by Christopher Piehler
So it’s time once again for that annual rite of early summer, the AAO Annual Session. The theme for this year’s session is “A Window to the Future.” Looking through the program at this year’s speakers, my first thought was, “What exactly is the future of orthodontics?” Predicting the future is notoriously difficult, especially when it comes to trends in health care. In a world where surgeons can operate using tiny cameras and remote control lasers, who ever thought that leeches would make a comeback? So I won’t be foolish enough to say that one particular appliance or machine is the future of orthodontics.
What will the next era of orthodontics be like? I think it will be like the present, more or less. I predict:
- More personalization. With access to boundless information on the Internet, patients and parents know more than ever before. This knowledge will make them want some degree of control over their own treatment, even if it is as small as choosing the color of their elastics.
- Less paper. The obvious allure of the so-called paperless practice is that it decreases the time that you and your staff spend doing menial tasks like pulling, filling out, and filing charts. But the key here is what you do with that time. Because I can’t say no to a rhyme, I’ll say that the time you save filing should be time you spend smiling. The point of digital charts is not to automate your office so that it becomes hyperefficient but cold and sterile like a sci-fi movie. The point is to give you more face time with your patients.
- More diversification.The boundaries of orthodontics will continue to expand as some orthodontists take on sleep apnea, TMD, oral cancer screening, and even obesity.
- Less treatment time. Patients want to go from the “before” to the “after” as quickly as they can. Any technology that speeds up the process, whether it be superelastic NiTi wires, corticotomies, or some unforeseen chemical that allows teeth to move more easily, will be prominent in the orthodontic office of the future.
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When you look through your window to the future, what do you see? Drop me a line and let me know.