Want to be a successful orthodontist, have plenty of patients and have a great career?
It’s easy. Just find an underserved population and serve them!
Now, I know what you are thinking, but you’re wrong. There are plenty of underserved groups out there in need of someone to care for them. Still don’t believe me? Ok let’s talk examples.
- Non-English Speaking Groups – It’s amazing to me that in this day and age there is still such disparity across groups of people when it comes to access to dental care. Most orthodontists speak English and therefore they look to serve other English speakers. If you speak another language then you are golden! If you don’t then learn to speak another language – or at least enough to get by. Don’t want to learn a language? Ok, fine, then just be sure to employ bi-lingual or multi-lingual staff and locate your office in an area where non-English speakers live. Catering to these communities is easy because very few people do so. This goes for non-English speakers in urban and suburban areas. This is a multi-cultural country so look around and you’ll be amazed at the opportunities. The bar is very low so you don’t have to do much to stand out. Even in relatively small groups of underserved people, if you can be the go to guy or gal you can do very, very well. And I’m not just talking about Hispanohablantes either! There are tons of communities who speak a wide variety of languages in the US and that is part of what makes this country great. ** Note: When you market to your target audience, be sure to get a proper translation done by locals and not some scholastic interpretation of the language. Also, be sure to translate the name of your practice and have a name/logo combination in the target language.
- Ethnic Groups – Sometimes in a given area, one group of people is well served with access to dental and orthodontic care but others are not. Again, it is amazing that this is still the case in America in 2015 but it’s fact. This sad truth does, however, create incredible opportunity for the enterprising young orthodontists who recognizes a lack of access to care and takes steps to serve the need and do well while doing good! Again, your office and team and marketing materials should be appropriate for your target demographic. People like to see people like themselves in advertising and among staff members. No matter where you practice it is always important to remember this and to make every single potential new patient feel welcome! It’s good karma and it’s good for business.
- Religious Groups – Though less common than the first two, sometimes one encounters an area with a significant community of a distinct religion that is underserved. Just like any other cultural, language or ethnic barrier, a religious minority group in any given area can, and often is, underserved when it comes to dentistry and braces. I think you get by now that you want to be intentional about making such groups feel welcome if you want to be the go to orthodontic office.
- Economic Groups – This is possibly the biggest underserved group in the US when it comes to orthodontic care. Braces are expensive and we have not done a good job historically about making paying for orthodontics affordable. Shame on us but good for the young, enterprising orthodontist willing to make braces affordable to the single mom, the fast food worker and the day laborer. Again, it’s good karma and, really, don’t we owe it to our communities? Plus if we don’t make braces affordable, can we blame PCDs for filling the gap? Extended financing and a willingness to work with people are key. The rewards to increasing access to care are both financial and spiritual. It’s good to do good while doing good!
- Medicaid Patients – This is the biggest no brainer in all of orthodontics. If Medicaid paid $1.00 for braces I would accept Medicaid. Not because I don’t like to make money but because 1) the bar is so high to qualify for state funded treatment that very few score enough so you rarely have to discount treatment (and when you do, you should be glad because the case is so bad and the child NEEDS help) and 2) the Medicaid patients have step-siblings, friends, family, neighbors and school mates who don’t have Medicaid and who are potential patients that I’ll get access to only by accepting Medicaid. You can listen to your broke, full time professors who tell you that “those people don’t brush their teeth or show up for appointments or wear elastics and that you shouldn’t accept Medicaid” or you can listen to me and make a great living by helping people in need and not being prejudiced against a group of INDIVIDUALS – the composition of which reflects that of society at large. There is not one kind of Medicaid patient so don’t prejudge “those people”! Shame on the professors and our profession for talking in such a way for so long.
Look, if you’re a resident or a young doctor and you want to have a successful practice, it’s easy! Just go where there is a need and serve those who are most in need of access to care.