Over the last 20 years, orthodontic practices have evolved considerably. For orthodontic practitioners, adopting the latest technological advances helps them ensure favorable outcomes and greater satisfaction for the patient.
We visited Dr. Ben Cozad at his practice Hughes and Cozad Orthodontics in The Woodlands, TX.
Here is our conversation with him about a career in orthodontics, new technologies, and providing care for the person, not just the teeth. He also shared with us some of the latest innovations that allow for faster treatment and great results in orthodontics.
Meet Dr. Ben Cozad
TAO: Tell us a little about yourself and how you decided to become an orthodontist?
Cozad: I grew up here in Houston, I love Texas. I’m proud to call this my home and I’m excited to get to practice near where I grew up. I love technology. I do a lot of woodworking, and I’m also a big Lego builder. You can find me with my boys at our house building all sorts of crazy things.
I decided to become an orthodontist when I was in middle school. I had visited an orthodontist when I was 8 years old and my mouth was a mess. Having my teeth straightened, really made a huge impact on my life. I decided that it was something I wanted to be able to do for other people. So, on career day in 8th grade, I decided that this was what I was going to do with my life, and here I am 25 years later, still doing it.
TAO: What are some of the things that satisfy you the most about your profession?
Cozad: The thing that keeps me coming to work every day is the transformation that we can provide for our patients. Sometimes that transformation takes a matter of months, sometimes it takes years. It’s really cool to watch our patient’s confidence change as they work their way through treatment, and to see kids grow up. It is really satisfying to build relationships with people and experience life with them along the way.
TAO: What are some of the things that worry or concern you about the orthodontic field right now?
Cozad: Nowadays, we’re used to doing everything we can online. While some things we can order online with little risk, other things it’s better to do in person, like healthcare. The quality of care you get over the internet can’t be compared to a person to person relationship with your doctor.
This isn’t a pair of shoes that you are going to order and return if they don’t fit. This is something that you want to fix once and get it right for the rest of your life.
There’s no substitute for an examination in person with a dedicated orthodontist. There are many things that are missing when someone only has a mold of your teeth. Whether that’s bone loss on one area, or an extra tooth, or a missing tooth, there’s always something in the radiographs that affect the way that we are planning your treatment. We want to make sure that the teeth are in healthy bone before we start moving them.
TAO: What have been some of the changes that you have seen regarding technology in orthodontics?
Cozad: Orthodontics has changed dramatically in the past 20 to 30 years in regard to technology. For a long time, doctors took x-rays with traditional film, and they used gels and molds to get copies of your teeth that they poured up in stone. That is why I call it the stone age.
Now, all our x-rays are digital or even three dimensional, and this allows us to visualize your soft tissue, your bone, and even your airways. Also, we don’t have to do the mold of your teeth anymore. We have these special color cameras that we can put on your mouth and get exact copies of your teeth and send off to labs to help manufacture different appliances for you.
One of the benefits to the patients is now you spend less time in our office. Behind the scenes, while you’re not at your orthodontist’s, we’re working hard designing your trays, clear aligners, or even your wires. We use accurate three-dimensional scans and simulate the movement of your teeth on a computer, and then we program a robot who’s able to bend wires to a degree of precision beyond what the human eye can see. This helps make your treatment more predictable and more efficient.
TAO: What are some of the factors that a patient should consider when choosing an orthodontist?
Cozad: I would say towards the top of the list it’s picking an orthodontist that you feel comfortable with. You want to find an orthodontist that has a personality that you like, that you feel comfortable asking questions to, and someone whose treatment approach lines up with what you have envisioned for your teeth and your health.
TAO: What would you say to a middle schooler who is looking at an orthodontic career in the future?
Cozad: I would say that it’s never too early to consider all your options. So, if you have a passion for something like dentistry or orthodontics, I would encourage you to chase that, even from a young age. Call your orthodontist, call your dentist, ask to spend time in their office, just to get a better understanding of what they do. Also, make sure you stay focused on school. Academics are a big part of medicine and dentistry, and in order to be considered a competitive applicant for schools, it’s important that you have good grades. If you look at the number of people who matched in an accredited orthodontic residency program, it’s almost identical with the same number of people that were drafted into the NFL in one year. That gives you a perspective on how competitive it is to become an orthodontist.
TAO: Any final words?
Cozad: We spend a lot of time talking about teeth in orthodontics, but at the end of the day, it’s all about people. We don’t treat teeth, we treat people who happen to have teeth in their mouth. That’s one of the most important things to remember. Every day, when someone walks through our door, they’re a person first and a patient second. It is always important to see the person and the story behind the teeth.