by Christopher Piehler

Ialways enjoy discovering the new products that are introduced at the AAO Annual Session. Every year, someone presents a tiny twist of metal or plastic that helps orthodontists do their jobs better. For me, though, the most exciting part of the recent meeting in Seattle was the faces.

At every lecture I went to, orthodontists showed “before” pictures of (let’s be honest) homely kids. By the end of their treatment, these boys and girls had been transformed into attractive and confident young men and women.

For these expert orthodontists, straight, white teeth are just the beginning. Cutting-edge clinicians are using 3D imaging, TADs, functional appliances, and even Botox to create a wider-ranging specialty that may or may not require an oral surgeon to radically reshape a patient’s entire face.

So it seems to me that the question orthodontists in the year 2007 should be asking themselves is not, “Do we have the technology and skill to fix this kid’s teeth?” It is, “How can we make sure that we are giving every single one of our patients the most aesthetic, stable occlusion and the most attractive face possible in the shortest possible period of time?”

My answer to this question comes from Kaizen, a Japanese concept I heard about from my colleague Arati Murti at Physical Therapy Products. Kaizen means “continuous improvement,” and Toyota famously uses it to constantly improve their efficiency.

What’s your practice philosophy? Tell us about it by contacting us at Orthodontic Products.

The cycle that is the basis of Kaizen goes like this: 1) Standardize an operation. 2) Measure the standardized operation, including cycle time and amount of in-process inventory. 3) Gauge measurements against requirements. 4) Innovate to meet requirements and increase productivity. 5) Standardize the new, improved operations. 6) Repeat the cycle ad infinitum. That strikes me as a succinct guide to running an orthodontic practice-and it probably wouldn’t hurt to remind impatient patients that, though they may not notice, their teeth are continuously improving, each and every day.

Is Orthodontic Products continuously improving or just proving continuous? Please write and let me know what you think.

Christopher Piehler