A Day in the Life
Hi, my name is Dr. Guymon, I have practiced orthodontics in Logan, Utah for about 15 years. Many times we’re asked as orthodontists how we like our jobs and what we do all day. I thought to answer those questions I would invite you to spend a day with me in my office and you can see just what it is that orthodontists do. I guess I have a medium sized practice in a city with a population of about 50,000 people. My day is probably pretty typical of orthodontists, with practices the same size as mine.
My day usually starts 30-45 minutes before we start seeing patients at 8:00am. I check the schedule to make sure any special preparation for patients is done. I usually check my e-mail for messages from patients as they check our web site. I am involved with the orthodontic association and I check for messages to check on progress of our projects. Orthodontics is a wonderful profession. There are many opportunities to serve the community with the dental and orthodontic associations.
I usually spend some time each morning reviewing the x-rays and pictures of patients beginning treatment. Careful measurements and observations are made from the diagnostic records that we’ve taken so that a treatment plan can be made for each patient. It’s the careful diagnosis of the patient’s orthodontic problems that make it possible to develop the proper treatment. This is the skill we have as orthodontists, that was developed in the 2-3 years of advanced training that we had after we finished dental school. We’re just a special kind of dentist that limits our practice to the treatment of misaligned teeth and the bones of the face. You are always learning as an orthodontist, which is one of the reasons I was attracted to the profession. Every day there is always something new and different. The braces may stay the same, but each patient is different, and no two people get treated exactly the same way.
The staff gets here a little before eight o’clock and make sure the office is presentable and we’re ready for the first patients. We visit for a few minutes and look at the schedule to make sure any patients with special needs are taken care of. We look to make sure any appliances that were sent to the lab are ready, and that we have time to see any emergencies. By looking ahead in the day we can be prepared and the make the day runs smoothly. New patients get special treatment from the staff and a tour of the office so they can be made to feel comfortable here. The staff set up instruments and supplies for anything special or out of the ordinary.
My staff is a very important part of our practice. Most of them have been with me for many years. They come from different working backgrounds and have experience in many different aspects of dentistry and business. I rely on them to take care of things around the office so that I can devote my attention to patient care. I’ll let the staff tell you what they do in another section of the web site in case you are interested in a job in an orthodontic office.
We usually see quite a few patients in the early morning. Most of our patients are in school, so we try to schedule what we’re doing so that we can see as many of our patients when they don’t have to miss school. We usually see the patients with appointments to do things that take longer a little later in the day. Careful and well thought out scheduling helps us to be efficient and lets us make better use of our patient’s time. It really helps if the patient shows up on time or just a little bit early so they can brush their teeth before we see them. We ask our patients to call ahead if something on their braces has come loose or broken so we can schedule a little extra time for repairs. A lot of our time is spent in adjusting the braces to keep the teeth moving properly. The staff especially spends time helping the patient learn how to care for their braces properly. Brushing is so important so that teeth stay healthy while the braces are on.
We usually break for lunch around noon. Most days I grab some lunch and have a little rest. After a busy morning it feels good to just get off your feet. I catch up on the mail and return any phone calls from the morning. We provide only part of the treatment for some patients and we spend a lot of time keeping everyone informed about what’s been done and what need to be done next. I enjoy the interaction with other health care providers making sure we are all doing what is best for the patient.
I sometimes meet with other doctors in this time. There is a group of dentists here in town that has been meeting once a month for the last 15 years. Our study group is a very important part of our practices. The study group is a chance for us to learn from each other and gives us a chance to learn about other areas of dentistry. The more I know about family dentistry the better orthodontist I can be. It is great to know how other aspects of dentistry can help my patients and especially teaching the other dentists how orthodontics can make the treatment they provide for their patients easier or better. There are other dental specialists that meet with our group so I get to learn about a lot of different things. There is a group of orthodontists that I met with also about every other month. We usually take a whole day for that and discuss patient treatments and issues that we have in running our office. This is just one way that we all continue to learn and get better at what we do.
After lunch we see the patients with the longer appointments until school gets out. The longer appointments are usually the ones that we put braces on or take braces off. Then things really get busy around here. The time after school is scheduled for the short appointments again and we get to see a lot of kids. It is fun to hear about their day and what has been happening in their lives. You have to enjoy kids to be an orthodontist. We have three different high schools in our town and so something is always going on. As an orthodontist, you have the chance to really get to know your patients and see them grow up. A typical orthodontic treatment takes about 2 years, and we get to see our patients about every month or so. You usually only see your family dentist a couple of times a year. We enjoy these relationships with our patients and their families. We get to treat several kids in some families and so these relationships may go on for many years.
About 20 % of my practice is adults. They’re fun to treat also because they are so interested in what we’re doing. We can usually take a little more time with them to show what we’re doing if they are interested. Most adults have pretty flexible schedules and it seems like we see them more in the morning, although we try to accommodate their schedules the best that we can. We see our last patients around 4:30.
I usually spend an hour or so after we see patients working up treatment plans and looking at the x-ray s of patients we’ve seen that day. I usually need to make a phone call or two to family dentists to keep them informed of their patient’s treatment progress and to discuss problems if they come up. I have to spend some time doing the office work for my practice. We really run a small business with employees, our business just happens to straighten teeth. It takes several hours each week to pay the bills, pay roll, make the bank deposits and make sure we are in compliance with the laws of the state. I can usually work that stuff in during the day, and I have staff that perform many of these tasks, but I spend a fair amount of time taking care of the business side of the practice. There is a lot that goes into running a business. There is always some kind of paper work it seems; it’s just part of the job. It is not uncommon that we meet with sales people that supply us with the materials we use to treat patients or run our offices. These are pleasant interruptions at times and scheduled well in advance so as not to interfere with the times we are with patients.
I have a lab that makes the appliances for my patients for the most part. I sometimes spend a few minutes making an appliance for a patient, if I need one in hurry or something special that I don’t want to send out. . I enjoy the lab work I do as long as I don’t have to do too much. It is part of the many things you need to learn about to be a good orthodontist, it goes back to what we said about every patient needs are different.