Orthodontics: The problem with high expectations – Professor Parmjit Singh

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  Posted by: Dental Design      6th May 2019

Most dentists remember the days when orthodontics involved having to wear clunky metal contraptions that were uncomfortable and unsightly. Thankfully, technology has improved the efficacy and aesthetic of orthodontic appliances. This has helped minimise the stigma surrounding orthodontic treatment, which has become hugely popular and fashionable – particularly as celebrities like Emma Watson and Tom Cruise have proudly sported braces during their acting careers. At a time when many people are now investing in the health and appearance of their smile, orthodontic treatment is in predictably high demand.

In fact, approximately 80% of orthodontists have reported an increase in adults seeking orthodontics in the UK, with females between the age of 26 and 40 being the most likely to do so.[i]There are several reasons as to why orthodontic treatment has become incredibly sought after, with one of the most significant being that it is more affordable and accessible than ever before. Patients now have greater flexibility to choose from various orthodontic appliances, including clear aligners that offer a minimally invasive and discreet way of straightening teeth. Improvements in techniques and processes have also facilitated shorter treatment times, which can lead to a more satisfying experience for patients.

Dental practitioners are well aware that misaligned, overcrowded or crooked teeth can cause a wide range of dental problems. Both fixed and removable orthodontic appliances provide an effective way for patients to straighten their teeth in order to enhance dental function and aesthetics. This can help boost a patient’s self-confidence and self-image, resulting in greater quality of life. With numerous benefits to gain from the latest orthodontic procedures, perhaps it is unsurprising that many patients have developed high expectations of what can be achieved with orthodontic appliances.

Various factors ultimately determine each patient’s suitability for orthodontic treatment – and whether it is successful or not. However, many patients still dream of a quick fix for dental problems that could interfere with their ability to enjoy an important event such as a wedding or a milestone birthday. Although orthodontics can have a positive, life-changing impact on patients, the reality is that there are limitations to treatment that can conflict with a patient’s desire to improve their smile. The MDDUS has already warned that complaints can arise as a result of unrealistic patient expectations, particularly in relation to short-term orthodontic treatments – many of which can be completed within just a few months.

The firm has already dealt with cases where patients have made a complaint and demanded a refund for treatment that did not meet their expectations.[ii]This can occur when a patient is attracted to the promise of an instant result, but does not necessarily realise the limitations of treatment and underestimates how quickly results can be achieved. Moreover, patients can be misinformed by relatives and friends who have had considerably simpler dental issues resolved. The reality is that a “quick fix” is simply not possible in cases of more complex dental problems, where required treatment is likely to be more involved.

Ultimately, the success of treatment is reliant on correct diagnosis, careful planning and obtaining fully informed consent from the patient. This involves explaining the benefits and limitations of different treatment options available to patients, who should also know the cost of treatment, how long it may take to complete, and any potential complications that could arise in the short- and long-term. It is essential that patients are made aware of their responsibility to maintain optimal oral health while underdoing orthodontic treatment. As such, patients should be effectively instructed to clean around and between their orthodontic appliance – particularly in the case of a fixed solution – using reliable dental products.

Good communication is key to managing patient expectations, which will ultimately help to ensure a more desirable outcome and minimise the risk of a complaint arising. Evidently, practitioners must be suitably trained and qualified to carry out orthodontic treatment, and should also operate within their professional remit. Even if you are unable to provide orthodontics for more complex dental problems, referring patients could be a viable alternative. This emphasises the importance of seeking out a trusted referral clinic like Ten Dental + Facial, whose award-winning team includes highly experienced orthodontists. They have the specialist skills and knowledge to competently deliver a wide range of treatments, from traditional orthodontics to removable clear aligners and lingual braces.

There are now a variety of treatments available to those who wish to improve the function and visual appearance of their teeth. Many orthodontic appliances are highly aesthetic, effective and durable, providing an effective way of correcting problems associated with misaligned, overcrowded or crooked teeth. Education remains vital to patients knowing exactly what to expect at every stage of the orthodontic treatment process. As such, it is always wisest to under promise and over deliver, so that clinicians are able to meet or even exceed patients’ expectations and ensure a highly satisfactory end result.  


For more information, visit www.tendental.comor call on 020 33932623



[i]British Orthodontic Society. (2018) New BOS survey released for National Smile Month reveals the number of adults seeking orthodontic treatment in the UK continues to rise. Link: https://www.bos.org.uk/News-and-Events/News. [Last accessed: 04.03.19].

[ii]MDDUS. (2015) Manage expectations with orthodontic treatment. Link: https://www.mddus.com/media-centre/2015/june/manage-expectations-with-orthodontic-treatment. [Last accessed: 04.03.19].

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