Increasing Speed in the Orthodontic Practice by Reducing Friction

Increasing Speed in the Orthodontic Practice by Reducing Friction

Published by Michelle Haupt on

By Roger P. Levin, DDS

There’s a wonderful saying that states, “In business, speed counts.” Orthodontic practices are businesses and speed definitely has an impact on the volume of patients that can be seen each day. Assuming a practice has the right number of referrals, which is the first prerequisite for a successful orthodontic practice, the speed of volume in regard to moving patients through the practice becomes a critical factor in its overall success.

Increasting Speed in Ortho Practices

When we think about an efficient orthodontic practice, it is a practice that has everything in its proper place. The systems are well-defined, the team is positive and motivated, the orthodontist is an excellent clinician and leader, and there are enough patients to meet all goals.

Please understand that this is not a blog about rushing. We do not ever believe in rushing an orthodontist. Rushing leads to stress and usually running behind. This is a discussion about maximizing efficiency through the best use of systems and time management techniques. And time management is one of those critical factors that determines how efficient a practice will be.

Every business has systems that have friction that slows down systems. For example, one practice we worked with had an assistant that was slower than the other assistants. The practice eventually recognized that it was losing up to an hour a day because that one assistant was undertrained and, as a result, underperforming. After this was identified, she received the training that she needed and was able to work faster, which allowed the practice to see more patients, run on time, and eliminate that particular source of friction.

The only way to find friction is to break down a system into steps by literally listing out exactly what must happen to carry out each function. How does the front desk open the day? How is insurance filed? How are new patients handled on the phone and scheduled? Orthodontic practices have many systems and subsystems. Analyzing them one at a time, breaking them down into steps, and identifying where there is friction can make a significant difference. Consider this example:

In one orthodontic practice, the phone was not being answered 10% of the time. This meant that the front desk staff had to reach back out to a parent or patient, often leave a message, and follow up a second time. This usually resulted in missing the opportunity to schedule a new patient after their visit, being interrupted when talking to a current patient, or missing a parent/patient call again. This was not good customer service, and it created inefficiency and friction. The friction was identified as the phone not being answered, which led to several other inefficiencies as well.

Identifying friction or anything that slows down the system is important because the system will only be as fast as its slowest part. Sometimes you can resolve friction by simply reviewing systems that have not been examined in a while. In other cases, technological advances can eliminate friction and speed up systems. You can also avoid friction by training the team to perform their jobs and tasks faster and easier. Speed is important in every business and will have a direct effect on orthodontic practice production, profit, and income. In our studies of wealth accumulation for orthodontists, we found that the more efficient a practice is, the sooner the orthodontist becomes financially independent. As the retirement age of orthodontists continues to get later, this is another critical reason to be as efficient and fast as possible.

Roger P. Levin, DDS is the CEO and Founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 practices to increase production. A recognized expert on dental practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the U.S. and around the world. To contact Dr. Levin or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit or email