The practice of dentistry today is dramatically and rapidly changing. The reduced incidence of caries and zero population growth of the 1970's and early 1980's have had a significant impact on the makeup and economic growth of general and pediatric practices. During this unpredictable economic period, most dentists realized that they must offer their patients a complete and comprehensive program of dental care.
In 1983, the American Dental Association, in a strategic plan called "The Future of Dentistry," recommended:
- Broadening the general practitioner's clinical skills and scope of services offered to the public
- Decreasing the number of specialists and the scope of specialty practice
- Promoting more effective continuing education experiences to change the character of dental practice
- Developing new continuing education methodology and technology
If dental practitioners do not pursue personal and professional growth, maintain the integrity of the "fee for service" practice, and expand their services, all of dentistry will suffer — including the specialist.
Triggered by public awareness, fueled by the federal government, and directed by the governing body of dentistry, these changes, especially in the area of orthodontic treatment delivery systems, must be incorporated into the dental practice of today and tomorrow.
For myriad reasons, undergraduate dental education has failed the dentist in the area of orthodontics. At the same time, the demand for orthodontic care is increasing. Extended continuing education programs in orthodontics have been developed to fill this educational void and to meet the growing need.
In a survey of over 1,000 general dentists who have participated in extended continuing education in orthodontics, the answers to the question "Why orthodontics?" fell into the following six categories:
- Better serve our patients' needs
You can better inform your patients of orthodontic options, and even if you choose not to treat, you can provide more timely recognition referral
- Patients prefer one-stop dental treatment
With orthodontic capabilities, you become a truly full-service practice.
- Skill and service improve
The ability to provide orthodontic treatment can enhance restorative and fixed prosthetic procedures for comprehensive esthetic dentistry.
- Creates practice growth & maintenance
Other family members typically follow orthodontic patients into the practice and long-term service relationships are common with former orthodontic patients.
- Dental practice is more enjoyable
Orthodontics can revitalize your interest in dentistry, increase your career satisfaction, and help prevent burnout.
- 6. Improves the bottom line
Orthodontics is very profitable for several reasons: expanded treatment capabilities, minimal doctor time and delegation of procedures to auxiliaries, stable and predictable cash flow.
Your professional life may depend on how you prepare for tomorrow. There are many opportunities for orthodontics continuing education. I am on the faculty of the Birmingham, Mich.-based Faculté for Orthodontic Research and Continuing Education, Inc, (F.O.R.C.E., Inc.), which offers a comprehensive program.
One of the more popular courses at F.O.R.C.E is titled Sweeping Away the Myths: Separating Fact from Fiction in Orthodontics. This is a great introduction for the general or pediatric dentist. Here are a few of the myths we bust…
Fiction: Bicuspid extractions cause "dishing in" of the face.
Fact: Facial growth and development and genetic potential affect the face more than any other internal or external factor.
Fiction: Never take out bicuspids. Second molar extraction is a viable alternative to extraction in lower arch crowding and will avoid "dishing-in" of the face
Fact: The extraction of lower second molars is ineffective and leads to unpredictable third molar positions.
Fiction: Bicuspid extractions cause TMJ dysfunction.
Fact: No correlation or scientific evidence has ever been shown between TMJ dysfunction and bicuspid extractions.
Fiction: Mandibular arch form can be developed to alleviate crowding of the lower arch.
Fact: Nothing in the facial region is as stable, unalterable, and predictable as the patient's mandibular arch form.
Fiction: Functional orthopedic appliances make the mandible grow.
Fact: These appliances work, and work well, but primarily through dentoalveolar modification.