Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Orthodontists Study Business of Teeth

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Orthodontists Study Business of Teeth

Article excerpt

NEW YORK _ Orthodontist Frank Pate calls up a picture of a patient on his computer screen. Fourteen-year old Julie's big smile shows badly crooked teeth, a weak jaw and an ugly strip of gum under her upper lip.

In less than a minute, he's transplanted someone else's perfectly straight pearlies into her mouth, polished them from yellow to clean white, pulled down her lip to cover the gums and pushed out her lower jaw.

Pate's imaging software can re-create a face to show Julie _ and more important, her parents _ just about what she'd look like after braces.

His company, Rx Data Design Inc. in Lincoln, Ala., is among the suppliers hoping to impress 800 orthodontists convened here seeking ways to boost their practices and take the fear out of getting wired.

The annual meeting of the Northeastern Society of Orthodontists is a combination trade show and training program.

The studious are attending seminars such as "Psychological Aspects of Facial Deformity" and "Arch Development and Molar Control with Flexible Lip Bumpers."

Those more interested in boosting their business are getting pitched by suppliers peddling everything from wire cutters and pliers to glow-in-the-dark retainer plates with pictures of mutant ninja turtles.

Pate, of Rx Data Design, said about 2,000 orthodontists have bought computer imaging setups since they were created in 1989. That's about a quarter of the 8,500 practicing orthodontists in North America. The computer rigs cost up to $20,000, but result in more satisfied customers, he said.

"With the old method, orthodontists would have to cut out and paste drawings or photos. Only about 40 percent of the patients got what they expected. With this method, it's about 90 percent."

Since the early 1980s, orthodontists have been targeting adults as well as children. The number of adults undergoing treatment has doubled in the past 10 years and people over 18 now make up about one-quarter of the 4 million wired population, said Bill Beggs, spokesman for the American Association of Orthodontists. …

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