The straight and narrow – orthodontics after COVID-19

straight and narrow COVID-19

In her first monthly column for Dentistry Online, Emma Laing explains how the COVID-19 lockdown will change orthodontics for the better.

Welcome to my new monthly column that I am delighted to have been asked to deliver.

Like many orthodontists I closely follow the dental news on Dentistry Online and its associated publications. I am looking forward to being involved on the other side in an ‘ask an expert’ capacity.

I write about what’s new in orthodontics and my opinion on this, my clinical cases and if there are any orthodontic topics or cases you would like me to discuss, do contact me.

Time for reflection

I have two young boys so I am constantly trying to establish the best work-home balance. The lockdown period has taught me to live more positively, be more grateful and enjoy the moment.

I have realised I have missed orthodontics. It is not just my job, but something I am passionate about. And I appreciate more than ever the flexibility I have to work in a field that permits me fitting this in around a family.

For me, the COVID-19 period has been a time for reflection, plus remaining really busy ensuring everything with my patients is ok.

I have considered more about how we work, how we could work smarter, and how we could work happier for ourselves, and our own mental health. For our families and, of course, for our patients.

I am writing this with one week to go before resuming clinical work post-COVID-19. So, given that it is so long since I have seen my patients face-to-face, I feel it is relevant this month to consider where things have gone with orthodontics since March 2020 and where I see us heading.

Moving into the digital era

The COVID-19 period, taking place in such a digital era, has forced clinicians and patients online more than ever. The workplace is now perhaps permanently shifting to become more home-based. We are transitioning to a much more virtual environment and I see this as a lasting change. There is an attitude of – if we can do it online, then there is no need for face-to-face.

There will be less air travel, not least for the environment. Fewer meetings in person, and more time efficiency by not commuting or travelling for work.

For our patients I see virtual consultations becoming an indefinite change. For me, I feel this platform is far more efficient. Yes, we cannot examine clinically this way. But it is an excellent means to establish rapport, expectations and any post-COVID fears. Before broadly outlining potential treatment options.

I expect there will be an initial reticence of patients to undergo elective clinical work. This is strongly echoed by medical colleagues undertaking surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures, especially surgical.

For my work, I feel the online consult will certainly break barriers in this respect. I have long been an advocate of digital dentistry and extrapolating this to orthodontics. I feel orthodontics is increasingly heading in this direction. Particularly post-COVID, where use of non-aerosol generating procedures, such as the Itero scanner, will certainly be attractive to patients.

I intend to be as paper-free and storage-free as possible. Moving all models to digital, using ‘cleaner’ techniques where possible and as a result, working smarter.

COVID-19 changes

Patients will not want to attend as frequently. Certainly I will expect a greater efficiency from me to enable this.

I plan to use Dental Monitoring for many of my Invisalign cases, for online new patient assessment and treatment monitoring. Being organised seems to be part and parcel of being a dentist, but it also pays to be organised for the future. So, I hope using such a platform, especially if we unfortunately have a second COVID-19 peak in the autumn, will greatly help monitor treatment progress.

Youtube is the second most popular search engine worldwide. I have appreciated the need for far more video content on my social media channels, website and instructions for patients. So I will look forward to developing these soon.

I feel a renewed energy for orthodontics, and a little trepidation. Like many of my colleagues reading this will feel, there is too much uncertainty in our profession right now. But equally I expect there to be more opportunities to work smarter, which will benefit everyone.

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