By Roger P. Levin, DDS
It’s no surprise that orthodontic fees have always been a factor in parent or patient decision making. However, Levin Group is projecting that fees will become even more important from a competitive standpoint. To aid parents and patients in their decisions, it will be necessary for orthodontic practices to create a highly specific system for communicating value within the new patient experience. Most orthodontic practices feel they already communicate value to the potential new patient, but they now must raise their communications to a higher level. This can only happen if an effective system is designed and unfailingly followed.
The Rising Competition in Orthodontic Fees
For many years, orthodontics benefited from the simple economic law of supply and demand, which allowed almost any practice to be successful. Orthodontics was generally delivered through orthodontic practices with only a small number of cases being provided by general dentists. The emergence of aligners though has changed this dynamic in the following ways:
- New service for general dentists. The emergence of the orthodontic aligners has created a new service for general dentists, even if they don’t fully understand orthodontic treatment. This means that a general dentist who may never have provided orthodontic treatment now can treat orthodontic cases at lower fees.
- Competition amongst orthodontic practices. Prior to Internet and social media communication, orthodontic marketing centered more around building relationships with referring doctors than with the local community. With the advent of the Internet, the opportunity to create outreach to patients in the local community skyrocketed. Now there are five areas in which orthodontic practices can and must compete—patients, parents, referring doctors, social media, and the community. This increased level of marketing has also created more competition amongst orthodontic practices, putting pressure on some practices to either maintain or reduce fees in order to compete.
- Direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatment. Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown there was constant news as to the legality, regulation, and even quality of direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatment. However, we still advise orthodontic practices to plan for the fact that direct-to-consumer orthodontics will continue and expand. Why? Because direct-to-consumer treatment fees are considerably lower than orthodontic practice fees – in certain areas over two-thirds lower. Keep in mind that direct-to-consumer orthodontics emerged during a robust economy and we don’t know yet how it will fare in a more difficult economic time. Nevertheless, we always urge orthodontic practices to prepare for any potential competition.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is simple and perhaps even obvious. Orthodontic fees will be under increasing competition from other orthodontic practices, general practices, and direct-to-consumer orthodontics. To help increase case acceptance, orthodontic practices must communicate the value that patients will gain from their investment. We recommend that every new parent or patient undergo a process that helps them to understand why a specific orthodontic practice is right for them. This will require the reinvention of the entire treatment coordinator process and developing a relationship almost instantly with every potential new parent or patient.
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 www.levingroup.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.