As marketing strategies around orthodontic treatment are ramped ever higher, an epithet comes to mind: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”
The reason for my cynicism around orthodontic system marketing relates to the latest campaign from an American operation called “Your smile direct.” They are now doing business in the UK and a number of publications have featured sponsored articles. If you want to know what temptations our patients are being exposed to, there is a link here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4328742/10-celebs-AWESOME-teeth.html
All the websites relating to online aligner ordering are very seductive. On one site I read a comment from a patient who said she was happy to bypass the marketing of practices and find a service which she felt in control of. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for her view that a lot of hard sell around. I personally feel anxious when patients are promised “the perfect smile” since a patient’s idea of perfection may be vastly different from our idea or indeed what might be achievable in the presenting dentition!
The other aspect of this hard sell is the pricing. Patients are being told that by ordering aligners online they will save themselves money. One company claims is that it’s 70% of the cost of going directly to a dentist. What shouldn’t be overlooked is the human cost when things don’t go as expected. And if you read the review sections – and these are recommended reading – an awful lot of things can go wrong.
The issue of the cost of orthodontics came up at the most recent meeting of the Dental Law and Ethics Forum at which two orthodontists were speakers. They tracked the history of the rise of orthodontic systems. One of the points that they made was that the fee for a course of NHS orthodontic treatment of an Under 18 is around £1000 whereas prices for adult orthodontics using branded systems are between £1200 and £3000.
On a slightly different topic, I recently went on a clinical course which I found inspirational. Not much of the content was new but it was enriching to reflect on what I know and to view the clinical work of colleagues. This is the kind of learning that anyone providing orthodontics should be engaging in. But it’s difficult to market. What is more seductive to patients: “This orthodontist likes to keep up to date” OR “This system will give you the perfect smile.” I rest my case.