Does your practice have an open door for curious patients?

Advice on spreading the word on your practice’s treatment options


A recent study conducted by 3M Unitek found that both teens and adults look to the Internet more than any other medium to research braces. This fact in itself probably isn’t surprising, but what may come as news to the orthodontic community is that only 16% of survey respondents said they consulted an orthodontist for more information on braces. Combining these findings, it is clear that by the time patients come to your office, they may have already formed some very strong opinions about the available treatments — without ever having talked to you about them.

There are positive and negative aspects to this situation, but many practitioners would agree that patients are better off talking to an orthodontist before spending too much time on the Internet. If prospective patients wander too far into message boards and articles that aren’t necessarily always correct, they may talk themselves into or out of treatment methods without having a sound understanding of the fundamentals. How should orthodontists counteract this situation and get back in front of patients as the go-to source for expertise? Consider these methods:

  • Know the information that is out there. Study respondents reported visiting and (the AAO’s patient-focused website) in their search for information. These sites present a general overview of orthodontic treatment, but it’s important to familiarize yourself with the content on these sites, so you can fill in the gaps with prospective patients. Study respondents also reported visiting and These sites present more targeted information on esthetic and lingual braces. Read over the information on each site, and prepare any talking points you’d like to complement the information in light of your own expertise. With this preparation, the next time a patient says, “I was reading online…” you’ll likely have a clear idea of exactly what he/she is talking about.
  • Never underestimate the power of word of mouth. Past patients or parents of past patients are often an invaluable resource for recommendations and referrals. In fact, 30% of survey respondents reported that they talked to their friends who have braces (or had them in the past) for more information. Are you maximizing the potential of your patient pool? Look for new ways to encourage patients to refer their curious friends to you, and make sure your patients get the same message that you give to referring dentists: Your office is happy to answer questions during the research process. If you don’t already, you might consider rewarding patients or offering some form of thank you for their referrals.
  • Beef up your own online presence. As they say, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Make sure your current website does a thorough job of communicating your message to prospective patients. Does it clearly answer the top questions you get from new patients, and is this information easy to find? Does it do an effective job of representing the culture of your practice? You might even consider starting a blog for your practice, which will not only help you create content in bite-sized pieces, but it will also improve your search engine optimization that helps prospective patients easily find out about your practice. Already have a website, but you’re still stuck on what to put on it? Some manufacturers have specific websites, such as, to help orthodontists speak to their audience. Manufacturer websites can provide great resources and content to help reach your existing and potential patients.
  • Promote esthetics first. Challenge patients’ initial thought processes about getting braces, and make it a priority to promote esthetic treatment options such as ceramic and lingual braces online and in your practice. The study showed that when presented with information on ceramic braces, 94% of teens and 90% of adults considering braces were interested in ceramic braces. Of those respondents, 60% agreed that it’s worth paying more for an esthetic option. Presenting esthetic options first may make new patients more likely to opt for this type of treatment. Patients with beautiful, esthetic braces can also lead to positive word-of-mouth buzz and more patient referrals.
    Orthodontists are the experts on braces, so it’s vital that patients know they can approach you with their questions — whether or not they’re ready to commit to treatment. With these tips, you can position your practice as an approachable and friendly resource for prospective patients.
    This information was provided by 3M Unitek.

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