Dr. Dumas and I just returned from the annual American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) conference in Philadelphia. For those of us in Detroit we can equate this to the “auto show” of orthodontics. The meeting brings together the orthodontic industry and leaders in the field for a four-day weekend of new product launches and informational lectures on the latest and greatest. The AAO meeting is held every year at a different location during the first weekend of May. I was fortunate enough to attend the meeting last year in Honolulu, where I presented my research and was actually PAID to attend! The meeting this year was held in the beautiful City of Brotherly Love, a place that I had never been before. Two of my very good college friends grew up around Philadelphia so I have heard for years how amazing the city is. I must admit, we had a great time; our hotel was just around the corner from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. There is something special about being in a place where you know a significant historical event has taken place. I went for a morning run on Sunday and was thinking to myself that Ben Franklin very well may have walked down the very streets that I was running on (they were very old cobbled streets, which makes for precarious running). We did not get much time to explore the city because we spent the vast majority of our time at the Pennsylvania Convention Center either listening to intriguing lectures, or researching new and innovative products to bring back to the practice.
The buzz around the meeting was 3D scanner technology, 3D printing, and cloud computing. Now, any of you who have spent time in the practice will know that we have been using 3D scanners in order to create our robotically-bent SureSmile wires for over 5 years. Recently, we have utilized 3D printers to fabricate aligners to allowing patients to get out of braces sooner by fine detailing the teeth with our clear aligners at the end of treatment, or to treat those patients who may not have been as diligent with their retainer wear as they should have been. Two weeks ago we made the huge leap in converting our whole practice management software to the cloud. During the conversion, we threw Ortho2 (the software company) a curveball because for the first time they would not only be converting an office to the cloud, but also merging patient databases for 3 offices. For the past 18 years, each office has had its own database, making it difficult to communicate between offices. The conversion and merger allow us, for the first time, to have a single patient database across the entire practice. Our practice administrator, Laura Force, was instrumental in the conversion and merger. Without her, we would have been like lost puppies. Laura was such a rock star that Ortho2 invited her to help explain the software to new and potential customers at the AAO meeting.
Converting our software to the cloud means a patient can call any office and be scheduled easily at the office of their choice. You may also notice new and different ways that we can communicate with you. Stay tuned for updates on our software conversation. There are some innovative tools integrated that we will begin to use soon, one of them a morphing tool. The morph allows us to take the initial patient photos and all of the photos in between and create an animation of the transformation that we can email to you! For the doctors, the cloud means that we can effectively work from anywhere, checking patient files and images even if we are not in the patient’s home office that day, we are always just a click away.
The last piece in our digital puzzle has been our use of Invisalign. We love the Invisalign product, as do our patients, but nobody loves the impression process. Because Invisalign is such a precise process and requires a high level of detail, we must take impressions with more accurate material. This material, unfortunately, takes longer to harden than our normal material and results in a less than fun experience for the patient.
We are excited to announce, that starting in a few weeks we will no longer need to take impressions for Invisalign! We purchased three new iTero scanners at the AAO meeting that will allow us to scan a patient and submit the “digital” impression for Invisalign trays. The scan is done with non-x-ray, visible light like a camera. It takes only about 12 minutes and the result is a more pleasant patient experience, a quicker turnaround time, and better fitting Invisalign trays.
Dr. Dumas and I are self-admitted orthodontic and technology nerds. There is nothing more exciting for us than getting a new toy in the practice, especially one that will allow us to deliver a better patient experience. We are excited to offer this new service to our patients and hope that you all will enjoy it as well.