At the British Orthodontic Conference in Manchester in September, the Society announced their latest campaign aimed at improving awareness of orthodontic relapse and promoting the lifelong use of retainers. Using the hashtag #HoldThatSmile, the Society aimed the campaign at both members and patients alike. National press quickly promoted the message with articles appearing in most of the major newspapers with some suggesting that ‘Orthodontists recommend wearing braces for life!’ Not quite the message the Society was hoping to promote but at least the conversation had been started.

If you think about the issue from a patient’s perspective, they complete their treatment and then are given some retainers to wear post-treatment to stabilise their teeth in their new position. Some practices continue to schedule regular retainer checkups for around a year post treatment but some do not. For a patient, responsibility has been transferred to them for maintaining their retainer wearing schedule and maybe this is the first time in the treatment process they have been given this type of responsibility.

Not everyone continues to wear their retainer as directed, you only have to undertake a quick search on Twitter with the hashtag #retainers to see a whole host of reasons for this, and some patients quickly relapse requiring re-treatment. Does this create an opportunity for the Orthodontist or should more be done to support and educate patients on lifelong retainer wear?

Simon Littlewood presented a great video on orthodontic retention. It is worthwhile sharing this with your patients and creating a link on your website if you feel the message will help to further educate your patients.

An opportunity for patient engagement

Whilst re-treatment will always provide opportunities for practices to gain new business, and there is likely to be a ready supply of patients coming back for a second or third round of treatment, the real opportunity here is for improving patient engagement.

Patients should leave your practice after treatment delighted with the results they have achieved but also with the experience they have had. This experience should extend past their active treatment and into the retention phase so irrespective of whether you recall them for retainer checks or keep in touch by other methods, you will be effectively engaging with patients and helping turn them into advocates for your practice.

There is also the added benefit in that motivated retainer wearers will come back for new retainers once their first set reaches the end of their working life or for repairs to their bonded retainer should this fail. This provides an opportunity for further patient engagement and to further promote your practice and changes that may have taken place since the patient finished their treatment.

For help improving your patient engagement process, please get in touch.