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3D Printing and Efficiency: Eliminate Lost Retainer Visits from Your Practice

by Dr. Christian Groth
If you could eliminate lost retainer visits in your office, would you? I hope you said yes! In my mind, there is nothing good that happens when a patient loses their retainer and must return to our office.

The parents are upset: a) that the retainer was lost, b) that they have to take time out of their busy schedule to return to our office, c) that they have to shell out money for a new retainer after they have already spent money on treatment. Your office should be upset because: a) you can’t charge enough to make that visit worth it, b) it clogs up a (hopefully) busy schedule, c) it makes your office messy.

Luckily, there is a solution for most of these issues! Enter 3D printing. The combination of 3D printing and intraoral scanning allow us to have a digital model that lives forever and can produced in physical form at any time. Imagine this conversation:

Mom: My son threw away his retainer yesterday, so we are going to need to come get a new one
Office: I’m sorry to hear that! Things happen but we are here for you. Let me ask you, was he wearing his retainer faithfully and did it fit well before it was lost?
Mom: Yes, he really was doing a great job, but he simply put it into a napkin and threw it away!
Office: Great! In that case there is no reason for you to make a trip to the office. We will use his digital models that we have on file to 3D print a model in order to make a new retainer. You can either pick it up at the office or we can simply mail it out to you. Whatever is most convenient.
Mom: you can do that?! That is SO cool! Not like it used to be, is it?
Office: Definitely not. The fee for a replacement set of retainers is [your fee], how would you like to pay?
Mom: I have my credit card ready. This is great, thank you for saving me a trip. We are so busy with soccer and swimming and the end of school coming up. This is a huge time saver!
Office: You are so welcome! The retainers should be to you within a week.

This is a conversation that had never taken place in an orthodontic office prior to 3D printing. With very little investment, any orthodontist can offer this service to their patients. Just about any 3D printer can produce models in order to fabricate thermoformed retainers. The best part there is almost NO overhead!

I’ll ask again – would you like to eliminate lost retainer visits?

Dr. Groth is a partner in an orthodontic practice with four offices in metropolitan Detroit. He serves on the AAO Committee on Technology (C-TECH).

Editor’s Note: Watch for the April issue of the AAO Practice Management Bulletin featuring 3D printing, including in-depth comments from Dr. Groth. Also, at the 2020 Annual Session, don’t miss The Lineup, a new Exhibit Hall program that will include sequential presentations by 3D printing manufacturers. The Lineup will be Saturday, May 2 from 9:30 – 11 am.