The American Association of Orthodontists has declared the month of October National Orthodontic Health Month, a time to focus on raising awareness of the importance of orthodontic health. In honor of this month, let’s take a look at what a day in the life looks like for Dr. Way!
I don’t think I can accurately describe a day in the life of an orthodontist without at a least giving some insight into the years of work leading up to becoming an orthodontist. After graduating from four years of undergrad, I attended dental school for four years at the University of Louisville (U of L). Knowing I wanted to become an orthodontist, I had to study a little bit more than some to give myself the best shot of being accepted into an orthodontic residency. While a lot of my close friends were living their best lives in their 20s and finally making money at their first jobs (which meant money and time for fun things), I was spending most of my free time with my head in a book! I was pinching pennies at the end of each semester until the next student loan payment was released. Those years of schooling were not very glamorous! But the hard work paid off, and I attended U of L for my residency in orthodontics for two years.
Finally . . . after graduating the 22nd grade, I received my Certificate in Orthodontics with a DMD MS behind my name and got my first full time job at the age of 28!
A typical day for me now: My alarm goes off around 6:10 a.m., usually with a “snooze” in there before actually getting out of bed. Once I get myself ready, I wrangle my 3-year old and 10-month old up at 7:00 a.m., and out the door to daycare at 7:30 a.m. We start seeing patients at 9:00 a.m., but I like to get to work early to look at the schedule, prepare for the day, and catch up on some treatment planning before the day starts.
Once patients start flowing in, we see around 50 to 60 per day. The majority of those appointments are orthodontic adjustments. Usually we have a few patients getting their braces on, and a few getting their braces off. And then throughout the day we have new patients coming in for their initial braces consultation. With the amount of patients we see per day, it’s just not possible for me to do all the hands-on clinical work myself, so the orthodontic assistants are trained to do a lot of clinical work such as changing wires, prepping brackets, cementing appliances, taking records, and more. I truly could not do my job and run a successful office without them! They are my hands and feet, and I am lucky to be blessed with the best!
There will be up to four to five patients seated in chairs at a time, usually every 30 minutes or so. I hop from chair to chair to do a check, tell the assistant what the plan for the appointment is, and run into the consult room to meet a new family. Most days we have at least some unexpected surprises like broken brackets, the occasional broken appliance, pokie wire emergencies, or lost/broken retainers. In between checking patients I am working on things like treatment planning cases, tracing cephs and reviewing X-rays. Depending on the insurance, I have to analyze records and write a narrative and treatment plan to submit for a pre-authorization before we can start treatment. I do these treatment plans throughout the day between seeing my patients. I also spend time communicating with the general dentists that share my patients. We update them on treatment plans, consult on extractions and oral hygiene, and in some cases we have to work together for restorative treatment plans. It is my job to get the teeth in place for them to be able to do their restorative or implant work!
My two favorite appointments are the first visit back after a patient’s braces were bonded, because the patients are so excited about the progress and change, and the final visit when braces are removed, because we finally get to see the end result of all the hard work! There is nothing more rewarding than watching my patients go from a self-conscious smile to one that they are proud of.
Everyone has heard the quote, “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” I used to hear it and think, “no such job exists!” Now I understand. It doesn’t mean that I don’t work very hard every day, or that I don’t have stresses at my job, but I truly love what I do and I look forward to going to work every day! I get to impact my patients’ lives in a positive way, boosting their confidence with a perfect smile, and that gives me joy every day!
If you are interested in orthodontic treatment, talk to your dentist at your next appointment to learn more!