There’s nothing quite like the feeling of achieving a perfect smile. Whether you’re an adult or adolescent, it’s exciting to finally reveal the grin underneath – after weeks, months, even years, of orthodontic treatment.
But what if, suddenly, that smile was jeopardized? What if you had to delay treatment and risk a relapse? Orthodontic professionals and their patients faced this challenge due to office closures at the onset of COVID-19.
The trouble with a treatment break
3M™ Clarity™ Aligners are designed to help patients achieve a healthy, beautiful smile. An aligner treatment might take anywhere from a few months to a few years. Aligner cases begin with a trip to the orthodontist office where an initial scan or physical impression is taken of the patient’s teeth. From there the treatment design is developed digitally in the 3M™ Oral Care Portal and 3M manufactures customized clear tray aligners for the ortho treatment.
As teeth transition, bone cells break down to allow for teeth to move. A lapse in treatment or a patient’s failure to utilize their retainer post-treatment could revert teeth to their original position. When COVID-19 forced offices to shut down, many patients were in active treatment, or had just completed their ortho treatment, and needed passive aligners or a retainer to hold their teeth in place and prevent relapse.
Dr. Christian Groth of TDR Orthodontics compares aligner treatment to golf. “If you hit the golf ball down the fairway, you’re not done on the first shot. You’re maybe 75 percent of the way there. It’s similar with teeth. During the shutdown, there was a holding period, and I needed passive aligners to make sure teeth stayed put.”
Dr. Darin Iverson of Iverson Orthodontics faced a similar challenge. “The bulk of my patients were people who had just finished treatment. We also had a handful who lost aligners or had moved and forgot to take their aligners with them. We asked 3M to send them passive aligners even though they weren’t finished with active treatment.”
Laurie Tye, Clinician Support team member for 3M Oral Care, recalls the uptick in requests and inquiries: “Doctors were reaching out to us, saying, ‘my patient is wearing their last aligner’ – and we wanted to be as responsive as possible to that need.”
Next-level clinical support
To provide excellent service during unprecedented times, the Clinician Support team developed a long list of action items.
“Our team was getting these requests by the hour,” Laurie remembers. “There were a lot of patients in active treatment.” The team quickly pivoted and planned, at least temporarily, to ship needed aligners direct to patient homes while their doctor’s offices were closed.
Dr. Groth credits 3M for living up to their reputation of offering excellent service and support. “The clinical support team in St. Paul are so good. Our sales representative, Scott Kerner, contacted me and said they could send direct to patients. Shipping direct to patients’ houses was amazing and seamless.”
The Clinician Support team connected the Oral Care Portal, 3M manufacturing and supply chain teams, orthodontic customers and their patients to ensure seamless customer service and support. All the while, 3M continued to navigate the current challenges to ensure the safety of valued customers and their staff as well as the safety of their employees.
Putting patients first
Dr. Iverson remembers how his mindset and methods adjusted as the pandemic wore on.
“It was a Sunday night when we were told all dental offices would close for two weeks. For me, two weeks sounded like a long time, which is funny looking back … It became clear the shutdown was going to be a lot longer. How would patients fare?”
He turned to teledentistry to help.
“Our aligner patients didn’t skip a beat,” recalls Dr. Iverson. “We checked in virtually.”
He credits his local 3M sales representative, Laura Thompson, for stepping up to the plate. “Every time we made the request for passive aligners, the order was placed with 3M that day. It was easy.”
The 3M Clinician Support team are all former dental hygienists and assistants, so the patient experience is always top of mind.
“I am so impressed with the clinician support team,” Laurie says. “Being patient-facing is ingrained in our souls and taking care of patient needs will always be our number one priority.”