Time flies when we work together

By Jill Piper, VP Piper Orthodontics

By following your doctor’s orders to the letter, you can keep your orthodontic treatment on track and finish on time. “When I have the patient helping me get the teeth in the best position, the cases go faster and there are fewer problems,” said Dr. Fred Piper of Piper Orthodontics in Memphis.  “The outcome is better when I’ve got the patient working with me to get the result we both want.”

In dental parlance, this is called “compliance.”  Compliance with treatment consists of wearing rubber bands as instructed;  wearing retainers and aligners as prescribed; keeping brackets and bands on; and keeping braces clean.

Challenges to compliance can result in delays in treatment.  Wearing rubber bands is probably the most challenging but most critical effort on the patient side. “If the force is not delivered to the teeth consistently,” Dr. Piper said, “the teeth will not move.”

Patients always leave with extra rubber bands to replace after eating or brushing. The doctor may use rubber bands to achieve movement for all or only part of the treatment. Once the habit is established, rubber bands are no big deal.

The same goes for retainers and aligners: they do the patient no good if they’re in the case.  “It’s human nature to want straight teeth with the least amount of work,” Dr. Piper said, “but teeth will relapse if the appliances aren’t worn.”  

Another important component of compliance is keeping brackets and bands on the teeth.  Modern adhesives firmly cement the brackets to the teeth, but hard foods or objects can knock them off. “If the brackets are not on the teeth, I cannot get the teeth in the ideal position,” Dr. Piper said.

The most common culprit on breakage? Fingers. Fingers exert a surprising amount of force. If your child fiddles with their braces, we recommend distraction for busy hands: a Rubik’s cube, a Slinky, a bracelet-maker, even online typing drills. Put that energy to use elsewhere!

Patients who brush and floss also have a better result. Failure to brush can result in shadowy, white lines around the places there the brackets were. This condition, known as decalcification, cannot be reversed. Young patients may be likelier to brush twice a day with a fun electric toothbrush. We provide floss threaders and instruction for the flossing routine, ideally done at night to remove any debris from the day.