Inside Look At Hann Orthodontics

30 December 2016 Written by  By Kristen Hann
Published in January 2017 Articles

Orthodontics is my calling in life.

Nothing is more satisfying to me than observing the positive changes and transformations that I can make in a person’s appearance. Badly aligned teeth can create a sense of shame, diminish self-confidence, and increase the difficulty of maintaining positive social relation­ships. Seriously misaligned teeth can cause problems in biting, chewing, and can even affect clear speech.

A winning smile, on the other hand, is one of the most important elements in creating a good first impression and can have a positive and lasting impact upon every part of a person’s life including success in the classroom and in job interviews. Ninety-two respondents in a survey conducted by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry consider a pretty smile to be a vital asset in society.

I have a gentle and friendly personality, so I work well with children, seniors, and anyone else who might have fears or reservations about dental care. Children like me; we laugh together. Parents report that some of my youngest patients look forward to coming to see Dr. Kristen.

Our orthodontic treatments can repair broken smiles for people of almost any age. More than one million older adults use orthodontics. A much higher number of the aging boomer demographic are embracing orthodontic care than did their parents. For one thing, we are living longer. In 1955 the average life expectancy at birth was only 48 years. Now if we don’t live to be 90 we feel cheated. We may be giving patients who come to us in their 60s four decades of winning smiles.

Another reason why seniors are coming to us in greater numbers is because of the revolution in braces that has occurred during the past few decades. Braces are now bonded to the front of the patient’s teeth and are available in a variety of low-visibility styles. Or they can be mounted to the inside of the teeth and be completely invisible.

The availability and convenience of orthodontics for senior citizens does nothing to alter the advantages of starting treatments early in life. I really am passionate about encouraging early orthodontic treatments. The earlier that orthodontic treatment begins, the more effective its results. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends every child have an orthodontic evaluation before age seven. At that point we can take whatever steps are necessary for preventing problems from showing up at a later time when they will be much more difficult to correct or, in some cases, have become impossible to repair without surgery. Before age ten, orthodontic treatment almost never involves the need for extraction or surgery. Conditions can be repaired with little effort, time, and expense.

I could have been something of a poster child for this myself, because I got Phase I braces when I was nine years old and Phase II in 7th and 8th grade. As a result, I’ve got the kind of perfect smile that makes it easy for people to smile back and was an important asset during my education and training. Of course, the smile now provides an effective and nonintrusive advertisement for the quality of my business.

My other specialty is treating patients with jaw pain. My residency included intensive training in issues involving the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). TMJ disorders are caused by trauma or by clenching and grinding the teeth. Symptoms include muscle soreness, dislocation, pain, popping and clicking of the jaw, and in extreme cases, a locking of the jaw either in an open or closed position.

I am trained to relieve TMJ disorders and to help patients alleviate pain associated with the condition. I especially provide orthodontic care to protect the teeth and jaws from further damage. Patients undergo a series of monthly adjustments that include using a removable device called a night guard — otherwise referred to as an occlusal guard, or splint — that patients wear at night during treatment while the bite is in transition. It also provides a smooth platform to alleviate the effects of grinding and clenching. Each month I will adjust the guard to their bite as the bite is changing.

I’m a new practitioner. I’m 29 years old but appear to be high school age to some people. On the other hand, I’m a recent graduate so my training is current. I mastered technologies, techniques, and practices during my residency and classroom studies that people who had gone through the program five years earlier could have known nothing about. Continuing education is a challenge for every orthodontist, but I have an advantage. They are trying to get to the point that I’m already at.

Hann Orthodontics has some cutting-edge technologies including an Intra Oral Scanner that takes 3-D scans of the teeth. The device eliminates the need to fill a patient’s mouth with cold putty and leave it in place for a couple minutes while the patient tries to suppress his/her gag reflex. With the scanner, we merely pass a wand over all the surfaces of the mouth and jaw. The process is non-invasive, radiation free, and takes only a few minutes. The scanner uses the assembled data in order to create 3-D images of the mouth that have more precision than could have been obtained with any amount of putty. The image is transmitted to my computer where it can be used for assessment, diagnosis, and tracking. I can get the precise measure­ments for any appliance and forward them to the lab or to Invisalign. The scanner provides levels of portability, accuracy, and efficiency that exceed anything most orthodontists could have imagined a decade ago and that nobody on earth could have believed 30 years ago.

Hann Orthodontics offers a number of solutions for misalignment issues with the mouth. Patients can choose the solution that best matches their particular issue, their style, and their budget. We will then implement the solution with kindness and efficiency in order to offer the best experience and the most satisfying results.

Even though I’ve been a practicing orthodontist for less than two years, I’ve been associated with Hann Orthodontics for nearly two decades. My father owned the business, and I started doing filing and typing tasks when I was only ten years old. As I grew older I began sterilizing instruments, and by the time I was in high school I began actually working on patients, performing such minor tasks as changing the ties on their braces.

From the beginning I found Orthodon­tics to be enjoyable and fulfilling. I particularly appreciated the transforma­tions that would occur for some patients from outcomes that I actually had a hand in creating.

After graduating from Carondelet High School in the class of ’06, I enrolled in the pre-dental program at the University of San Diego. I knew for sure that dentistry was my calling, but I was unsure about which direction I really wanted to go. I always enjoyed working with kids and considered pursuing Pediatric Dentistry. In my youth, in spite of the childhood hours spent in my dad’s orthodontic office, I experienced some major dental anxiety myself. During one dental appointment I was administered nitrous oxide. For whatever reason, I had a bad trip; the drug sent me down a frightening road into a dark place. It was so bad that it created negative associations with dentistry that I had to fight against throughout my childhood.

The two dentists I had as a child were capable and caring but I could tell that, even though they were somewhat sympathetic about my fears, they had no empathy at all and could do nothing to help me except to give me useless messages, such as “Don’t be afraid.” “Be a strong little girl.” And the worst one, “This won’t hurt.”

So when I faced my career choice, I was drawn towards Pediatric Dentistry by my desire to help children cope with the anxieties that I had experienced myself. I knew what they were going through; I could empathize with them. I would never tell them, “Be strong.” I would hold their hand and give them such messages as, “I know why you are afraid.” And “I remember when I was afraid, too.”

Nevertheless, I decided to pursue the Orthodontics route. Pediatric Dentistry is tough sometimes. I also knew that I enjoyed working in my dad’s business and felt that my experience in his practice had prepared me to excel in Orthodontics. It would be more natural, perhaps, because I already knew so much about it. The decision became easier when I realized that much of Orthodontics — or perhaps most — focuses on children.

Following my third year in the University of San Diego pre-dental course, I transferred to UOP’s Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. I chose it because of all the schools I knew about, it alone offered the graduate degree in three years rather than four. I was awarded my bachelor degree at the same time that I got my Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree at my 2012 graduation. I had spent only three years in undergraduate education, which meant that I had completed the entire course of studies from high school graduation to my DDS in six years rather than eight.

Graduate school was really difficult and intense because it was shoehorning four years of study into three, but I enjoyed it. I completed my Orthodontic Residency at Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. That was challenging, as well, because our working days ran from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. with a steady stream of patients, broken only by classes during the lunch hour and in the evening. We could eat a sandwich during the noon classroom session but this was a classroom situation and not a cafeteria so we often just skipped the meal.

However, I enjoyed that period of time. I loved each of my instructors and worked with a number of really wonderful patients. At the end I felt that it had been a premium educational experience. I love football, but we were so busy that I never got to Franklin Field to see a single Penn Quakers football game.

I actually bought Dad’s practice before I graduated. We closed the Antioch office and moved all the patients to a temporary site. I finished my residency in June 2015 and opened for business in our modern office in the Meridian Professional Building on Cortona Way in Brentwood on July 1.

The first patient I ever saw was as owner of my own practice. It’s a tough job starting a new business in this environ­ment, but I love what I do; money isn’t the driving factor. Success might take its time coming, but I’m not impatient.

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