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Implementing Orthodontics Into a General Practice
Roger P. Levin, DDS
An increasing number of general practices are adding orthodontics to their service mix. This is primarily due to the introduction of aligners that enable general dentists to treat mainly adult patients, providing both occlusal and cosmetic therapies. Like any service, orthodontics should be properly mastered so that the practice can always achieve the highest standard of care. It is important for dentists to understand when cases are beyond the scope of the general practice and to then refer these patients to the appropriate specialist.
The introduction of any new service, including orthodontics, should be carefully planned, communicated, and marketed to patients. The practice should create systems to generate patient interest and diagnose and present cases. Each of these elements is critical to growing a practice and successfully introducing new services.
Initiating a New Service
A series of steps should be followed when initiating new services. First, the dentist and staff should acquire all necessary knowledge and required education. In the case of a specialty service such as orthodontics, work with a specialist to determine which cases are appropriate for the general practice and which ones should be referred due to their complexity. Next, design a marketing communications program that educates patients about the new service and its related benefits. Then, create a diagnosis program to determine which specific patients are candidates. Follow a step-by-step and script-by-script explanation for potential candidates, and create a case presentation for those candidates who are interested in learning about how the new service will benefit them. Also, it is important for the dentist and staff to master professional selling skills specific to the new service, especially for patients who have not considered this offering in the past. Finally, create attractive financial options for patients to afford the treatment, and develop pricing that ensures a proper profit margin for the practice.
These steps are an excellent way to introduce orthodontics or any other specialty service to the general practice. Many people have never considered orthodontic treatment or even realized they were candidates for the service. The above steps will create a level of interest that allows dentists to identify potential patients, which can lead to a new or increased revenue stream for the practice.
Case Presentation and Orthodontic Treatment
Presenting cases to patients is different for each type of service. For example, root canals, restorations, and extractions each have distinct, basic requirements. Many dental services are performed when a patient’s oral health is in short-term jeopardy. When a patient has, say, a damaged tooth, it’s an easy decision to immediately accept treatment.
Orthodontics, however, spans both necessary care and elective care. Most patients, especially adults, view orthodontics primarily as cosmetic without truly understanding its health benefits (eg, improved speech and reduced decay). Surprisingly, a thorough explanation of the health benefits to patients often helps tip the scales toward case acceptance. This is important to understand so that a practice can present these cases in the most influential and positive way.
Orthodontic treatment is best presented by a staff member who is highly trained using minute-by-minute scripts for the consultation. The goal is to educate patients on the benefits, both cosmetic and clinical, of treatment while stimulating a high level of interest. This cannot be established in a hurried 2-minute conversation during a hygiene check. Instead, it is recommended that patients be scheduled for a no-cost, 1-hour consultation that is highly structured to motivate them to accept treatment.
This 1-hour appointment should begin with a staff member meeting and greeting the patient, and developing a strong relationship with the patient through conversation. The staff member will explain the benefits of orthodontic treatment and discuss case types and processes. The dentist arrives, is introduced, and continues building the relationship. The dentist emphasizes the benefits of treatment; provides a diagnosis, including a projected timeline; answers any questions; and then hands off the consultation back to the staff member. The staff member reinforces the dentist’s skills and recommendations, answers any questions, and presents and reviews financial options. Lastly, the staff member asks if the patient will accept treatment and schedules the first appointment.
Although there are various other aspects to this consultation appointment, the general goal is to educate and motivate the patient to accept treatment.
Adding new services can increase revenue for general practices, but it also can bring new challenges. General practitioners must consider all the advantages and disadvantages before expanding their service mix. The steps discussed in this article can help dentists successfully integrate orthodontics into their practices.
About The Author
Roger P. Levin, DDS
Founder & CEO, Levin Group, Inc.
Management & Marketing Consulting