Thursday, August 30, 2012

Light in the Darkness


All of us have faced an occasional difficulty. But so far, 2012 has delivered five different crises to Dr. Greg Sutherland. 

“I’ve been thinking about it. Since January, I’ve experienced at least five deaths. Some have been physical deaths; I’ve lost people I deeply loved. One represents the end of a thirty-year relationship. One represents my approaching retirement from clinical practice. Though I plan to be in the office for quite a while yet, I'm beginning to see that I won’t work here full-time forever.”

Another death, a physical death, occurred only weeks ago.

“The problem with crisis is that you usually don’t have time to think about it ahead of time,” Greg said in a recent interview. “You simply have to hold on, knowing that it will eventually pass. It isn’t ‘if’ it will end, it’s ‘when’ it ends.”

Though he’s experienced a difficult year, Greg has gathered some treasures along the way. “In every death I’ve experienced a kind of resurrection,” he says. Greg has watched as people take on new and more important roles in the face of tragedy. “My son-in-law became a spiritual leader in a whole new way as his father was dying. He took the night shift with his father, praying with him, holding his hand, and speaking words of comfort and encouragement even when his father could no longer respond.”

In the face of grief, Greg has seen new passions ignited. “When Jesus is involved, even the darkest moments bring new life.” 

Though Dr. Greg isn’t looking for difficulty, it’s easy to see that he’s committed to hang on to Christ in the midst of them. “I refuse to let my responses be determined by what happens to me, or to those I love.” It isn’t always easy; this year, it’s been especially difficult. But as a servant of Christ, it’s the only way.

How about you? Eventually, all of us will experience calamity. A house burns. A child passes. A doctor gives a dreaded diagnosis. When you face crisis, what do you do to weather the storm? Can you share your advice?

 Dr. Greg Sutherland, DDS, MS
With Bette Nordberg

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Added Value: Innovation!

This week, we’ll continue our discussion of Invisalign, the remarkable method of moving teeth using a series of clear plastic retainers.

While the technology is relatively new (you can read about its history in our last blog), its use has become widespread. Even general dentists (with no post-graduate orthodontic credentials) have begun to provide Invisalign to their patients. This is only possible because the trays themselves are made off site—by the Invisalign Company—based on the company’s treatment plans. In this case, both the patient and the dentist must trust Invisalign to provide the best approach for the patient.

However at Smiles by Sutherland, patients can expect more.

Because Dr. Sutherland has been involved with Invisalign from the very early days, his expertise has actually changed the way orthodontic treatment plans are created, especially in the SBS office. Here is one exciting example.

Not so long ago, the orthodontic world believed that tooth movement could only safely occur "one tooth at a time." Practically speaking, this meant that when teeth in the back of the mouth needed to move backward (to make room for the front teeth to move backward too), that motion had to occur slowly, one tooth at a time.

New Patient. Notice upper teeth (crowding, rotation, protruding) cover lower teeth.
When Invisalign began their process followed this "one tooth at a time" philosophy. In those days, patients with protruding front teeth ad to wait through interminably long treatments while the posterior teeth (molars and premolars) were moved backwards. Only then could the front teeth be moved into the newly vacated space.

"Those patients sometimes had to wear more than eighty aligners in order to accomplish this much tooth movement. At two weeks per aligner, that accounts for almost three years of treatment," Dr. Sutherland explained in a recent interview.

It was too long for most patients.

New Patient, lower jaw showing crowding and rotation of central teeth.
About four years ago, Dr. Sutherland began to re-think the concept. He began to believe that with the right adaptations, groups of teeth could be moved together, or "en-masse." In the beginning, Dr. Sutherland went to Invisalign with the idea of adding buttons to his patient's "eye teeth" (canine teeth) and first molars. He attached elastics to these buttons, which provided additional tooth moving force. Later, Invisalign placed laser-made cuts on the aligners accomplishing the same purpose.

With these and other adaptations to the aligners, Dr. Sutherland pioneered what is now called, "en-masse posterior distilization," a process which moves posterior teeth backward in blocks. The new technique allows 3-6 mm of movement in as little as six months, cutting total treatment time, in many cases by half.

New Invisalign processes have changed much of what was believed to be possible about orthodontic treatment. These nearly invisible aligners are now able to change the relationship of the upper jaw to the lower (moving the lower jaw forward). They can open the bit, allowing the lower teeth to become visible (rather than hidden by the upper teeth). They can even change the shape of the upper arch.

Since Dr. Ethan Larson joined Smiles By Sutherland, both he and Dr. Sutherland have continued to share and perfect these new techniques. While you'll never hear them boast, their commitment to efficient and innovative treatment plans have changed the way smiles are made these days. That kind of expertise isn't available just anywhere.

Smiles by Sutherland patients experience these benefits every single day!
After Invisalign, the lower teeth in perfect alignmnet!
Treatment complete. Notice the lower teeth are visible. The rotation and crowding are absent. Beautiful smile!
How about you? Isn't it time that you, or someone you loved, enjoyed the charm and beauty of a new smile?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An Inventor in Our Midst

Today’s blog will be part history, part science and all about Invisalign.

You probably recognize Invisalign as the trademarked name for the process of moving teeth using a custom-designed series of clear plastic retainers. For the patient, the obvious benefit is privacy; most people don’t even realize that you are wearing a retainer!

Though you may have heard the word (in the context of orthodontics), you probably don’t know the history behind this game-changing development in the tooth-moving business. Until the Invisalign process was introduced, the only way to move teeth involved brackets and wire. In children and teens the process of tooth movement often required additional bulky and embarrassing appliances. Remember the old headgear that children often wore? In those days, because braces were so visible, and adult treatment often involved costly surgery, orthodontists rarely had older patients in treatment.

Today, because of Invisalign, much of that has changed.

Actually, the Invisalign process itself wasn’t invented by an orthodontist! Instead, a Morgan Stanly investment banker envisioned the idea. After his own orthodontic treatment ended, his orthodontist gave him clear retainers, instructing him to wear them daily in order to prevent his teeth from regressing—moving away from—their new position.

It didn’t take long for Mr. Zia Chishti to realize that he didn’t have to wear them every day, because, when he put the retainers back in, his teeth resumed their original position. Then the idea came to him that the retainers were actually causing tooth movement. From this simple realization, the concept for Invisalign was born. Mr. Zia Chishti (the banker) joined with Ms. Kelsey Worth—combining their computer science and graphic design backgrounds—to design and create the company behind the Invisalign brand.

Align Technology began promoting their new retainer system to orthodontists in 1999, and Dr. Sutherland joined the revolution in 2000. Since then, Dr. Sutherland has completed enough cases to become an Invisalign Elite Provider. But more than that, he has pioneered brand new applications of the Invisalign technology which have become a routine part of his orthodontic practice. These techniques—processes he designed and created—have changed the way orthodontists view tooth movement. In another blog, we’ll be showing you pictures and giving a clearer explanation of how Dr. Sutherland’s expertise and innovation enabled him to correct tooth alignment in ways other dentists, even the Invisalign designers had never thought possible.

If you, or someone you love—even an adult—believe your smile is too difficult to correct, stay tuned. With pictures and explanations you’ll be able to see for yourself. Almost no smile is too difficult to treat. We promise you’ll be surprised and amazed. Perhaps you’ll even begin to wonder:

Is a new smile in my future?

Dr. Greg Sutherland,
With Bette Nordberg

Friday, August 3, 2012

Finding Dr. Larson

Now that Dr. Ethan Larson has joined Smiles by Sutherland, many of our patients wonder, “How on earth did you find Ethan?”

The answer might surprise you.

The whole process actually began several years before Ethan moved to Puyallup. It all started when I invited several staff members into my office to pray and think about adding another orthodontist to the SBS practice. “At first we started with prayer and then brainstormed about what kind of person we were looking for. Some days, we just prayed.” Eventually, we took it a step further.

On a whim, I wrote out the biography of the kind of person I was looking for. I know it sounds nuts, but I did it anyway:

I wanted someone in his mid-thirties, with two kids.
Of course, he would be a graduate of a great ortho program, but more than that. . .
He would already have contact with orthodontics, either through work, or family.
He would be married to a woman whose family was from Bellevue. (no kidding!)
He would be a Baptist (I know, specific right?).
He would be committed to orthodontics, of course, but more than that . . .
He would be committed to furthering the cause of Christ in the community and in orthodontics.

All through the process, we continued to pray. Eventually, I put just one ad in the magazine for the American Association of Orthodontists. Just. One.

Dolly, Ethan’s wife found that ad and insisted that he call me. Something about that phone call resonated with me. He came to visit us while here in Washington looking at another ortho practice.

Here is how Ethan measured up against my “perfect world associate.” He’s not quite thirty-five, but close. He has four kids, not two. As a graduate of a great ortho program, Ethan has proven himself to be one of the best. His father is an orthodontist. His wife is from Redmond (not far from Bellevue). He’s Presbyterian, not a Baptist. And more than anything, Ethan adheres to the bigger mission of Smiles by Sutherland. All in all, Ethan couldn’t have come much closer to meeting my every hope for the practice.

It’s never easy to add an important staff member to an established business. So far, we’ve had an incredibly smooth transition. Our staff loves him. Patients think he’s wonderful. I’m impressed with his skill, his work ethic, and his commitment to the things I value most. While school prepares students for clinical practice, I hope that I’m helping Ethan find his way in the world of business.

We’ve heard the horror stories, where other dentist-associate relationships crash and burn. So far, we’ve experienced nothing but good from Ethan’s arrival.

We hope that all of you will come to value Ethan as much as I do.

Dr. Greg Sutherland, (with Bette Nordberg)