I was delighted to receive an invitation from the British Orthodontic Society to their annual orthodontic conference which was held in Manchester. I arrived the evening before and found my way to my hotel near the Salford Quays. There is an excellent tram system in Manchester and I discovered my hotel was just a couple of stops from the conference centre.

Arriving early on the first morning, I took the opportunity to catch up with a couple of people and to look around the poster display. I will be writing about a couple of the posters in another article so won’t say too much here other than it provided a great opportunity to learn about some fascinating research being undertaken by post-graduates on a wide range of orthodontic related topics.

My first event was the press conference in which the new branding for the Society was unveiled along with details about their new campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the importance of retention post treatment. Having been involved in both as part of the BOS Patient Panel, I was keen to see how they would be reported by the assembled media and wasn’t disappointed. The retention campaign under the hashtag #HoldThatSmile gained a great deal of publicity after the event and still regularly appears in various posts and articles several months after the launch.

The press event also provided an opportunity to catch up with a number of people including Simon Littlewood and others in the Societies’ Management Team to discuss the conference, the campaigns and some of the key topics in orthodontics. The BOS Press team, lead by Caroline Holland are always a pleasure to catch up with and I continue to be grateful for the enormous support they provide to me.

The conference had multiple activities taking place simultaneously so it was always a judgement call as to which lecture I attended. There were several occasions when I wanted to be in two places at once and this presented a bit of a dilemma at times which only serves to illustrate what an incredibly worthwhile event the conference provides to those working in orthodontics.

The first lecture I attended was delivered by Prof Tony Ireland who described the process he and his team went through to undertake a clinical trial on ‘Chewing Gum and Orthodontic Pain Relief’. I have heard Prof Ireland speak before and his delivery is always thought provoking and entertaining. The processes involved in a trial like this are quite staggering considering the amount of regulatory requirements to meet and I certainly learned a great deal about why it can take quite a while for a trial to be conducted.

Nigel Harradine gave an excellent presentation on ’40 years in orthodontics: What has changed?’ His lecture focussed on some of the major changes that have taken place and also some of the reasons and research behind these changes. It was fascinating to hear about his experiences and to see how the patient experience would have changed over this time as new methods and materials would have improved not only the comfort for the patient but the options available for the orthodontist. One of the key messages I took from the presentation was a quote from Edward De Bono, ‘what I do works, so why should I change’, ‘imprisoned by competence’ and I think this is important so will be exploring this more in a future article.

Chris Chang, an orthodontist based in Taiwan, gave an entertaining presentation on ‘Simplified Mechanics for Impacted Teeth’. He advocated the use of screws as a means of applying forces to provide tooth movements that would be difficult by other methods. This was followed by an interesting lecture from Prof Sabine Ruf and Simon Littlewood on retention. Prof Ruf focussed her lecture on the clinical studies around stability and retention whereas Simon Littlewood looked at the history of retention, where are we now and what might lie in the future. I’m meeting with Simon in the near future and will be covering this topic in a lot more detail as this is something I’m interested in and keen to support through my writing.

The second day started with a lecture from Stefano Troiani, a Danish Orthodontist, on ‘The 4 challenges of orthodontic finishing’. His presentation focussed on challenges and choices faced by orthodontists and options they need to consider to provide the result the patient and the orthodontist is looking for. From my perspective, this certainly provided a great insight into the level of detail that goes into treatment planning and on-going treatment decision making that I’m sure most patients would have absolutely no awareness of.

The Northcroft Memorial Lecture was delivered by Prof Dirk Wiechmann on ‘Quality or compromise – a fork in the orthodontic road’. His lecture focussed on how the quality of treatment outcomes were linked to treatment planning, the use of new technology and customisable appliances to achieve excellent results. Again, a fascinating insight into the skill and expertise that differentiates the outcomes possible from orthodontists and those dentists providing orthodontics.

Asif Chatoo, Lars Christensen and Bjorn Ludwig delivered three lectures around the theme ‘The Great Digital Debate’. I learned a great deal about the future of orthodontics from these lectures and how technology impacts not only the workflow within the orthodontic practice but also the patient experience. I was delighted to hear the patient experience being mentioned several times in these lectures and it was clear that technology provides not only the opportunity for customisable appliances but also a means of the patient fully understanding treatment outcomes, what is possible and what is not, compromises and solutions before they even start their treatment (and no alginate involved). Again, I will be writing more about this in the coming months so won’t go into further detail here.

Whilst not directly related to adult orthodontics, Nicky Mandall delivered an interesting presentation on ‘Early Class III protraction treatments on young patients’. I was curious about this topic and in particular how you can motivate children to wear protraction face masks, the process involved in treatment planning and appliance fabrication. The clinical cases Nicky described achieved some great results and clearly this technique provides superb outcomes for patients over a relatively short period of time.

In addition to the lectures, there was an exhibitor space and I spent time talking to a number of those present representing dental laboratories, treatment systems such as Invisalign, dental service providers, specialist wire manufacturers and many others. More articles to follow on some of these but I’m grateful to all those who took the time to chat to me about their products and services.

I was also able to spend some time with a number of people who read my blog and follow me on Twitter (@BracesUK) and it was great putting faces to names. A couple of people want to work with me on some interesting projects and when I can say more, will write about this.

Overall, it was an incredibly fascinating couple of days. I couldn’t stay for the final day as I had a prior commitment but I’m extremely grateful for the kind invitation extended to me by the conference organising committee of the British Orthodontic Society and for all those who continue to take an interest in my blog.