The “Big Picture Approach”: Orthodontic Problem Solving From a Bird’s Eye View

“When the only tool you own is a hammer, every problem begins to resemble a nail.” ~ Abraham Maslow

When facing critical problems and difficulties in our case progression and mechanics during orthodontic treatment, we sometimes struggle with finding the right solution and seem to be going deeper into complexity, and often, nothing seems to be working! In such situations, it’s always useful to remember to see the big picture of the situation first, before drowning further in the little details.

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“Systems Thinking” in Orthodontic Practice

 “We can’t impose our will on a system. We can listen to what the system tells us, and discover how its properties and our values can work together to bring forth something much better than could ever be produced by our will alone.”
― Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer

We all want to maximize practice efficiency, simplify management and allow for more time to focus on what’s really important. In that regard, the importance of creating well-defined systems in our orthodontic practices cannot be over-emphasized.

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Simplicity vs Complexity in Orthodontic Mechanics

“Knowledge is a process of piling up facts. Wisdom lies in their simplification.” ~ Martin Fischer

Retouching on the idea of productive simplicity in orthodontic treatment, I have decided to present in this post some examples of what I believe to be unnecessary over-complication of orthodontic appliances in treating certain types of orthodontic problems. Such cases often present at one’s practice seeking second opinions about their “lengthy” or “traumatic” experience with fixed appliance treatment in particular. Usually, at the first look inside the mouth, you clearly realize the problem; there are so many different attachments, elastics and wires of different sizes and designs inside the oral cavity that not only is it a playground for various complex contradictory mechanics and force vectors, but can also present a serious hazard to the patient’s safety and oral hygiene.

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A Call for Productive Simplicity in Orthodontics

“The secret to productivity is simplicity.”  – Robin Sharma

I believe it was Confucius who once said: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” This notion certainly applies to everything in life, including the practice of Orthodontics. The true reasons why we orthodontists – and humans in general – tend to drift towards more complexity may not be entirely clear; maybe we subconsciously equate complexity to “sophistication” or to an outdated notion that “complex approaches are more comprehensive and well thought-out!”. Regardless of the real reason, the simple fact of the matter is that simple is hard! and it seems that in this day and age, Complexity sells!
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