We hope everyone had a great summer vacation and is ready to begin another school year! In preparation for Back to School, we want to remind everyone that IT IS OUR STANDING OFFICE POLICY TO ROTATE MORNING AND AFTERNOON ORTHODONTIC APPOINTMENTS. This is a recurrent issue each year as school starts back, and I thought it would be good to address the concerns that arise surrounding this policy.
While in a perfect world we would love to see all our patients after school hours, this is just not feasible. 80% of our patients are school age children, while only 20% of our appointment hours occur after 3:30pm. We structure our schedule to see as many people after school as possible, trying to complete shorter appointments that don’t require as much chair time during those hours. As a result, we can fit in about 40% of our appointment spots in that 3pm-5pm window. Rotating each patient’s normal adjustments between morning and afternoon time slots allows us to be fair to everyone.
Appointments requiring a longer amount of time generally need to be completed during school hours. This includes placing and removing braces, repairing broken braces or wires, handling comfort adjustments, or any other type of appointment requiring extra time. Again, this policy is in place to allow us to see as many patients as possible during the 3pm-5pm time window. Placing longer appointments in that time window would decrease the number of patients we are able to see after school.
Through the years, we’ve tried multiple scheduling strategies to help people not miss school for their orthodontic appointments. We’ve tried opening early morning hours. But we found that many people were unable to keep those appointments because it’s just TOO early. We’ve tried staying open until 7pm on select days. But those hours also had multiple missed appointments due to conflicts with after school activities. In theory, these extended office hours were a great idea. However, in practice they just did not work. Therefore, we’ve settled on working a standard 8am-5pm day.
Another tactic that we employ to help reduce the number of office visits needed is utilizing the Damon System of braces. This advanced self-ligating brace system allows us to treat patients in fewer appointments with less visits to our office. By using Damon braces, most every patient can be seen at 10-12 weeks intervals, reducing the number of appointments needed. In turn, this reduces the number of during school hour appointments that will be required. If you do the math, one visit every 10 weeks means that over the course of 30 weeks (essentially ½ a year), no more than two visits (and sometimes only one) should be required during school hours each semester.
Many parents that I’ve spoken with through the years who desire all after school appointments say their children cannot miss school because they are in honors and AP classes. While I understand the burden of difficult classes and the value of being in those classes, almost all teachers and administrators I have spoken to through the years are understanding of the need for kids to miss classes occasionally to address their dental and healthcare needs. And in reality, a LARGE percentage of our patients are enrolled in honors/ AP classes. Again, while we would love to grant every patient after school appointment times, this just isn’t feasible.
In some instances, patients or parents prefer ALL MORNING appointments due to after school activities. If this is your situation and all morning appointments are desired, please let our team know and we should be able to accommodate this in most cases.
In closing, I want to apologize for our inability to see all our patients after school. I know this creates family scheduling issues around school and work calendars. But just as our team members are sometimes required to miss work and take their children out of school for physician and dentist appointments, we unfortunately must ask our patients to do the same for orthodontic appointments. We pledge to always do our best to limit the number of visits to our office. We value your time and will always provide as much treatment as possible when you bring your child to our office. Much of my practice life has been spent on increasing treatment efficiencies to keep treatment times short and the number of visits to a minimum. We will continue to strive for that end. Thank you for your understanding. Please know that Dr. Thomas and I are always available to address any concerns you may have regarding this issue or any others. Have a great school year! And bring on the fall, cooler weather, and football!
Eric R. Nease, DDS, MDS
Nth Degree Orthodontics