3 simple ways to make the orthodontic journey a better experience for the parents

March 23, 2012
Kevin Henry, managing editor of Dental Economics, talks about three things you can do in your dental practice to make sure the parents of orthodontic patients are comfortable with the treatment process and onboard with good communication.
By Kevin Henry
Managing Editor, Dental Economics
I never had braces growing up. During my teenage years in the 1980s, I had my Van Halen on my Walkman, my sweet Grand Prix to drive around, and my big-haired girlfriend to ride along with me. Why would I want a bunch of wires and bands in my teeth? I mean, come on ... life was good. It just wasn't that important to me, and it certainly didn't seem like it was worth all of that money.Fast forward to the present day. I'm in my 40s with a 14-year-old daughter who wanted braces to clear up a diastema and straighten her teeth. She has wanted braces for a long time, so when the day came that my ex-wife and I decided to take the plunge and get Julia set up with orthodontic work, it was a momentous day for the entire family.Julia has been in her braces for six months now, and you can tell they are making a difference. The pediatric dentists in Tulsa and their team (hats off to you, Drs. Fox and Broermann) have been great to work with, and Julia is counting the days until next summer when her braces come off right before she goes to high school (geez, that can't be possible).My ex-wife and I entered into the orthodontic treatment process not knowing what to expect, how long it would take, or how much it would cost. It was truly a jump into the unknown for us ... like it probably is for many of the parents who sit in your practice and are considering whether you and your team are the people who will help their child have that perfect smile.With that in mind, I wanted to share with you a few things that have made our orthodontic journey so far a good experience. Hopefully these are things you're already doing in your practice as well.Patience with the parents — I know my ex and I asked 100 questions when we were sitting with the treatment coordinator and planning Julia's orthodontic treatment. I know some of them were simple questions, but they were also questions that were very important to us before our only child started on her path to straight teeth. I'm glad the treatment coordinator always smiled and answered our questions without any hesitation or looks that said, "Really? You don't know that? Sheesh."No hidden costs — When we sat down to figure out how much we were spending on Julia's smile, we were given a figure that we would be spending as well as told that there might be some extra costs along the way. My ex and I would much rather hear up front that there might be an extra $400 looming out there than have it pop up later unannounced. At least we could brace (no pun intended) ourselves for any extra costs and budget accordingly if needed.Handling problems — Sure enough, Julia had a wire that came loose in the back and needed to be fixed during her school's Christmas break (and the office's Christmas break as well). It was great to know that a dental assistant would come in and help Julia, even when the office was closed. Also, Julia had a tooth that needed to move down and required a chain to help it move into the proper spot. This chain popped off three times in three weeks (not the dental office's fault ... there wasn't much tooth for this chain to grab onto) and Julia needed to be taken into the office each time to have it fixed. Sure, the trip over there and pulling her out of school was a little frustrating, but the office was always quick to work her in and talked to me about why this was happening and what they were doing each time to fix the problem. It was nice to have that communication.Those may seem like simple things, but they meant the world to Julia, her mom, and me. They will also make a world of difference to those parents who are entrusting you with their greatest treasure ... their children and their future smile.