Dr. Barry Raphael recently drew my attention to the website of Kevin O'Brien, Professor of Orthodontics at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. Prof. O’Brien, who blogs on a variety of topics, recently wrote about do-it-yourself orthodontics (view the article here). Anyone practising orthodontics should give this article a serious look.
Prof. O'Brien mentions two companies supplying this service in the U.K.; it is inevitable this will emerge in North America. Effectively DIY companies by-pass the dental profession altogether. No orthodontist or general dentist appears to be involved directly, no one who can be held accountable for the procedures or any potential shortcomings. If there is a dentist, he or she is probably off-shore, safely out of reach of any local dental college or board.
This development should not be a surprise; it is the logical outcome of the marriage of technological advances in treatment procedures and computer technology. It should not be a surprise from a business viewpoint that a historically lucrative profession has attracted new, non-traditional competitors. Perhaps the emergence of do-it-yourself orthodontics will finally provide a much-needed nudge for revaluation.
Prof. O'Brien despairs at these recent developments. Fortunately, I see a marvelous opportunity for a new, health-based orthodontic service to emerge, one which places the patient's well-being as the primary goal. It means working with other health disciplines. It means expanding the boundaries of our customary thinking. It puts orthodontics into perspective as a relative latecomer in cycle of growth based on the hard sciences of biophysics and biology which have emerged over the last three decades.
I hope to enlarge on these themes over the next year. It is an exciting time to be in the world of orthodontics.
P.S. Please feel free to comment below.