After graduating from the UNC School of Dentistry in 2019, Dr. Sabrina Saunders joined the team at Solomon Family Dentistry in Summerville, South Carolina. In her short time there, she’s already led the practice’s entrance into the field of orthodontics. We recently sat down with Dr. Saunders and spoke about her background and what it’s like introducing SureSmile™ to a practice.
Thank you for carving out some time for us today. What’s your dentistry origin story?
When I was in middle school, I attended a “take your daughter to work day” with my mother who was a nurse. You need to understand that as a kid I hated my mom being on call, and I hated it when she had to leave suddenly. So, I had already decided that I didn’t want anything to do with healthcare. But to my utter dismay, I found that I loved it when I went to work with her.
I started working for the doctor’s office that she worked for when I was in high school. I had duties like filing charts and scheduling patients. A couple of the doctors suggested I should learn the business side of practice in case I ever want to own my own practice. Another one of the doctors mentioned that his brother is a dentist and joked that “they have way better lives than we do.” So I checked out the profession of dentistry.
I loved it! I’m a pretty creative person and I love how dentistry connects the artistic and scientific sides of my brain. And I love making people happy.
I got my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Then I became a “double tar heel” by enrolling at the UNC School of Dentistry, which is where I got my DDS.
How did orthodontics wind up on your radar?
In dental school, Invisalign® provided free training on their platform for all residents. I reached out to the practice that I’d be working for after graduation and asked them about Invisalign. They replied that they didn’t offer any type of orthodontic treatment, but if I wanted to create that niche within the practice, they’d support me. The catch is that the practice is exclusive to Dentsply Sirona. So, I got trained on Invisalign in school, but started with SureSmile after graduation.”
The SureSmile software is considered much more robust than Invisalign. How did you learn the system?
My only exposure to any orthodontic software was with Invisalign when I was a student. The SureSmile software was completely new to me. Our SureSmile representative scheduled a call and we walked through it all together.
SureSmile’s orthodontic software allows the dentist to have more control than Invisalign, with regard to how moving a certain tooth can affect the overall outcome, but there is a steeper learning curve. But now that I understand the system, I find it’s super easy to use. I know where everything is located and how it works. I definitely recommend setting up a training session for anyone who’s new to the SureSmile platform, even if they feel like they’ve mastered the Invisalign software.
What’s it like working on the SureSmile platform?
Personally, I really enjoy the whole planning process! I’m not the type who’s going to scan a patient, send out the impression and wait to get the aligners back. I want to create my own prescription for them. I want to rotate teeth. I like looking for specific angulation for select teeth. I want to consider the final design.
Another thing I love is having the three-dimensional setup to work with. It enables me to really go through and see exactly how I want that smile to look. Whether it’s tipping or rotating, where to perform IPR or anything else.
I like using the lip trace function. It lets me take an image of the patient, trace around the lips and it places their new teeth in the photo. Now you can tell it’s a simulation, and it’s not a photo. But it’s super helpful with case acceptance. I had a patient, whose wife is a hygienist, sign on for treatment. She wanted to see all the simulations, the smile with and without the gums, everything. The simulation helped her see the value in this kind of Dentistry.
It’s also worth mentioning how easy the lab is to work with. I have a case going on right now where there were a few things I wanted to tweak from the SureSmile prescription. Rather than emailing back and forth, they reached out to me and set up a quick call. We went through the case together. That’s unheard of with other aligner services.
How do you find cases?
One of the first cases I treated was on our hygienist. She’s wearing her SureSmile aligners right now and she is our best advocate. Sometimes when she’s talking to patients she’ll say something like, “sorry if I’m talking a little funny, I just got my new aligners and I’m just getting used to them.” It’s great because the patient can’t see that she’s wearing them because they’re so clear. This is so important for adult patients.
Right now I never tell the patient they need braces unless it is a mixed dentition case and/or it’s something we have to refer the patient out to get treated. The cases that I bring up are when a bite is shifting, or the teeth are chipping. As long as it ends with an “ing” and it’s something that’s actively going on, I feel comfortable bringing it up.
Do patients request other services by name?
They’ve all seen the advertising, and obviously more people know about Invisalign than SureSmile. When I talk to patients about it, I say it’s clear aligner orthodontic therapy. They say “oh you mean Invisalign?” I just tell them it’s very similar, but just a different brand and it gives me more control to produce ideal results.
If you had to describe your SureSmile experience in a single word?
If I had to describe my SureSmile experience in a single word, it would be impressive. It’s impressive how quickly teeth shift because there are so many points of contact. It’s impressive that you’re getting such a precise movement. It’s just an impressive platform.
Like so many adults, I also had bracket braces. But I was actually in dental school when I got my teeth treated. And I couldn’t believe the difference it made in my confidence level when smiling and talking to people. These are important traits when you’re a dentist.
Thank you for your time Dr. Saunders!