Orthodontics and smartphones: trends, potential and usefulness in clinical practice

Objectives  The continuous evolution of the mobile technology changed and is still changing our profession and daily life. The smartphones and tablets, such as other portable de­vices in common use, allow the orthodontists to enter and man­age diagnostic records easily ev­erywhere and, if it is necessary, to interact with their orthodontic pa­tients at any time thanks to appli­cations developed ad hoc.

The so-called apps (or extensively called applications) are in effect software, more or less elaborate, able to significantly extend the performances of the mobile devic­es customizing contents and pur­pose of usage. Patients in turn can take advantage of orthodontic apps dedicated to them to be­come more interested in the cur­rent orthodontic therapies in which they are involved, to im­prove their compliance and, indi­rectly, the therapeutic results.

Materials and methods  We reviewed the orthodontic apps available on the virtual libraries and online stores of the main mo­bile operating systems. We subse­quently independently tested on four different of our mobile devic­es the apps for patients and for patient/orthodontist interaction that met our inclusion criteria.

After our evaluation, we invited 50 of our orthodontic patients (aged 15-32 years old, distributed in a proportion of 28 F and 22 M) to test on their personal mobile de­vices the apps of their choice among those we suggested in a list and later give a score based on the following aspects: general liking, easiness of use on their de­vices and based on their opinion about the usefulness of the app considered.

Results  From the initial research, the 34.85% of the apps found useful for this study are intended for the specialists in orthodontics. Only the 4.56% are intended for the ortho­dontic patients (specifically these apps are reminders for rubber bands insertion, to wear the clear aligners, to use the removable ap­pliances, presentation of products, management of emergencies) and the 3.73% are intended for the pa­tient/orthodontist interaction (edu­cational purpose, direct communi­cation, tracking therapy progress­es, emergencies management).

Our patients prefer apps with simple and less elaborate inter­faces, especially those that have the function of reminders and those that allow to follow and constantly monitor the progress of the therapies.

Conclusions  Orthodontic apps are modern and catchy tools, potentially very use­ful, supporting orthodontists during their patients’ therapy time and routinely orthodontic practice. Even orthodontic patients without age and gender distinctions ap­preciate the opportunity to benefit from additional tools that make their therapy easier and in some ways fun. Taking into account the differences between the possible different orthodontic treatments and the individual characteristics of each orthodontic patient, the use of orthodontic apps should be better known and encouraged among the specialists in ortho­dontics and, for their part, in the patients themselves.

Clinical significance  The usage of simple virtual free tools such as the orthodontic apps allowing a direct interaction im­prove the communication with the patient and boosts his collabora­tion during the orthodontic treat­ment. Both in clinical practice and in emergency situations where it may not be possible to check the orthodontic patient in a short time, resorting to appropriate apps with which interact with the patient can be an added value of the modern professional orthodontist.

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Table of Content: Vol. 89 – Issue 03 – Marzo 2021

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