Patient letters

A few days after removal of fixed appliances, it is helpful to send a standard letter to the patient. This can help to reduce the stress and workload for the orthodontist during the retention phase. A second letter can be sent 1 year later.

The first letter emphasizes the importance of the retention phase of the treatment (regarded by many orthodontists as a major challenge) and can support the post-treatment consultation. Suggested text for the first letter can be as follows:

Dear

Congratulations on the recent successful completion of the active phase of your orthodontic treatment. Now that the fixed appliances have been removed, we are ready to begin the retention phase. The teeth and tissues have not completely adjusted to their new positions yet, and retainers are necessary to hold the teeth in their new positions, allowing for settling of the supporting tissues.

The fees included provision of a set of retainers and their maintenance over a 1-year period. If it is necessary to continue retention supervision beyond that point, appointments will be charged on a per visit basis. We recommend that you see your general dentist for a thorough dental check-up about 4 to 6 weeks after removal of the fixed appliances.

We look forward to continuing your successful orthodontic treatment during the retention period, and to seeing you again in due course for your next retainer check. If you have any questions, please let us know. Yours sincerely

After 1 year of retention, a second standard letter can be sent. Both letters remind the patient that the quoted fee covered only the active phase of treatment and 1 year of retention. Text for a second letter can be as follows:

Dear

I am pleased to confirm that your supervised retention program has now concluded, and you no longer need to see us on a regular basis. You should continue to wear your retainers, as advised, in order to maintain the best results; conscientious, long-term wear should ensure lasting stability of the improvement.

If you wish to make future appointments, either for a general orthodontic check-up, or if you have any difficulties with your retainers, we will be glad to help. A charge will be made for such visits. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require advice or support in any way.

I'd like to take this opportunity to stress the ongoing need for your regular reviews with your general dentist in order to maximize the result we have achieved. Yours sincerely

Two versions of these letters are necessary, depending on whether the patient is a child or an adult. They are kept on disc., of course, and are modified or made more personal as necessary.

It has been reported by Bishop3 that an Australian physician, Dr M.H.N. Tattersal, found that follow-up letters greatly improved the patient perception of the service he had provided. Totally satisfied' - the highest rating - was reported by 54% of those who received letters, compared with only 1 6% who did not!

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