It's been a while since we've talked about patient compliance and since it's on the top of the list for causing trouble in clear aligner treatment, we thought we'd offer a refresh and an expert opinion on the topic.
We consulted our Clinical Advisor, Dr. Ken Fischer, and here's what he had to say:
What is your experience with patient compliance and how has it affected your success or lack of success with clear aligner treatment?
Patient compliance, or wearing the removable aligners as instructed by the doctor, is absolutely critical in successful outcomes. Not every patient is going to be 100% compliant and wear their aligners 22 hours per day, every day, as we would like them to do. The Doctor's challenge is to learn and understand how each individual can best be motivated to maximize their compliance. Some patients can be "directed", others will need to be "pushed", but either way, full compliance is necessary to accomplish the treatment goal.
What is your percent of compliant vs. non-compliant patients?
Without considering the variance in the degrees of compliance, I think anywhere from 60%-75% of aligner patients are reasonably compliant and are willing to do what it takes to get the desired results. The other 25%-40% do not have the self-discipline necessary to be good, compliant aligner patients. Patient compliance is an issue that must be dealt with commonly in the practice on a daily basis, but that does not mean that we have to struggle with most patients at each appointment.
How do you manage patient compliance? What are your tips and recommendations for gaining patient compliance?
The key is to learn what is the best "motivator" or "incentive" for each patient; younger, adolescent patients will be motivated by techniques or stimulators different than those appealing to adult patients. The common denominator is for the patient to understand that they cannot complete their treatment unless they wear the aligners as directed. This means understanding the variables, that they will either have to stop treatment with an incomplete result, wasting the fee they paid, or finish with an outcome we can all be proud of. When we present the alternative treatment with braces, the patient will usually appreciate the importance of compliance.
See our article on non-compliant patients and compliance checkpoints for more information, tips and tricks on the topic of patient compliance.
Patient wear schedules
The wear schedule you give to your patient is entirely up to you. When you submit your case, you're able to request a 3-week, 2-week or even 1-week wear schedule, and dispense as many aligners as you see fit at each appointment. We recommend that your patient wear each set for at least two weeks for optimum results.
We also consulted with Dr. Fischer on this topic:
What should a doctor consider when deciding what wear schedule to choose for a patient?
95% of cases will be best suited for the 2 week wear schedule. That is the appropriate time it takes the skeletal and periodontal changes to occur with adequate tooth movement. 1 week intervals may be used when using accelerators such as; Acceladent (vibration), Propel (microperforations), Biolux/OrthoPulse (selected wavelengths of light) and Wilcodontics (surgically assisted orthodontics). (When using any of these the dentist will need to closely monitor for root resorption or other complications of moving teeth too fast.) 1 week intervals can also be OK when there is a minor amount of overall movement necessary for correction. 3-4 week intervals are good when there is questionable compliance or particularly difficult movements to accomplish.
Also, one may suggest that "young" teeth move more quickly and "older" teeth move more slowly due to the biological skeletal remodeling process, therefore the wear schedule for younger teeth can be shortened (1 week) and lengthened (3-4 weeks) for older teeth. However, clinical circumstances exert more influcence on the optimum wear schedule than the age of the teeth.
The health of the tooth is not as important as the health of the supporting bone and periodontal tissues when determining the aligner wear schedule. Even devitalized teeth can be moved if the periodontium is healthy.
Wear schedules can be changed by contacting one of our support representatives either by phone, email or by sending us a chat.
Thanks Dr. Fischer for sharing your experience and wisdom!
Until next time...