Questions and Answers with Pensacola’s Top Orthodontist
An Interview with Dr. Clay Sims, the top Pensacola, Florida Orthodontist:
You have been an orthodontist for several years, what has changed since you started?
There have been a lot of changes in the past seven years of practicing orthodontics. We have seen a large growth in the practice with so many amazing new patients. I contribute this to many factors but I believe the experience and quality of care our team provides is one of the main reasons patients keep referring their friends and family.
Another big change is the increase in digital orthodontics. We use an Itero scanner, digital x-rays, cloud based practice software and Invisalign clear aligners. These additions provide a much better and more efficient experience for our patients along improved communication with their referring dentist. I spend more time than I did seven years ago treatment planning and aligning teeth on a computer. It’s a very exciting changes in the orthodontic world!
One other change is the increase of at home orthodontic treatment and increasingly corporate style practice models (multiple offices, multiple orthodontist with the owner not treating patients). In my opinion this is not the best change in our profession. It is great for patients to have options but from I have seen the patient experience and quality of treatment is not always up to par with a private practice. I believe these changes have decreased the quality of care, treatment continuity and communication with the patients and their dentist.
Where do you see orthodontics going in the next five years?
– Digital. I recently did a orthognathic (jaw surgery) case with an oral surgeon. When the patient was ready for surgery we scanned her braces and teeth along with taking a 3D x-ray image of her jaws and the surgeon and I simulated the jaw surgery on the computer. We were able to see the changes in her profile and what her final bite looked like. We also were able to send the scan to the lab to make a splint to help guide the teeth into the proper position during surgery. This is just one example of how digital orthodontics is helping me provide better results and experience to our patients.
Clear aligners like Invisalign are becoming very popular and have come a long way in the last five years. Invisalign provides another tool for the orthodontist that will allow them to provide that amazing smile to their patients.
What is the biggest challenge you have as a successful orthodontist?
How to continue to provide an amazing experience for my patients, increase communication with them and motivate them to do their best (brush their teeth, wear elastics and Invisalign trays, etc.). Also, running a successful business, motiving my team to achieve their best and always striving to provide the highest quality treatment to my patients and the community.
What is the most rewarding part about being an orthodontist?
This one is the easiest question to answer. If you watch any of the videos on my website you can see I am so grateful to be in a profession that provides such a life changing service to so many kids and adults. We transform a patient’s smile but that does so much more for them. It is so rewarding to watch a shy, unconfident kid just come out of their shell, start talking and smiling more and just being more confident once their teeth start getting straighter. I have an opportunity to connect with so many kids (and adults) and not only build a relationship with them but influence them in a positive way.
I am part of the cleft palate and craniofacial clinic and many of these patients have been through so much. They have very complex dental and orthodontic needs and it can be very challenging technically but also emotionally. Watching them positively change physically and emotionally is one of the most rewarding things we do at my office.
Invisalign is the popular trend lately, is this as effective as braces?
Invisalign has been a company for about two decades now. However, it was not until the digital scanner technology became available that it became an extremely valuable tool for Sims Orthodontics. This is because it allows for very accurate models of the patients teeth including their 12 year molars. I love how I can treatment plan on the computer a final outcome to show patients what Invisalign can achieve.
Invisalign has done a great job marketing its product but even a better job working with orthodontist to improve the mechanics of how it straightens teeth. So, when the patients wears their Invisalign 22 hours a day it can be as effective as braces.
Can everyone get Invisalign or are there still cases in which braces are better?
Compliance is the key with Invisalign. You have to wear it for teeth to move. With that being said, a highly-motivated patient can get the smile and occlusion they want with Invisalign. There are times where braces may be more efficient or a combination of appliances like an expander and limited braces area needed in conjunction with Invisalign but I would say 95% of patients I see can be a candidate for Invisalign if we treatment everything correctly. It is a very exciting time in orthodontics because we have new tools like Invisalign that is opening the doors to many people who would never have chosen braces as a way to straighten their teeth.
Do you think Invisalign is the future of orthodontics?
I believe clear aligners like Invisalign, 3D Printing and digital scanning is where the future of orthodontics is heading. There will always be a place for braces due to compliance and some patients like the hands off approach braces provides but the digital age is in front of us and orthodontics is definitely a part of it. It’s an exciting time to be an orthodontist and also exciting time for a teenager or adult who would like their teeth straighten!
Will there be any other major technological advances in your industry in the next decade? If so, what?
I think in-office 3D Printing, digital treatment plans (combination of Itero Scanning, 3D x-rays and computer software) and clear aligners like Invisalign will be advancing in the next ten years.
3D printing will allow the orthodontist to design, customize and produce clear aligner trays, appliances and retainers in their office rather than an outside company. This will provide more customization, better quality control and faster turn around.
I gave an example in a earlier question on how we used a digital scan of my patient’s teeth along with a 3D x-ray scan to simulate orthognathic surgery on the computer. We were able to show the changes in their profile, what the bite will look like and also make a customized splint for the patient to wear after surgery is done.
Now that you have multiple offices, what is your average day like?
At Sims Orthodontics we realized some of our patients were traveling a long way to come see us (45-60 minutes) so by having multiple satellite offices it provides a another layer of convenience for our patients. We still see patients from 8-5pm usually Monday-Friday and all the patients are seen by the same orthodontist (me) at each appointment. Since the majority of patients only need to be seen every 6-10 weeks we can find that appointment that works best for their schedule.
Where did you go to undergraduate and dental school?
I am a third generation graduate from Auburn University. I graduated with a Biomedical Science degree and a 3.97 GPA. While I was at Auburn I did research with Brown Bats and Cotton Mouth snakes. Yes, I ended up having to get trained in poisonous snake handling to work this those animals! After four years at Auburn, I was 1 of 82 applicants accepted into the University of Florida College of Dentistry program. It was an exciting time to be at UF because Tim Tebow was playing football and he won two nationals championships! I ended up graduating in the top 5% of my class and from there went on to be accepted as one of four orthodontic residents at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center 30 month specialty program!
Last but not least, what made you decide to go to dental school while an undergraduate?
Well, when I was a Freshman at Auburn University I was going to follow in my father’s footsteps and become an Engineer. However, after the first semester I decided to switch to Biomedical Science. This opened the doors to medical and dental pathways and I actually applied and was accepted to Auburn’s Pharmacy school at the end of my Sophomore year. I had a huge decision to make: Follow in my mom & grandfather’s footsteps and take over the family pharmacy or create a new path in something I am passionate about. I realize that engineer and pharmacy lacked something that I was craving – personal relationships with people. As a result, I decided to pursue dentistry as a profession that combines engineering, working with my hands, medicine and people.
What advice would you give a dental school student today?
First thing is honestly keep your expenses low and “live like a resident” because so many students are graduating with a large amount of student debt. This will limit their options getting out and may force them to work for a corporate company or delay starting their own practice. It also makes it difficult to focus on the patient when they are drowning in debt.
The second thing is treat people right because if you don’t someone else will. This involves a combination of doing quality dentistry, having genuine relationships with your patients and building a positive culture in our office for your team.