Talking with Parents and Younger Patients
Clear aligner treatments are becoming extremely popular with young people. Invisalign specifically markets to teenagers now, with a separate teen version of the product. Young adults and teens love clear braces as much as adults do, so many can improve their smiles, due to the broad range of issues aligners can correct. However, aligner orthodontics for young people is still a relatively new territory. Many of the old habits we have regarding kids in braces simply do not apply.
The role of the parent in traditional orthodontic treatment is pretty straightforward. The parent pays the bills, wants to understand the treatment plan, and can reinforce good hygiene habits at home. The parent basically makes all the decisions (except for the color of the bands!).
With aligner treatments, things get a little more complicated. Yes, the parent will be making the investment, but the everyday compliance is going to rest solely in the hands of the patient. A child can’t decide not to wear his bracket-and-wire braces for a day or two when he feels like it—but an aligner patient can. If a young person is physically developed enough to be wearing aligners, he or she is old enough to be independent in his or her daily eating habits and oral hygiene.
This presents unique challenges when you consider the broad range of habits and behavior you can expect from adolescents. Most teenaged patients try their best to follow the plan, but teens are not best known for their ability to manage time and pay attention to details. Ultimately you have two clients to think about, two sets of expectations, and two people who need to understand what it will take to make sure the treatment plan works!
Who Wants the Ortho? Parent or Child?
Since compliance is key, it’s important to make sure the patient is on board. He or she has to be really on board in order for the treatment plan to work. If the patient isn’t deeply, truly intrinsically driven to change his/her smile, there’s a good chance those aligners aren’t going to get worn and the eating habits aren’t going to change.
Being able to spot a lukewarm patient can save you the headache of having an unsuccessful case or having to re-do the treatment plan midcourse. It can also save a parent thousands of wasted dollars and a damaged relationship with their teen.
Having an honest conversation about the daily routine changes required for clear aligner success isn’t just a box to check off during your treatment planning and patient intake. The outcome of that conversation, and an honest commitment from the patient should really be a prerequisite to treatment.
Two Clients, Not One
In treating patients, we’re used to having one client make a commitment, financially and otherwise. We have a standard set of procedures and signatures required before we proceed with treatment. But with teens wearing aligners, you have to split that thinking into: two clients and two messages.
A few tips that may help you help your teen patients and their parents:
1. Don’t Start Treatment Until You are Convinced – Have the compliance talk as soon as a patient asks about clear aligners. It’s not right for everyone. Don’t even conduct an ortho assessment until the patient understands that it’s not an “easy” alternative to braces.
2.Consider an Informal Patient Contract – If a parent commits to treatment, ensure that the patient does, too. A formal-looking patient contract to do X, Y, and Z will get any teen’s attention. Having your teen patient sign a commitment may help reinforce the message that a positive outcome is dependent on his or her actions. Draw up a printed document for the patient to sign. It should promise to wear their aligners the full 20-22 hours per day, refrain from eating and drinking while wearing them, and follow the prescribed oral hygiene routine. Such a “contract” may not be legally binding, but it will help the parent/patient dynamic if compliance problems pop up. It may even pre-empt them.
3. Treat Your Patients as Adults, Even if They Aren’t – They may not be the legal adult responsible for paying for treatment, but teen patients wanted to be treated as adults. If a patient isn’t wearing his aligners enough or is developing calculus and staining from inefficient hygiene, they’ll want to hear it from their doctor, not their parent.
Are some of these tips more parenting than clinical care? Yes. But that doesn’t mean they are outside your purview as a provider. If your heart and soul is committed to giving more people a healthier smile and a better life, they are small considerations to make.
Stay Connected for More Helpful Tips on Aligner Treatments
Stay connected with OrthoSnap for more tips on giving your patients a great experience with their clear aligner treatments. There are many aligner orthodontics providers nowadays, but OrthoSnap is unique because we use a patented molding system to create a better-fitting orthodontic treatment. You can hear it in the “snap” of a perfect fit. Our system moves the teeth faster than 3D-printed trays and costs less to manufacture. With OrthoSnap, you can give your patients more treatment options, with equally effective, predictable results. Learn more about OrthoSnap by contacting us at 516-606-7606.