by Christopher Piehler

While a crowded field of orthodontic manufacturers and entrepreneurs races to come up with a noncompliance appliance that will descend like a deus ex machina to straighten the teeth of unwilling patients, Matthew Coats, DDS, MS, still puts his patients in headgear. Is this because he is old-fashioned? The answer is yes, but in a good way.

Not only does the subject of this month’s cover profile practice in an office decorated like a 1950s diner, but he speaks openly of old-school ideas like trying to help build character in his patients. Thus, he uses headgear because he believes that it helps kids to take charge of their own treatment.

As someone actively engaged in a second round of orthodontic treatment 2 decades after Isubmitted meekly to the first, I have been asking myself the question, “Is the idea of compliance old-fashioned?” And Isay the answer is yes, but in a bad way.

The word “compliance” suggests to me a sort of bovine obedience, an attitude of doing what you’re told without knowing why. While this may work for some practitioners and some patients, I find it instructive to remember that in a stampede, a bull will run through a fence not because he is fundamentally untrustworthy, but because he does not know what the fence is for.

If Ihad my way, the term “compliance” would be replaced by something more democratic, like “cooperation.” After all, my orthodontist can provide all the medical and technological expertise in the world, but I am allowing him to set up shop in my mouth for 2 years or more. It seems to me that it’s in both of our best interests to remind each other that this is a collaboration.

Speaking of opening lines of communication, I am proud to introduce you to our new Web site, Among other things, the site will give you instant access to articles from the magazine, will allow you to subscribe or renew online, and will include Expert Insight, a Web-only feature that lets you ask questions of experts on various orthodontic products and services.  

Happy surfing.