocean of input to staring at an empty screen. No Web surfing, no instant messaging, not even the widget that shows the time and temperature. After about 17 minutes I was so desperate for new, printed facts that I began furiously reading the bottle of multivitamins on my desk.

As an overwhelming number of news and commentary sources will tell you 24 hours per day, we are living in an age of information overload. What with televisions, computers, smart phones, and GPS units, it is both easy and convenient to spend the majority of your day processing data from one screen or another. It is similarly easy to become addicted to the constant flow of content, to the point that what you read matters less than the act of reading. So where does it stop? How much information do we need, and how much is just noise?

In an orthodontic context, sharing information just because you can doesn’t always make sense. According to the latest “JCO Orthodontic Practice Study,” for example, 38.6% of orthodontists give patients online access to their account and schedule, and only 16.3% give patients access to their own records via computer.

These numbers, especially that 16.3%, seemed surpisingly low to me in a world where parents monitor Jimmy and Jane’s every sniffle and scratch. So I asked my inner circle of orthodontists why they would choose not to share all this data with their patients.

If you want to be part of the conversation, .

Most of the responses boiled down to “I don’t think they need to see all this stuff.” Whether it was technical jargon that patients wouldn’t understand or scheduling information that divorced parents may want to keep private, the basic message was that not everyone has to know everything. And I have to say I found that refreshing. Yes, orthodontists gather a vast amount of data on each patient, but why share it when it won’t improve that patient’s life?

I’d love to hear your opinion on this and any other orthodontic matter. Our Internet’s working again, so you can reach me anytime.

Christopher Piehler