My daughter had an orthodontics appointment scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday. With the Safer at Home order in place, I thought it was canceled, then I received an email saying the appointment would be virtual.

Not knowing what that meant, I told Sydney, 15: “I’m going to have to tighten your braces.” She gave me a horrified look until I told her I was joking.

“Did you download the app?” my husband asked as I sat down to watch Netflix. “You’re supposed to submit photos 24 hours in advance,” he said with urgency.

This, in my world, was not urgent. Nonetheless, I said I would take care of this “later” and now it was later.

I went to my email to look for a message from Smile Doctors Braces by Pelsue Orthodontics.

I clicked “Confirm the appointment.”

I downloaded the Dental Monitoring app to my smartphone, watched a video about how to take photos using the app, and told my patient to get ready.

Where should we take the photo, I wondered as if that was somehow important for taking close-up photos of teeth.

Sydney sat down on her bed.

“Spencer, turn the flashlight on your phone and shine it on Sydney’s mouth,” I said to my oldest.

He obliged. We both leaned in with our two phones aimed at Sydney’s mouth, one to take the photo, one to provide light.

Sydney with her fingers was retracting her cheeks.

My phone provided ample light. “I don’t think you need me,” said Spencer, who left the room.

As I was taking photos, I provided my own assessment, “I think you’ll probably end up wearing braces another two months beyond what we thought.”

Other than that, and thinking that everyone should probably brush more, I had no idea what the Smile Doctors team might say.

A green line appearing on my phone screen helped guide me as I took photos. After each photo, I hit send. After I had done that six times, I realized, even with little images one at a time showing me what I should be photographing, I somehow had only taken four angles: front, right side, top teeth (mouth open), bottom teeth (mouth open). The app asked me to do some retakes.

“Let me see,” Sydney said, asking to see the photos.

“Mom’s taking photos of my nose hairs,” she yelled.

She wasn’t wrong.

With a notification that our retakes were accepted, we were ready for our phone call the next day.

During the phone call, we learned Sydney needs to keep wearing rubber bands full-time for 8 weeks. After that, only at night. Next appointment is July 9.

Checking in on check-ups

Fascinated by the experience, I wondered how Dr. Brian Pelsue and other patients were doing.

Smile Doctors Braces (Braces by Pelsue Orthodontics) announced on Facebook March 31 that it would be closed for non-emergency visits.

Smile Doctors, the largest US based Orthodontic DSO (Dental Support Organization), with over 220 locations in 17 States, on March 20 announced it had signed a deal with Dental Monitoring to use its suite of AI-powered remote monitoring solutions to provide industry leading patient access and convenience. The original partnership followed several months of pilots and testing, was expanded and accelerated to include all patients, due to the coronavirus.

Commenting on the app, Pelsue said, “It’s been super helpful just to be able to keep in touch with people.”

Images allow him to look for progress and for problems.

“If there’s something wrong (like a wire’s broken or a tooth isn’t tied in correctly), we can address it and see that person on an emergency basis,” he said.

Each day, he said the Janesville Smile Doctors team makes 40 to 60 calls to patients.

Some patients, instead of using their fingers to retract their cheeks, are using the retractors that come with games such as Speak Out or Watch Ya Mouth.

If patients are wearing rubber bands, and he said almost everyone is, the images help show if patients need to change the position of the rubber bands. Pelsue can draw on the images to show patients where the rubber bands should go.

“It allows us to, in some cases, progress with their treatment, though we’re not seeing them in the office,” he said.

Though Pelsue doesn’t ask parents to tighten braces or put in new wires, he has instructed them on how to use a tweezers to lift a chain out of the way or use a fingernail clippers to remove a chain.

For patients with Invisalign, a clear aligner, the app is especially helpful. Pelsue said, “We can evaluate how the trays are fitting then patients pick up more trays to advance their treatment.”

Even new or potential patients can receive consultations using the Dental Monitoring app.

“If people are really anxious to get going,” Pelsue added, “we have at-home impression kits.”

With Invisalign, he can begin limited treatment until comprehensive treatment can be done.

If you think an orthodontist appointment might be canceled or you think you can’t work on your smile during the governor’s extended Safer at Home order, think again. Today’s apps are mouth-opening.

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