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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