The Invisalign provider’s guide to navigating lockdown
Martina Hodgson explains how to treat Invisalign patients during the coronavirus lockdown.
Overnight, our dental practices closed their doors. Thousands of patients with incomplete Invisalign treatments are left not knowing the next time they can see their dentist.
This provides a unique challenge to the Invisalign provider. Although many of us will lose income, face more refinements and more surgery time completing treatment, we must use this as an opportunity to demonstrate our dedication to patient care.
So, how can we get through lockdown whilst still caring for our Invisalign patients?
Communication is key
Your patients will feel vulnerable, even scared and will look to you for support. You need to be there for them.
By now you should have personally contacted all of your Invisalign patients to postpone their appointments. But more importantly to offer bespoke advice to each one.
Ideally, I feel you should also give them a mobile number they can contact if they have any issues. They are unlikely to ever use it. But if they do need you, they will feel you have gone over and above to be there for them.
Patients on or near their last aligner
Align have been working hard to help doctors look after their patients. They have now made it possible to order three sets of replacement aligners for a one-off handling fee of £25 (normal cost of £25 per aligner).
This means you can hold your patient on their last stage for quite a while by asking them to change their replacement aligners every three to four weeks, for example. You can also use these replacement aligners to hold them on the same stage partway through treatment, should you wish.
To order three sets of replacement aligners all for the same stage, call customer care on 0800 101 7006. It is not possible to do this directly through the doctor site.
Patients with plenty of aligners left but are due IPR
You should assess this on a case by case basis. For example, if there was only minimal IPR left to do on say just one or two teeth, it may be that you have a conversation with your patient discussing the risks and benefits of continuing through their aligners without the IPR, warning them they may need refinement at the end.
However, if there is a large amount of IPR still left to do it is much wiser to hold them on the stage just prior to the IPR being due. If necessary order three replacement aligners for that stage.
Getting aligners to patients
Align have made it possible to redirect aligners to patient’s home addresses. You’ll need to register with ‘UPS My Choice (home, not business)’.
They’ll send you out a PIN in the post about five to seven days later to activate your account.
Once the aligners show as dispatched on the IDS you can then log in to your UPS account and redirect the aligners.
Make use of technology
In this brave new world we’ve all been making use of technology more, whether it be attending more webinars or having Zoom parties.
Obviously this technology is available to use with our patients, and Align has brought forward the launch of its Smile Consult Program to help us connect with new patients whilst we are all in lockdown. Once registered to use this service (go to the ‘support’ tab on your IDS and select ‘EU Smile Consult Programme’), you’ll be able to book and hold virtual consultations with prospective patients through the doctor site.
Doctors using Dental Monitoring will already be enjoying the benefits of remotely monitoring their patients progress. However, Dental Monitoring also has a great bit of artificial intelligence software called Smilemate.
Patients take photos of their own teeth and then upload it onto the Smilemate website. The AI then sends back a report of their oral health status. Clearly it is no replacement for a thorough examination and assessment, but it’s a great starting point for their virtual consultation.
Tempting as it is to dive in and start promoting all your sparkly new virtual services, remember that not everyone is going to be receptive to Invisalign marketing right now. Worse still, you may alienate or even anger people.
There will be a time and place to step up your marketing, but that time is not right now.
Instead, focus on maintaining and strengthening your existing patient relationships. Show your patients you truly care by being there for them. Do the right thing by your community and your teams. Because when this is all over, your patients (and teams) will remember the way you act when the chips were down. So step up and be someone you can be proud of.