by Jessica McElroy
Photography courtesy of Birth and Fletcher Orthodontics
A smile can often be one of the first things people notice about someone. It is welcoming, exudes friendliness and confidence, and transcends language differences. Birth and Fletcher Orthodontics have worked for the smiles of Burleson for 26 years, with 15 of those years from their spot near Grump’s Burgers in Old Town, right off of Main Street. You would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t noticed the mural they have painted on the outside of their office wall when driving down Renfro Street. Dr. Sheila Birth has been a part of our community since moving here after college. She grew up in the Texas panhandle but has since made Burleson her home. “Burleson is a great city. It’s filled with great schools and great people and it’s still growing. We had a lot of patients that traveled to our practice on Sycamore School Road for years, and for a while it was a fairly easy trip as there was really no traffic. That isn’t quite the case anymore. As it grew, Burleson became more and more independent and residents didn’t want to leave to find services anymore, so we opened up a practice right here.” With the amount of dedication and time this business has put into the Burleson community it should come as no surprise that they are this month’s Local Favorite.
When asked what sets them apart from similar practices, Dr. Birth acknowledges the incredible impact her partner, Dr. Fletcher, has had on their practice. “She is wonderful, and definitely a part of what helps set us apart. We are able to bounce ideas off of each other and have a second set of eyes to take a look at cases that may need it. Having her here also allows us both the time to continue our education and stay on the leading edge of technology, ensuring we are earning the knowledge to offer more to our patients without closing down the practice to have time to do so. We very rarely have to close the office.”
A little-known fact is that only 1 in 3 orthodontists carry the distinction of Board Certification from the American Board of Orthodontics (ABO). Achieving board certification can take 5-10 years and culminates in traveling to sit for a two-day written exam, a presentation of cases that candidates for certification have completed with proof of the high standards they have met in their practice. Both Dr. Birth and Dr. Fletcher have earned the distinction of ABO Certification, which truly does set them apart. There is certainly something to be said of a practitioner or professional of any sort who continues to educate themselves and actively invests in their own care practices. This extra effort goes a long way toward their ability to provide better care for their patients while offering their clients the best and most innovative treatment options possible. Should you or a loved one find that you need orthodontic care, you can rest assured that with Dr. Birth and Dr. Fletcher you are receiving the best. “When you do that extra work to look at and evaluate your cases, and sit for that board exam you’re improving the care you can offer for each patient down the line for many years to come.”
One of the technological advances being put into practice is something called Dental Monitoring. The innovative practice uses a case that attaches to a patient’s phone and allows them to scan their teeth and upload the images to an app weekly, or as often as needed for their particular treatment plan. The office is able to keep an eye on both progress and hygiene, and then send a message to the patient (or in the case of adolescent patients, to both them and their parents) about improvements or adjustments that may need to be made. “It allows us to check in weekly without them having to come into the office each time. This technology changes the game. They don’t have to take time out of their lives to be in the office as often, and yet you’re able to monitor their progress closer and more carefully than ever before.” Dr. Birth gives credit to her staff for the office’s flexibility and their willingness to apply this new advanced approach, leading the way for Orthodontic care in North Texas by doing so. “We have such a great staff and we have worked together for a really long time. If we want to try something new, they are always so good at implementing it.”
A trip to their incredibly in-depth and well-run website provides clients and potential clients an extensive look at the many services they offer. Their website is proof that they do not shy away from educating their patients on the possibilities open to them. Dr. Birth shared that they encourage prospective clients to look up information and honest patient reviews about treatment options on their website or even YouTube to ensure they feel informed and confident about their decision before moving forward. Their website also hosts a blog with informational posts on the different types of braces, how to eat certain foods while caring for your smile, best hygiene practices, retainer care and more. The treatments offered at Birth and Fletcher include, but are not limited to, braces and Invisalign, orthodontic appliances for sleep apnea, widening of dental arches, and drug-free treatment for problems such as migraines, tinnitus, headaches or jaw and neck pain that is often associated with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD).
Tru Denta is an approach for treating TMJ/TMD that is gaining popularity due to its lack of reliance on injections or drug treatment. Dysfunction of the chewing joint can present itself simply as sore jaw muscles, or it can lead to an avalanche of other symptoms including ear stuffiness, headache, vertigo, migraines and tinnitus just to name a few. “It can begin by a person clenching or grinding their teeth, which can make the muscles sore but also create knots in those muscles. When someone continues to clench with those knots it’s like putting 260 lbs. of pressure on each joint. The nerves then follow that same path when they come off the spinal cord, and we know certain trigger points along that path can force different issues. It can cause quite a bit of pain.” Tru Denta helps to balance the joint muscles and soothe those trigger points by using a laser to reset the nerve pathways so it is secure. “On average it takes about 12 visits and has a 95% success rate.” Perhaps the best part of this non-invasive approach is after the treatment is deemed a success, you don’t have to keep coming back for more rounds.
A widening of dental arches is done on most patients. In fact, Dr. Birth noted that they very rarely extract teeth because that can make the mouth smaller and leave the patient more prone to airway obstruction and sleep apnea. Widening the arches from side to side allows for more room for the tongue to move forward into and through the mouth which opens up the airway and can help significantly with breathing issues. A sleep apnea appliance can also help with airway obstruction by opening the jaw forward and is an excellent option for those looking for an alternative to a CPAP machine. “CPAP can be cumbersome. It’s noisy, it can be very difficult for people to relax enough to sleep with something on their face, they’re difficult to travel with and people just don’t like them. But sleep apnea can be very dangerous, so a simple sleep apnea appliance that is FDA approved and insurance covered can be an excellent option.” Patients suffering from sleep apnea or snoring who may be seeking help from a sleep doctor can ask for a referral to Birth and Fletcher Orthodontics to inquire about this retainer like device. They are happy to accept referrals and have excellent working relationships with many other dentists in the area, while also accepting walk in clients who are just looking for a consult. Consults are free and include a panoramic x-ray that show all of the teeth as well as a 3D x-ray that allows for a look at the skeletal structure and airway. “You are really getting the works with this free consult. We aren’t just looking at your teeth, we are looking at everything.”
While widening dental arches and bringing the jaw into alignment to fix breathing issues might not be what most people think of first when they think of Orthodontic care, Invisalign is a treatment option more people are likely to have heard of before. It has been around as an alternative to traditional braces for many years now, yet Dr. Birth says it has evolved over the years and it maintains its spot among the more innovative options for patients seeking help with their smiles. “I wish more people knew that with Invisalign, we can use it for phase one treatment which is where we start early. Starting early and getting expansion with just the aligners means we don’t have to put bulky expanders in the mouths of these little kids anymore. That is a big deal.” She says they can start treatment as early as six years old. The benefits of starting treatment sooner lay in the ability to work with the growth of the body that is already happening at a rapid rate, making it easier to adjust one’s bite or teeth spacing. It can be a bit more difficult to address issues later, but of course, there is truly no age limit on when someone can seek treatment. Dr. Birth acknowledged that they have patients well into their 80’s and even in their 90’s seeking treatment.
When asked what she hopes the next 15 years might look like for the practice, Dr. Birth smiled really big and said “I hope we are still offering excellent service and creating beautiful smiles for Burleson. A smile is very important, so that is our goal.” With their proven track record of going the extra mile for their patients, and building a team who is not afraid of the work associated with that, we have no doubt that they will succeed.