A new orthodontic mindset

Dr. Amy Jackson writes about direct-to-consumer retention and other ways that you can customize direct-to-door delivery of orthodontic care.

Dr. Amy Jackson discusses at-home, direct-to-door delivery of orthodontic care

What is your opinion of direct-to-consumer aligner companies?

Personally, I believe orthodontic therapy that is not doctor-centric can at best fall short of the goal and at worst lead to deleterious effects. However, this direct-to-consumer aligner surge has led to market awareness, increased consumer spending on orthodontic treatment, and educated us on how we can meet the demands of this new consumer behavior.

Direct-to-consumer aligner therapy has no doubt resulted in unprecedented changes to orthodontic consumer behavior. It is important to recognize this for an industry like ours — one that is historically stubborn and hesitant to adapt to fast-paced changes.

Systemic, industry-wide change usually comes from one of two places: accessibility to new, advanced technology and changes in consumer behavior. In our industry, we are experiencing both of these drivers simultaneously. In the case of accessibility to technology, almost every orthodontist I know has an intraoral scanner and has at least contemplated purchasing one, if not multiple, 3D printers. In the case of consumer behavioral changes, our patients are demanding easier access to care — thanks in large part to companies like Smile Direct Club. Throw in a dash of global pandemic to this recipe, and we’ve got ourselves a good old-fashioned industry revolution on our hands.

So what are orthodontists meant to do amidst this onslaught of change? For starters, we must adopt a new mindset. My friends, the Future is Now. Whether we doctors like it or not, consumers have taken a bite of the proverbial apple that is at-home, direct-to-door delivery of orthodontic care. That is not to say I’m advocating for at-home orthodontic care. In fact, I would be remiss if I didn’t unequivocally state the best place for orthodontic therapy to be administered is in the chair of a Board-certified orthodontist. However, this doesn’t mean our patients cannot in some instances experience the benefits of our 21st-century economy.

Let’s examine a few instances where doctors should actively work to change their practice operations to satisfy the modern demands of a changing consumer base.

  1. Offer options for virtual appointments. We all know there are some procedures and checks that must be done in person, but for instances where you can treat virtually, do so.
  2. Offer easy methods of making and changing appoint Of course, if patients want to call the office, they most assuredly can do so. However, in our app-based economy, a majority of consumers want to make and change appointments from their phones. All kinds of scheduling apps exist that can integrate with your practice management systems. Investigate which ones might work for you — your patients will thank you!
  3. Touchless check-in. Add this to the list of things that the pandemic has changed, but in this case, file it squarely under the “pros” column. We check-in with our phones for flights, with Snapchat, and sometimes even in church. Offering an easy way to check-in for appointments from their phones is the new norm for patients.
  4. Two-way messaging between office staff and patients. At first glance, this may seem like it’s biting off more than is worth chewing, but lots of scheduling apps have the ability to message with patients. In our ever-mobile centric world, providing patients a way to communicate with you via text is going to make their lives and, by extension, yours easier.
  5. Retainer-replacement services. Retainer emergency appointments are a time killer, and they place undue stress on your patient and/or their parents. Partner with a company like Retainers For Life. They not only operate an A-to-Z retainer program for you and your practice, which allows us doctors to focus on more value-added activities like placing brackets on more patients’ teeth. They also ship directly to patients, pay you for using your intraoral scanner, and allow you to maintain a relationship with your retention patients.

Dr. Amy Jackson says that direct-to-consumer retention can mitigate the daily headaches that retainer and retention-related emergencies can cause. Read more about it here: https://orthopracticeus.com/amy-jackson-dds-ms/

Amy Jackson, MS, DDS, graduated Magna Cum Laude from Baylor University and then pursued her dental degree from University of Texas Health Science Center. Dr. Jackson continued her pursuit of excellence in specialty training for orthodontics at The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. While in resident training, she completed a master’s degree through the periodontal department and was awarded the AAED’s research grant for her work with midpalatal implants.


Disclosure: Dr. Jackson is founder of Retainers for Life.

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