Leaders Voice; Words to Inspire | Nikkei special edition

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The challenge of an “R&D-type private practitioner”

Shinichi Narita,
Director,
Smile Design Jiyugaoka Orthodontic Clinic

Seeking a quick and painless method of orthodontic treatment

The word “orthodontics” covers a wide variety of treatment methods and approaches. While my main work is as an orthodontics specialist treating mostly junior high and high schoolers, as an “R&D-type private practitioner” I also pour energy into daily research and development.

The object of that energy is a new orthodontic treatment called JETsystem. With this method, we start by creating an environment in which the teeth can be moved efficiently. Then, using passive self-ligating brackets, we are able to take advantage of the system to move the teeth with a weak force.

Since we can therefore start moving the teeth the day after extraction, the method is greatly effective in shortening the treatment period and reducing pain. As the target period for completion of orthodontic treatment, we set a short span of half a year to nine months, and have also succeeded in alleviating pain. We have continuously improved and refined techniques and conventional treatment methods by evolving the straight wire method that began in the 1970s or so. The cumulation of these everyday efforts is, I believe, one of the factors bringing about clinical results that meet the expectations of patients.
Shinichi Narita(Smile Design Jiyugaoka Orthodontic Clinic)

The need for updating treatment methods

What actually led me to start R&D on JETsystem was encountering a young patient in 2006 who was critically ill. I wanted to complete his orthodontic treatment as early as possible, before his illness worsened further. This was the driving force for my R&D on “quick and painless orthodontic treatment.”

Naturally we also provide regular treatment at our clinic, but this is limited to three days a week. The rest of my time is spent giving lectures and academic society presentations, and to researching orthodontic methodology. Even now I take part in academic society meetings around ten times a year. Since I always want to take in the views of other people, including various criticisms, I offer lecture topics at the Japanese Orthodontic Society. I deliberately create opportunities for myself to hear third party views in an open setting because I believe it is necessary for promoting new growth.

In 2011, I started giving seminars for dentists specializing in orthodontics. These have been attended to date by a total of more than 500 dentists and dental hygienists. Our clinic alone cannot popularize the JETsystem orthodontics technology. I also believe it’s necessary to raise the level of the industry as a whole.

In my daily research and clinical practice, various questions and issues inevitably arise. It’s important that I keep asking myself, and answering, “Is what you are doing really sufficient? Is this really the best approach?” and that I continue to search for a better treatment. It’s also vital to develop a habit of flexible thinking, free of assumptions, and to continually improve based on feedback from clinical practice. Continuing to carry out R&D with such an awareness is the key to updating the treatment methodology each year and changing it in a better direction.
Shinichi Narita(Smile Design Jiyugaoka Orthodontic Clinic)

There is no resting on laurels when it comes to R&D

Asians tend to have narrow jaws, so that in many cases there is not enough space for all the teeth to be lined up properly. The majority of orthodontics cases therefore require extraction. Since our JETsystem is an orthodontics treatment that is especially effective in extraction cases, I would like to see its use spread not only among Japanese but throughout Asia as a whole.

During 2020, we expect to develop a new bracket in-house; and I plan to give presentations in Thailand, Taiwan and other parts of Asia. In attempting to pass along technology globally, we have to deal with technology gaps among regions. There may be some things we take for granted in Japan that do not apply elsewhere. So while I have expectations that there is still plenty of room for further expansion of JETsystem, it will also be necessary to refine it into a simpler and more effective treatment method.

Patients who come for orthodontic treatment do so for many reasons, such as to straighten their teeth for improved articulation or for simply aesthetic reasons. Invariably, there is also some kind of lurking concern behind the desire for treatment, such as trouble with human relations at work due to poor teeth alignment. I believe an important role of an orthodontist is to show an understanding of such unseen factors.

Even patients with the same kind of teeth alignment, for example, may require different treatment because of the particular environment or position they are in. Proposing a treatment approach that goes so far as to take such factors into account is vital.

This is one more reason why we cannot simply be content with the technology and experience compiled up to now. We must always provide patients with choices in line with the changing times and matched to their wishes. Steadfastly moving forward one step at a time, I want to keep on developing and polishing the technology.

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