It seems to me that the average orthodontic case treated with braces takes well over 20 months. I can’t back this up with stats or studies or anything like that but I am willing to bet that if someone did a thorough assessment of ACTUAL treatment times (not self reported times) then the average would be at least that and probably much higher. Also, I feel it’s safe to say that there are quite a few patients in the average practice who are overtime – beyond the estimated treatment time but still not finished. Why is that?

Before you start pointing to the impacted canines and crazy stuff, let’s agree to remove those outliers from consideration. I’m talking about the average orthodontic case and I’m going to say that most practices take way too long to finish AND a good many of these cases go overtime. Why do you care? Well, it occurs to me that in life we generally find what we are looking for. I think that braces have taken 24 months for so long that 24 month cases have become our mindset and our goal and our results reflect that.  So what can we do about it? Lots of things – improve bracket position, use elastic and super elastic wires, improved bonding technique to reduce breakage, great patient motivation techniques… and on and on. But I think there is a far simpler way to get cases to finish faster and I’m embarrassed that it didn’t occur to me sooner.

Shorten the time you predict the case will take.

What if you decide, starting today, that what you previously considered 24 month cases are, from this point forward, 18 month cases? If you tell patients that you will be done in 18 months do you think that will motivate you to get them done in 18 months? Think about the benefits for patients and for your practice if you can reduce the time it takes to treat a case? Think of how this will impact your overtime cases – most of those only end when patients or parents are finally sick of having braces on longer than you told them and demand the braces be taken off. That will happen sooner if you predict shorter treatment times! Yes there will always be outliers. Yes there will always be compliance issues. Yes there will always be cases that don’t go well… But none of those factors change the fact that if you predict shorter treatment time then you’ll get done sooner on the vast majority of cases.

Still not convinced? Still think “it takes how long it takes”? Maybe so. Maybe not. I can tell you that as the market tightens, offering shorter treatment times will bring patients to you over those who take forever. I can also tell you that case length tends to go down with experience (if you are open minded) so why not just skip the run up to shorter times and plant your flag today? Finally, I would remind you that the average Invisalign case is much closer to 12 months than 20 months… How. Can. That. Be??

I hope this makes you think about why and how you do what you do. There is no right answer, only each of us trying to do better daily!

2 thoughts on “Why Do Ortho Cases Take So Long?

  1. Totally agree Ben: no need to waste money on robotically bent wires or customised setups. Put yourself “under the pump”* and do it better and faster. And yes, it’s amazing how quickly Invisalign cases can treat out.
    *aussie slang for under pressure.

  2. As always, the best solutions in life are the simplest.

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