Dr. Dina Sanchez is a board-certified orthodontist and University
of Maryland clinical professor in the department of orthodontics
and pediatric dentistry. She has been published numerous times,
including in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial
Orthopedics (AJODO), and provides peer review contributions to
journals. She’s a council member for a subgroup of the American
Association of Orthodontists and active in many professional
organizations. She’s also a wife, mother, and self-taught abstract
artist who donates the proceeds of her art sales to families in need
of help with cleft lip and palate procedures. Here she speaks about
the latest advances in orthodontics and why we shouldn’t fear a trip
to the dentist:
What inspired you to become an orthodontist?
It was a documentary I watched as a child about a surgeon
performing cleft lip and palate surgeries for children in the Amazon
in Brazil. The facial malformations and despair of the parents with
these afflicted children was horrifying to me. Yet this surgeon was
able to not only give these children a restored beautiful face, but he
also taught other doctors to perform these surgical procedures. I
realized then that it was possible to combine my many passions—
science, medicine, education and art—into one vocation.
What advice do you give parents when they are choosing a
I am a mother and I listen to my gut when it comes to my children’s
medical care. I recommend the same to other parents. When
children are at ease and are having fun with the orthodontic team
and doctor, then the orthodontic treatment is set up for success.
“When children are at ease and are
having fun with the orthodontic team
and doctor, then the orthodontic
treatment is set up for success.”
Also, when choosing an orthodontic specialist, actually chose an
orthodontic specialist. Orthodontists attain their specialty degree
by completing three additional years of intensive education and
training. In my case, I am also board certified through the American
Board of Orthodontics, a distinction which only one third of
orthodontist have acquired.
What are some of the most significant advances you’ve
seen in orthodontics? And what are some of the emerging
technologies you’re excited to see on the horizon?
This is an incredibly dynamic time for the orthodontic profession.
We’re seeing advances on the biomedical level to find ways to
accelerate orthodontic tooth movement and attain faster treatment
results. There are incredible advances in 3D imaging, 3D scanning,
and clear aligner technologies. Some of the most fascinating data
is arising from the biomedical sector as well as genetics—these will
change the way we will practice orthodontics in the foreseeable
Most people think “orthodontist” and think “braces for kids.”
What other roles can an orthodontist play in a patient’s oral
health, regardless of age?
The influx of adults has been astonishing in the past several
years. My practice is comprised of about 50 percent children and
50 percent adults. The advent of clear aligner technology has
made it convenient for adults to not only achieve the smile they
desire, but also improve their periodontal health and oral hygiene.
Orthodontics has other applications as well. We can have a positive
impact on children with sleep disordered breathing as well as
individuals who are afflicted with sleep apnea. When treating cleft
lip and palate, craniofacial disorders, and jaw deformities, oral
maxillofacial surgeons and orthodontics collaborate to achieve
healthy smiles and harmonize the craniofacial skeleton. There is
also great demand for esthetic enhancements that complement
orthodontic care. Botox, for example, has both therapeutic and
esthetic applications. It can treat clenching, grinding, and gummy
smiles as well as fine lines.
Any advice for patients who are scared of the dentist?
I let my anxious patients know that my purpose is to make them
smile. In fact, most of my patients take a nap while getting their
braces on. This level of comfort is the highest form of trust. From
the moment patients come through the door they are welcomed by
a friendly and kind team. We put a lot of intention into creating a fun
environment where patients feel at ease.
What are some of the impacts to oral health and well-being
if we neglect our orthodontic needs?
An aligned bite and facial harmony are the foundation of long-term
oral health, as well as healthy self-esteem. Many people don’t realize
that orthodontic treatment can preemptively alleviate physical
health problems. Without it, individuals are more susceptible to
gum disease, tooth decay, bone destruction, speech impairments,
chewing and digestive difficulties, dental injuries, and even tooth
loss. Also, feeling awkward about one’s appearance can cause
people to hide their smile, to become withdrawn, and prevent them
from expressing simple joys. Orthodontic treatment can have a
positive impact on people’s lives in many ways.