by Christopher Piehler

Christopher Piehler

I’ve always dreamed that what I write in this space will be greeted by responses ranging from adulation to the occasional threat of a sound whipping with a heat-activated NiTi wire. I didn’t get either of those in answer to my last Editor’s Message, but I did get some insightful comments that I’d like to share. Last month I made some suggestions for an Orthodontic Patient’s Bill of Rights. Included in the list was the right to “regular progress reports directly from the orthodontist.”

In response to this, Michael Geric, DMD, MS, from Tampa, Fla, wrote that written progress reports created more problems than they solved for him and “I doubt most parents are willing to make the time to meet with the doctor for a formal consult every 3 or 6 months. … That is why we encourage parents to accompany their child to the treatment area for a status update nearly every appointment.” This is exactly what I meant. Written reports make patients feel like we’re back in school, but spending a minute or 2 of each appointment with our orthodontist and a mirror makes us feel like we are active participants in our treatment, rather than passive victims of it.

Michael J. Hilgers, DDS, MS, from Phoenix responded to my Patient’s Bill of Rights with an Orthodontist’s Bill of Rights. His first three articles were the following:

  1. Patients must be on time to their appointments. No exceptions!
  2. Patients must pay their bills on time.
  3. Patients have no right to be abusive to the doctor or the staff, and consume their time with ridiculous questions.

He went on to write that, “When you look at all other professions, we do a pretty good job caring for our patients.” I agree, but from a patient’s perspective, the orthodontist is not the same as, say, the family doctor. During treatment, we see the orthodontist frequently, and these visits often cause us pain. For these and other reasons, ideal communication between patient and orthodontist should be as explicit as possible—perhaps extending to the posting of lists like mine and Hilgers’. So what’s in your Bill of Rights? I’m excited to hear from you.

Christopher Piehler

Orthodontist’s Bill of Rights

By Michael J. Hilgers, DDS, MS

  1. Patients must be on time to their appointments. No exceptions!
  2. Patients must pay their bills on time.
  3. Patients have no right to be abusive to the doctor or the staff and consume their time with ridiculous questions.
  4. Patients must reschedule when they are sick so they do not contaminate the whole office. (Coughing or sneezing in the staff or doctor’s face is not appreciated.)
  5. Patients must be compliant. (In today’s society that is asking a lot. The reality is most parents cannot control their children.)
  6. Patients should understand that treatment time is an estimation and biological systems cannot be narrowed down to a specific day or month (especially when you consider all the variables involved, includingpatient compliance).
  7. Patients shouldn’t bring breakfast in with them at their appointment. It is not fun picking out bacon and eggs from their braces.
  8. Patients shouldn’t panic when appointment intervals have been changed or new mechanics introduced. It is not the end of the world!
  9. When the patient is in the chair he/she should give their undivided attention to the doctor. They should not be answering cell phones, playing with their iPod, screaming, or walking around the office.
  10. Patients need to see their dentist for routine cleanings and exams.
  11. Patients should understand that they are responsible for their insurance and the benefits it offers.
  12. Patients should not believe everything they read on the internet. There are too many “internet doctors” today!
  13. Patients should understand that orthodontic fees have gone up very little over the past 20 years when you compare them to automobiles, homes, etc.
  14. Parents should control their children in the waiting room so we don’t have to baby-sit their children.
  15. This is just the start: I’m sure my colleagues would love to add more!

E-mail your suggestions to