ORTHODONTISTS IN PARADISE: Brace Yourself For A Better Experience
Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. | Photographer: Photography By Anne
Show of hands; how many of you had to wear braces on your teeth when you were a kid? Yep. Me too, and I was unfortunate enough to have endured the metal-mouth rite of passage back in the day, 1980-82 or thereabouts. I’m guessing that if you’re over 30 (maybe 35) you know what I’m talking about. Back then, they used those metal bands and prickly wires and an assortment of tools well-suited to helping Jack Bauer extract information.
I’ll never forget my orthodontist, because he, appropriately enough, looked, spoke, and laughed just like Vincent Price. Remember him? He was the guy from all those old, creepy horror shows who is also known for belting out the maniacal laugh at the end of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
“Okay, we’re just going to make a little adjustment here,” he would say, while poking some implement into my mouth that went, BANG! BANG! BANG! “And now the other side,” BANG! BANG! BANG!
And on this went for what seemed like hours, even though it was probably just a few minutes. In my teenage boy vim and vigor, it took all of the discipline I could muster to keep from springing from the chair and wrestling the poor fellow to the ground.
That’s how I remember it; but fear not, all you youngsters who face orthodontics at some point in the future. Things have changed.
“It’s not the painful experience that it used to be,” said Dr. Bruce “Duke” Baker of the patient side of orthodontics. Dr. Baker’s local practice is called Orthodontics in Paradise, and while he won’t go so far as to say that orthodontics is paradise, technology has made the whole experience of wearing braces on your teeth much more bearable than in days past.
After practicing for 20 years in Indiana, Baker came to Hilton Head for the same reason as most of us transplanted locals: the lifestyle.
“I enjoy the slower-paced nature of practicing here,” said Baker. “We can focus more on patient attention. I can see all of the patients because I have the time.”
The Orthodontics in Paradise office is a bright and cheerful setting, nothing like the chamber of horrors that I remember. The procedures and materials used today have also shed the sinister image of their predecessors.
“I think the main thing that is changing in orthodontics is technology. It allows us to use lighter forces, and the brackets and wires are much better. We can move teeth in a way that is more comfortable for the patient,” said Baker. “We’re also finding that our treatment times have come down from two and a half years to under two years. But the most advantageous part is that the results are so much better.”
The overall approach to orthodontics is different as well. Computer applications allow orthodontists to project the results of a treatment, and not only in terms of straightening out the teeth. “Today we are trying to achieve an aesthetic result in an adolescent that they’re going to grow into,” said Baker. “Your facial structure changes as you grow older, and how teeth are placed has a lot to do with that. It’s not just straight teeth; it’s about the whole face.”
Computer software allows orthodontists to “predict” straight teeth, then the braces are placed in a manner that will achieve the result shown in a 3-dimensional computer model, and each brace is custom fit to its respective tooth.
The braces themselves are better equipment too. “We use Damon brackets,” said Baker, referring to a system developed in 1998. The Damon brackets are a significant improvement over the old metal bands that orthodontists had to pound onto your teeth, and often required the extraction of one tooth or more to make room for others. These brackets are glued on, and the whole system is engineered to work in harmony with the body’s adaptive processes as opposed to the more brute force method employed by the old-fashioned metal bands.
Although some orthodontists still use them, Baker no longer uses headgear—that metal bar wrapped around your head. “I haven’t used a headgear in probably 15 years,” he said, “and we don’t remove teeth.” Baker noted that retainers are still necessary, though, but they’re only necessary at night.
Baker said that patients do still come in with a little bit of fear and nervousness, but not quite like in the “old days.” This is largely because the whole treatment process is much more comfortable than it used to be. “We don’t hammer them on anymore.” Plus, the treatment times are shortened and the frequency of visits is less. While you used to go in for adjustments every three to four weeks, now you usually have to go only every six to eight weeks. But the one thing that advanced technology cannot improve upon is probably the most significant factor in making a patient’s experience more pleasant: good old chair-side manner.
“Being nice is the best thing you can be towards people,” said Baker, who tries to maintain a family atmosphere around the office. “We (Baker and his staff, Debbi Reed and Cathy Cooler) treat the patients as we would treat our own children.”
Orthodontics in Paradise is located at 3901-C Main Street, Hilton Head Island, SC 29926. Call (843) 689-2483 or visit OrthodonticsInParadise.com.