As someone who practices orthodontics, you are already well aware of the importance of cooperation from your patients. You are also aware that getting a patient to wear their elastics consistently can be like…pulling teeth. Dental treatment is a collaborative effort and even the most skilled providers can only do so much if their patients are not following directions at home. Here are some tips that might help you find success with what is perhaps the most notorious phase of treatment : the intraoral elastics phase.
Education is Key
It can be helpful to give your patient a good understanding of WHY wearing elastics and wearing them consistently is so important. Many patients underestimate the importance of having teeth that occlude properly. Throughout orthodontic treatment, your patient can watch their teeth become more aligned as time passes, but many patients pay little or no notice to their bite. Remind your patient that while a proper bite might not be as visually noticeable, it is a crucial part of maintaining one’s overall oral health. Consider spending a bit of extra time explaining to the patient what kind of malocclusion they have and explain how correcting it will improve their overall quality of life (fewer headaches, less undue wear on the teeth, less jaw pain, etc.).
Greek mythology has withstood the test of time because the lessons within each tale are universally applicable. When I was an assistant tasked with encouraging consistency with elastics, I would always relate it to the myth of Sisyphus. It’s been a while since we all read the story in high school, so here’s a brief refresher: Sisyphus was a man who displeased the gods and was punished with an eternal, cyclical burden. He was tasked with rolling a giant boulder up a steep hill. Each time he had nearly reached the top, the boulder would roll back down and he would have to start over. This is how a dentist or orthodontist can feel when a patient isn’t compliant with their elastics. Consistent wearing of elastics for a short time can make some progress on the patient’s malocclusion. But if the patient stops wearing them for an extended period of time, all progress can be lost and the correction process will start again from scratch. This can of course extend the amount of time your patient must spend in treatment, leaving you both frustrated. Consider sharing Sisyphus’ story with your patients to explain that progress can be lost if one is not steadfast and diligent.
One might think that the reward of a healthy, beautiful smile would be enough of an incentive for most people to stay consistent with their elastics, but unfortunately, that is not always the case (especially with children and teenagers). It can be helpful to offer another type of tangible reward for a patient to encourage good elastic wearing habits. Consider having a collection of small trinkets that patients can earn for demonstrating proper elastic wearing habits. You can provide the patients’ parents/guardians with a chart they can use to track the days and times your patient is wearing their elastics. The chart can be helpful because it serves as a physical reminder to the patient and it also gets the parents involved, which can help to keep younger patients on track. When your patient comes in for adjustments, you can have them turn in the chart and reward them with points, tokens, or tickets that they can eventually redeem for a prize.
Nice and Easy Does It!
Some patients avoid their elastics because they forget how to wear them or become frustrated when trying to put them on. As dental care providers, if we can make the process as easy as possible for our patients, we increase the likelihood that they will do their part in remaining compliant. Each bag of our Five Star Galactic Elastics has a picture of teeth on the back. Many patients find it very helpful if the doctor or assistant draws the elastic pattern over the teeth on the bag so that they can look at it when it is time for them to put their own elastics on. It can also be helpful to use a different colored solitaire (“o-ring”) on the teeth that the patient will be attaching their elastics to. Sometimes the elastics are slippery, or the teeth that need elastics are hard to reach. Consider trying our elastic attachers, to make the application process a bit easier on the patient. Each one has a textured handle to allow the user to get a good grip, and the hook at the end helps the patient reach trickier spots with ease.
Five Star Orthodontic Lab and supply has been servicing the Orthodontic community for over 30 years! We are here to be a resource for your practice. If you have any questions or want to learn more about the lab, supplies or case consults contact us today.