How ortho is changing dentistry
Orthodontics is an arena more accessible to general dentists than ever. So how are general dentists embracing this trend—and what challenges have they found?
When the general public thinks about orthodontics, they likely still have an image of an awkward teenager sporting a mouthful of metal, hoping for the day when she can chew caramel again. But for many general dentists, that image is not only archaic, but it bears very little similarity to what they can do for their patients—and, for many general dentists, what they can do in their offices.
More adults than ever before are requesting orthodontic appliances, and while there are a multitude of benefits for improving tooth alignment and occlusion—such as better oral health, improved digestion and reduced headaches, just to name a few—it is largely thanks to the improved esthetics of invisible orthodontics that adults are requesting it. In fact, the invisible orthodontics market is expected to grow by 13 percent in the next five years—twice the rate at which dental imaging equipment is anticipated to grow in the next few years (6.8 percent), according to one study.1 And it is thanks to companies like Invisalign or Progressive Orthodontics Seminars that more general dentists are offering it.
Age of the patient and whether the dentist is a specialist are no longer considerations for orthodontics. What was once reserved for gangly, acne-ridden teenagers as just another impediment on their quest for status is now the hard-earned reward for dissatisfied adults who have a couple thousand dollars to spare.
It is widely accepted that adding procedures, performing more high-profit dentistry and adding new patients are solid steps on the path to increasing practice revenue. With orthodontics, a general dentist can do all three at once. By adding orthodontics as a treatment option, dentists offer a low-cost, high-profit procedure. Case acceptance goes up, along with referrals, and no marketing is necessary. It seems like a win-win scenario.
After all, orthodontists have years of education on the specialty; what makes general dentists think they can grab a piece of the pie just because they want to?
For one: they kind of have to in order to stay competitive. And for two: Despite the common one-day training programs, comprehensive training programs do exist. Those programs, offered by organizations like Progressive Orthodontic Seminars (POS), the United States Dental Institute (USDI) and the Academy of Gp Orthodontics (AGpO), aim to equip general dentists with the tools necessary to perform more complex orthodontic cases.
Whether those programs compare to years of studying orthodontics in school is inarguable. But the onus is on the dentist to accept cases that require the skills in which they are confident and to refer those that are out of reach.
One thing that helps to bring more procedures within reach is new technology. General dentists can now perform simple surgery, thanks to surgical guides. They can print their own chairside restorations, thanks to milling machines and advances in 3D printing. So why not do ortho?
“The fact of the matter is that esthetically, orthodontics is a fairly minimally invasive way to get fantastic results,” says Amisha Singh, DDS, a practicing dentist in Denver.
Dentists know that offering invisible orthodontics is a great way to grow their business. It’s becoming more popular for new dentists to use ortho as a primary method of increasing revenue. “It used to be four or five years into their practice before they took the course,” says David Dana, DDS, education director at Progressive Orthodontic Seminars. “Today, I’m seeing newer graduates coming into the course.”
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