Swords Orthodontics
17 Main St, Swords, Co Dublin, Ireland

Technology and orthodontics, where does it go? And when?

I had some blogs about technology for the last couple of days, I think I'll stay on topic for this one.

It seemed like something I should be keen on, I've seen enough sci-fi movies, but I have no specific interest in techie things and gadgets. It took me a while and a Palm Pilot to realise this, but knowledge of self is always handy even when it comes late.

There's a classic description called the Rogers Curve, where people get used to new technologies or progress in general. Some are really at the start of it  - innovators. They love the new stuff as long as it's new. As soon as something newer comes along, they're interested in that, whether it's better or worse. There aren't too many of them. Then there's early adopters - they like to embrace new things and stick with them. The majority of people come along later - when the technology has been improved enough for a mass market, and is easy enough to use and reliable enough in use that it's worth giving up what you were used to. 

There's another group called "the laggards" and basically they only take something on board when they don't have much choice - the stuff they're used to dealing with starts to get hard to find. If you needed a VHS cassette and weren't going online to buy it, what would you do?

I guess I'm in the majority, but probably in the later part of it. When something works, and it is a significant improvement over what I'm using, then show it to me. Otherwise you have a solution to a problem I don't have.

So Mobile Phones is a good example - my first was a Motorola.

It had an aerial.

That was 6 years after the first person in my group of friends got his, and 1 year after everyone else had theirs. Everyone laughed at him when he took it out of his pocket, and a few years later they laughed at me for not having one.

Then there was a series of Nokias until I got a free Samsung smartphone with my subscription. It was pretty poor, bythe standards of the time but I didn't know because I'd no interest in gadgets. I was impressed because I could use it to read an Irish news headline in a cave in Poland. I couldn't tell the difference between that and an iPhone, or the kind of Samsung that you didn't get free, and I couldn't figure out why there wasn't a Nokia equivalent of it. I went back to Motorola about 5 years ago, and if I need a new one in the near future, I'll probably go for a new Moto. Strangely, I've no desire to own an iPhone, same way I've never owned or wanted a Mac.

For me, the thing that made mobile phones more usable wasn't the device but the fee structures. They have probably had more variation over the 20 years I've owned a mobile than the mobiles themselves. For my patients who are younger than my original phone, it's unimaginable not just that these phones didn't connect to the internet but how much you had to pay to send a text or make a call and your unused money expired in a month.

But the great advantage of Nokias when they were about was this - because nearly everyone had one, you'd always find someone who'd have a charger. Even in another country when I'd forget my adaptor for the electric socket, you'd just go to a place where there was a group of people who weren't going to move for a while and say "excuse me, does anyone have a charger for a Nokia?"

Ultimately, I think we get to a point where the technology hits a plateau for most of us. Someone is away in the background making the next big thing, but for while nothing really big is coming along to make a radical change. So it's the small details like the pricing of mobile phone plans, the cost of owning a device or subscribing to a service, or what your friends (or a bunch of random strangers in a coffee shop) are using.

Eventually, I presume the mobile phone will be integrated in our bodies. Perhaps there'll be a video link to our optic nerve. Chances are that'll be a driver for the technology that treats blindness rather than the actual desire to treat blindness. When that comes along, I won't be in the queue outside the shop to get the new gear implanted in my head (I've read enough William Gibson books over the years). Until then, I reckon finding a device that has the same charger as someone else in the building who will lend me theirs is likely to be a bigger selling point.

In orthodontics, for the rest of my career, I expect the delivery of treatment to the patient won't change much as regards what we do to the teeth compared to what our patients see us doing now. The advances will be in the technology around it- scanning, imaging, digital planning, online collaboration, customising the treatment and the braces (or aligners) even more for the individual patients.

On the other hand, technology has a habit of evolving in directions that no one imagined until it's out there and people find there own uses for it.

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