Editor’s intro: As the patient population evolves and has different demands, orthodontists need to focus on faster, more comfortable, but still profitable treatment options.
Dr. Bill Dischinger discusses delivering a better product to an ever-changing patient population
I recently had an article published in an orthodontic magazine. In one of the final drafts, the magazine editor was requesting more content on the “treatment.” As a practicing orthodontist, I have to be honest; we all can diagnose cases, and we all can treat cases, but our profession right now is at a crossroads. The debt level coming out of residency for these “kids” (sorry, I know they aren’t kids, but they are to me) is so outrageous; they will struggle to ever pay it off. They are entering into corporate practices, making lower salaries, and some are trying to start a private practice in their “free time.” They have to be as efficient as possible and see these patients as few times as possible to make these “side gigs” work. In addition, corporate orthodontic companies are able to run with lower overheads and thus provide treatments at lower fees than some private practitioners. Direct-to-consumer ortho is not going away: Any orthodontist who thinks eventually it won’t be a good, viable product that threatens our specialty is the same, backward-thinking doctor who tried to say Invisalign® would never fly, and that braces would always be the only and best way to treat patients.
We orthodontists need content that is not so focused on the minutiae of diagnosis but on the overall big picture of delivering a better product to an ever-changing patient population with different “demands” than in the past. We need to be giving patients treatment options that are faster — with fewer visits and more comfortable — and for us, more profitable, as there is definitely a ceiling to where we are going to be able to take our fees as more and more corporations get involved in orthodontics. We have to deliver the best customer service experience possible as well. I know I’m totally on a soapbox right now, but I am sure we are all quite familiar with Dr. David Sarver. He is one of the most respected orthodontists in our profession and has been for a long time. One of his agendas over the past 5 years is exactly what I’m talking about — how to help our specialty be the best it can be moving forward with all the things I have described earlier. Recognizing that there are, and always will be, changes within our profession, Dr. Sarver is having me and many others speak at the AAO in Atlanta on the range of topics we must discuss. I will be specifically addressing exactly this and how we can evolve our practices to achieve this, whether it be with more efficient treatments, better customer service, and so on. These messages need to be in the forefront right now, not just “case studies.” I hope I’m not offending anyone in how I’m writing this viewpoint, but I love my specialty. That is why I teach at University of the Pacific, why I lecture and teach around the world. We have to be better than what we currently are, or we will lose this great profession. When I was in dental school, the number one respected profession was pharmacy. That profession is vastly different now. Orthodontics is right behind it if we don’t change.
Editor’s call to action
One of Dr. Dischinger’s patient’s different demands was comfort, and to achieve that efficiently, he chose a Herbst appliance. Read about his experience.