Late last night just before bedtime, our two-year-old daughter, Kylie partially dislocated her left elbow (“radial head subluxation”). She couldn’t bend her elbow or supinate her palm (turn her palm up)—basically, couldn’t use that arm—and was crying and in pain. The nearby InstaCare was our first option, but we discovered that it was closed. So, it came down to (1) taking her to the ER, or (2) learning how to treat this myself. So, I turned to the Internet—WebMD and YouTube for a do-it-yourself (DIY) solution. After reading about it and watching a couple short videos, I realized this was a relatively simple maneuver and didn’t warrant an ER visit; this was something I felt comfortable doing myself at home. I performed the easy procedure, and in a matter of seconds, Kylie was out of pain and was moving her arm normally and ready for bedtime.
Speaking of DIY, I recently came across a Groupon for orthodontic aligners that involve some DIY procedures. Apparently, the patient needs to pay an introductory fee, and in return the company sends the patient impression materials, and asks the patient to take dental impressions on herself and a series of photographs of her teeth and bite. These materials are all sent in, and a professional is then assigned to review the case and determine if their basic aligners are appropriate treatment for the patient’s orthodontic problems. If yes, aligners (home impressions); discuss what types of corrections (very minor)—Invisalign 1.0 with no attachments, really primitive, stepping back 15 years, not sophisticated. But, there are certain very minor cases that would probably be appropriate and where it would work fine; be straightforward here—“it’s not like my bias is trying to scare you and tell you these things are going to give you cancer or lead to sudden death or anything.” But modern orthodontics, especially with aligners, is moving away from this—the manual impression—and going digital because of problems with accuracy. Think of this—in dental offices where the dental assistants are expert at taking impressions, even they frequently need to remake impressions multiple times to get it right. So, if this is the first dental impression you have ever made, chances are the result is going to be poor. And, the fit and capability of the aligners is dependent on how accurate the impression is; that is, poor impression = aligner that doesn’t fit you teeth = aligner that can’t move the teeth appropriately = poor result (not what you were hoping for). The point is, there may be a few cases where this type of treatment works nicely, but the vast majority of people don’t fit into this group.
The parable of the ping-pong-paddle
When I was in college, a friend and I were playing ping-pong one afternoon and decided that the paddles that were available just weren’t cutting it, that they were not allowing us to play to our potential. He and I were both good recreational players—able to hit with spin and speed, and we wanted equipment that would allow us to use our skills for an improved experience. So, we got in the car and went to the nearest big sporting goods store. After sorting through the options, the decision came down to two paddles—the 4/5 star paddle for $20, or the 5/5 star
paddle for $30. Being a poor college student, I went with the more economical of the two—the 4/5 star, $20 paddle. After all, this paddle was advertised for “excellent” recreational players, so it should be just fine for me, I reasoned. My friend came to the same conclusion and bought the same paddle, and we both went back to the ping-pong table with high expectations for our new purchases. However, after playing a bit, it became apparent that these paddles weren’t all that great—in fact, we had both played with much better paddles before, and these were not what we had been hoping for when we made the purchase. I was frustrated, and really wished I had bought the 5/5 star paddle, even though it was a little more expensive, because it would have given me the experience that I was wanting. However, I had put myself into a predicament—I couldn’t return my $20 paddle for a refund, because it had been opened and used; so, to get the experience I wanted, I would have to go back to the store and buy the $30 paddle, and just accept the sunk cost of the $20 paddle. So, I was faced with spending a total of $50 for something I could have gotten for only $30 had I just bought the better paddle the first time. Well, being a poor college student, I felt I couldn’t afford an additional $30 for ping-pong (after all, that would have been about two months worth of lunches—60 Cup Noodles ).
So, as trivial as this experience sounds, it left a lasting impression on me—when making a purchase, I am reminded to spend a little extra money if I feel that will get me the desired results the first time (in other words, I try to avoid “second time” purchases). This doesn’t necessarily mean buying the most expensive; it means if I have narrowed my options down and prices are reasonably close, if I feel the more expensive option is a better value—will better meet my expectations and provide more utility/enjoyment, etc., then I buy the more expensive one without skipping a beat.
In our office, we are committed to providing you with 5/5 star treatment results at a good value, and your satisfaction is our top priority. So, when evaluating your orthodontic options, make sure you don’t make the mistake that I did with my ping-pong paddle; if you do, it could cost you thousands, rather than thirty, to have it done again (not to mention more time!).