Sitting in the lobby of our hotel here in Rome, waiting on my family and friends to head down for dinner, I decided to catch up on my SmileDirectClub cases. After doing several on my phone it hit me that the future of orthodontics is not some far off horizon. It is here. Now.

Now that SmileDirectClub has proven the viability of their model, shown that state dental guilds (ahem… I mean boards) cannot stop teledentistry and partnered with one of the most if not the most respected company in orthodontics, others will enter the direct to consumer, doctor directed orthodontic treatment fray. And that’s good! The beautiful thing about a market economy is that it rewards those who can serve the under or unserved and that more competition accelerates innovation. So, very soon, we will see the democratization and decentralization of orthodontic care and the escalation of technical prowess when it comes to remote treatment of crooked teeth and even malocclusions.

I know you don’t believe it can be done. I know that you KNOW that everything done outside of your office is bad and everything done by you (and perhaps treatment done by a few elite practitioners who agree with you) is awesome. We orthodontists truly belive that everyone else sucks when it comes to people who do it differently than we do, people who do more than we do and especially when it comes to non-tradition treatment delivery. Belive me I’ve had hundreds of conversations with orthodontists who have zero experience or knowledge outside of their current model and almost all of them agree with you. HOWEVER despite your certain and despite the fact that most orthodontists agree with you, doctor directed, direct to consumer orthodontic treatment is here to stay, will become mainstream and will grow exponentially. I know you disagree, and it certainly is possible, though highly unlikely based on recent events and the lay of the land, that you’re correct… But let’s not argue and instead let’s have this conversation in 5 years and see who is right.

If you are correct, what happens? Nothing changes, you go along as you always have and you can tell me you told me so.

But what happens if I’m correct? Well, for you, not much will change in the near future. I see SmileDirectClub and those companies who follow massively increasing the demand and affordability of orthodontic treatment in non-traditional demographics. While these traditionally under or unserved populations will be very quick to gravitate towards the doctor directed, remote delivery treatment offered but your patients; the traditional target demographic will continue to seek out traditional treatment.

I guess the real question is how long it will take for SDC and the like to become accepted as mainstream treatment, how long the traditional patient base will remain price insensitive and demand in person treatment, how much access to care will increase and how many of the non-traditional patients entering the market because of SDC will end up at a traditional office like yours. What are the answers? No one knows but there will be change no matter what you believe so these questions are worth considering.

What’s my point?

That denying reality is no way to run your practice or your life. Whether you agree with it or not, direct to consumer, doctor directed orthodontic treatment will revolutionize the dental marketplace so you might want to start thinking about how best to turn this benefit to patients into a benefit to your practice! Ignorance is no excuse and intentional denial of reality is a recipe for disaster.

2 thoughts on “If You Don’t Believe It’s Raining, Do You Still Get Wet?

  1. Eye-opening questions!
    Did you mention that you are currently working with SDC?

    How did you become involved with them?

    How would you suggest an orthodontist from the “traditional” model begin migrating IN FRONT of the trend?

    What questions should we ask ourselves in order to arrive at an appropriate action plan?

    Thx, Jay

  2. I’ve been working with SDC for almost 3 years. I started with them when I saw a FB post they had and I commented saying, “you can’t do that” but they explained they had done it in other areas – contact lenses, hearing aids, dialysis, etc so I decided to change my mindset and get involved. SDC is still taking new ELPs in certain areas so reach out to them and inquire. Lots to learn from this delivery model and I’ve changed my practice philosophy for my new office based on what I’ve learned.

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