Three tips for boosting practice growth and leveraging esthetic treatment options

Actual Damon™ patients wearing Damon™ Clear brackets

Dr. Christopher Cosse offers advice for a streamlined and profitable year

March 20 marks the first day of spring, a season that is metaphorically synonymous with some level of cleaning or organizing. In the business world, the season can serve as an excuse to pump new life into an organization, transferring the springtime cleanup routine to the workplace. For the orthodontic community, spring is also an optimal time to elevate the practice and take a step back to see what areas can be improved for a more streamlined and profitable year.

Over the last 15 years, the consumer demand for esthetically pleasing ortho-dontic treatment options has climbed at a rapid pace, and doctors are increasingly eager to offer esthetic appliances as a way to attract new patients and grow their practices. Although the move to offer more discreet appliances can be viewed as a natural evolution, many practices are eager to better understand how to further capitalize on the esthetic appliance market and use this as a strategy for catapulting growth. It is important that we don’t get caught up in trying to offer the clearest option if it will not meet both your and your patients’ goals. That being said, one of your patient’s goals may be to reach the best outcome with the least visible appliance, and the doctor is caught in a balancing act. As an early adopter of virtually clear bracket systems, I’ve had the opportunity to witness firsthand how discreet treatment options, combined with simple business strategies, can truly transform and grow a practice. It all comes down to three core concepts that involve embracing patient demand, securing business through the power of digital referrals, and taking advantage of online patient education tools.

Understand the patient esthetic demand — and embrace it
There’s a reason the selfie hashtag has more than 250 million posts on Instagram alone. Consumers crave to put their best face forward 24/7 as part of their social media-infused lifestyle. Gone are the days of wanting only to look good for school picture day, a date, wedding, or special event. Case in point: just last fall, a story about college students taking selfies at a MLB baseball game quickly went viral as these fans were much more interested in snapping selfies than watching the matchup between the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. If you haven’t seen the video, it’s worth watching on for a quick laugh. Humor aside, it goes without saying that today, the patients we treat take extra pride in their smile and the confidence that goes along with it. This pride also holds true during their orthodontic treatment — patients want to look good not just after treatment, but throughout the entire process.

At my office, there has been a noticeable shift in patients’ desire for discreet treatment, which is why I began to search for the best esthetic option. The appliance I was looking for had to meet some strict criteria: 1) It had to readily be accepted by patients and virtually disappear on the teeth. 2) It had to be self-ligating, so there were no “O’s” that were going to stain or decrease my office efficiency. 3) It could not have any visible metal, like a clip holding the wire in place. 4) I wanted to retain complete control of the case and have the power of a bracket. I use Ormco’s Damon™ Clear brackets because they fit all of the preceding criteria. Before Damon Clear, my patients were hesitant to jump into treatment because the esthetic options available had various limitations. Additionally, I had to turn down many cases because I wasn’t comfortable treating them with the existing esthetic options. Patients to whom I couldn’t ethically offer esthetic treatment in the past are now happy patients, thanks to improvements in the quality of these clear brackets. Now, when patients come to the office and realize that they have an esthetic bracket choice — that is proven to provide exceptional results — the inclination to start treatment is much greater. Understanding and embracing this reality and industry evolution is the first step toward growing your practice to be more profitable with esthetic solutions.

In this same vein, it’s essential to understand your patients and their demand for esthetic options. Many adults and teens prefer Damon Clear to other options because they know they will look good during treatment and get the beautiful smile and facial results that I can provide using face-driven Damon™ System treatment protocols. At my practice, approximately one-third of patients are adults. If this is the case for you and your staff, I encourage your team to speak with prospective and current adult patients about the role esthetics plays in their decision to start treatment. This insight will not only keep you in touch with the demographics’ preferences, but also help you to better understand what solutions they’re demanding most. In return, it also gives you the opportunity to play up the value-add of clear bracket systems.

A screenshot from the smile survey portion of Braces Academy. Dr. Cosse uses this survey to educate his patients about the subtle characteristics of a beautiful smile and to differentiate it from an average smile.
A screenshot from the smile survey portion of Braces Academy. Dr. Cosse uses this survey to educate his patients about the subtle characteristics of a beautiful smile and to differentiate it from an average smile.
When Dr. Cosse gives a “lite” version of Braces Academy to his referring general dentists, they can refer patients directly to his practice with the click of a button. Dr. Cosse’s office can then call and schedule a new patient appointment.
When Dr. Cosse gives a “lite” version of Braces Academy to his referring general dentists, they can refer patients directly to his practice with the click of a button. Dr. Cosse’s office can then call and schedule a new patient appointment.

Benefit from a digital referral program
Another way to grow your practice is to develop and launch a referral channel through online resources that highlight various treatment solutions. The reality is, in today’s digital world, most referring methods are simply outdated. This is where a digital referral program is invaluable. In my practice, we’ve developed and incorporated a software system called Braces Academy where we’re able to arm general practitioners and referring specialists with educational tools and information to accurately and succinctly present treatment options. It also allows them to digitally refer the patient directly to our office. We then call the patient and schedule the new patient exam instead of waiting and hoping for the patient to call our office out of the three or more business cards they may have received from their general dentist.

As a part of this software, referring dentists can show subtle differences between a decent-looking smile and a truly beautiful smile. This not only is educational, but also motivates prospective patients to consider the most functional esthetic solutions. Similarly, there is an opportunity to increase referrals from your referring general dentists and hygienists by educating them — in addition to the patients — on what makes your practice and treatment solutions unique.

The Braces Academy practice development system allows the orthodontist and his/her staff to send prescriptive educational videos pertaining to a particular patient’s treatment, send quick messages to parents that might not have been at the appointment, and send pictures of different configurations of how to hook up elastics or activate an appliance. It also provides plug-and-play advertising resources for Facebook and other social media outlets to establish you as the smile design expert in your area.

Don’t ignore online resources
Keeping up with patients’ digital lifestyles can sound daunting, but orthodontists should take comfort in the fact that manufacturers are addressing consumers’ shifting habits head-on by arming us with patient education resources that live on the Web. As doctors, we can’t ignore the importance of incorporating online education and marketing tactics within a practice as this is where many, if not all, potential patients are doing their information gathering. Consider leveraging online-based consultation resources or educational tools such as Ormco’s My Smile Consult™.

Available to practices treating with the Damon System, My Smile Consult is a helpful online patient education tool that I was able to customize with my own practice branding and patient before-and-after photos. My practice actively uses this tool to help prospective patients better understand the benefits of orthodontics and the treatment that I can provide using the Damon System and Damon Clear. In my practice, we’ve seen that patients appreciate when the information they are viewing is catered to their needs. We do this by asking the patient a series of questions to gather information about the type of person that our digital content speaks to. Without doing that due diligence, you are just dumping loads of information in hopes of answering their questions. My Smile Consult provides the patient with targeted information that specifically answers the questions for which most parents or patients are looking.

An interactive, online tool, My Smile Consult is designed to help educate your patient prospects on the benefits of orthodontics and the Damon™ System including Damon™ Clear.
An interactive, online tool, My Smile Consult is designed to help educate your patient prospects on the benefits of orthodontics and the Damon™ System including Damon™ Clear.

Whether it’s incorporating the latest clear bracket like Damon Clear or leveraging next-gen software systems like Braces Academy or My Smile Consult to generate leads, making practice enhancements during a spring cleanup or anytime during the year can be the key differentiator for an orthodontist. Esthetic treatment offerings and beautiful results present a unique and tangible way to stand out, especially when you take into consideration the growing number of adults and image-conscious consumers considering treatment. By embracing and understanding consumer demand, developing a targeted referral system, and using digital resources to your advantage, you’ll be able to better present the value and opportunity of esthetic options and the positive impacts it will have not only during treatment, but also on the final result. Because at the end of the day, an amazing smile and a happy patient will always be the best practice builder.


Christopher C. CosseChristopher C. Cosse, DDS, is a graduate of Louisiana State University-Baton Rouge. He was accepted into the dental program at Louisiana State University School of New Orleans (LSUSD). He received certification in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics from Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Oregon. He studied the differences in orthodontics between the United States and Europe for a term at the University of Freiberg, Germany in 1997. Dr. Cosse was awarded the Pierre Fauchard Award for Academic Achievement while at LSUSD. Since joining his father’s practice in 2000, he has sought to further his orthodontic knowledge and training. He has 11 orthodontic patents and two orthodontics apps, and is the founder of Braces Academy. He continues to push the field of orthodontics. In 2006, Dr. Cosse was presented with the Louisiana Dental Association New Dentist Award, an award presented to a Louisiana Dental Association member who has distinguished himself by giving his time and talents to his community and shown an unselfish devotion to the dental profession.

Dr. Cosse practices with Dr. Jeffrey Silmon in Shreveport and Bossier City, Louisiana. When he is not having fun at work, Dr. Cosse enjoys spending time with his wife, Stacy, and their four children — Athan, Michael, Kalli, and Stefan.

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