by Christopher Piehler

I am on Day 11 of my orthodontic treatment. I know this because in this case I am not the impartial editor—I am the patient. I am the one suffering through minor cheek lacerations and a temporary lisp while hoping against hope that no one will notice anything out of the ordinary going on in my mouth. As a patient, from the moment I decided to start treatment, I have wanted it to be over.

As an editor, I know that orthodontic treatment takes about 2 years, depending on the severity of the case and the appliances the orthodontist chooses. As a patient, I want perfect teeth now.

So time was on my mind when I had my initial conversations with my orthodontist. We discussed a number of treatment plans, which he said would take anywhere from 2 to 3 years. Fair enough. Then, after my records had been taken and I had steeled myself for a 2-year voyage to the perfect smile, he casually mentioned that my treatment can be completed in 18 months.

He went on to talk about other topics, but I was thrilled. To an orthodontist used to thinking long-term, maybe there is not much difference between 2 years and 18 months. But to a patient, the difference is huge. It means being finished by Christmas rather than  June. As the patient in me rejoiced, the editor noted that the demand for quicker treatment will always be a major force in orthodontics, fueling the popularity of corticotomy and “express” appliances.

I got my impressions taken just after editing an article about impressions. One tip the article gave was to have patients remove all lip balm, because it can impede polymerization. I didn’t think of this until I had the second impression tray in my mouth and I realized that I had put on some lip balm in the waiting room. The editor in me longed to tell the assistant what I knew, but my inner patient said, “Don’t make trouble.” So a couple of weeks later, instead of starting treatment, I went back to the office to have a new set of impressions taken, pushing back my mental “done date” a few more days.

The moral of the story is that orthodontists and patients need to be certain that they are communicating with each other clearly, or else those 2 years may seem a whole lot longer.

Enjoy the issue, and please keep in touch.