In an interesting turn of events Align announced that it will no longer allow submission of Invisalign scans from 3Shape scanners starting January 17, 2018 and many orthodontists are outraged. Though it seems many in the industry feel this is a unique move by Align, it reminds me of when Google pulled it’s products from Amazon Echo and Fire TV. In that case it turned out that Amazon made representations to their customers about Amazon’s ability to provide compatibility with Google in the absence of a contract securing this privilege. Google made no guarantees that their products would be available through Amazon! I could be wrong but it appears to be the same situation here – both Align and 3Shape made strategic business decisions that they thought were in the best interests of their respective companies and the consequences will play out for both over time.
It also seems interesting to me that orthodontists make changes to our businesses regularly in an attempt to maximize quality, efficacy and profitability while expecting others to act differently. Other oddities… Orthodontists are constantly complaining about Invisalign while we continue to submit cases. We encourage other companies to compete with Align and cheer whenever someone attempts to do so but we get mad when Align makes strategic business decisions and acts in its self-interest instead of doing what we believe Align should do. We claim that Align has gone too far, is alienating its customer base, that all the Align patents are expiring, that Joe Hogan made a big mistake investing in the new direct to consumer channel and the Invisalign scan shop… and we promise that Align will suffer the consequences while wondering just how high Align’s stock price will rise. It seems strange that we orthodontists could be so off base as to what is happening in our own space but we are experts in teeth not business after all.
If you’re unhappy about the way Align is dealing with 3Shape then feel free to tell them. Just know that Align believes they are correct just as much as you believe you are. If you are mad at 3Shape for selling you a scanner that can no longer be used for Invisalign, be sure to tell them so and see what they can do to help you. If you don’t like what Align or 3Shape are doing then vote with your feet and use other companies and other products in your office. It is your right to make unilateral changes and act in the best interests of your business after all. But remember that sword cuts both ways!
Look, as a long time Align detractor I totally get why you are upset about this – whether you have a 3Shape scanner or just on principle. I railed against Align for years for what I considered very good reasons but eventually Align won the war and since I couldn’t beat them, I joined them. I have a standing rule that if something is inevitable then it’s much smarter to figure out how to incorporate it instead of vainly opposing it. At this point in the game offering Invisalign is about the same as taking insurance. There are those who practice while refusing to take insurance but they will never have the scale, stability, efficiency, profitability or sustainability of practices who do. Same goes for Invisalign – not because of the clinical/mechanical/nerd reasons we orthodontists obsess over but because of Invisalign’s brand awareness, marketing, production, scale and logistical advantages.
Making the aligners is not the hard part. Moving the teeth with any aligner system is not difficult. The biggest issue is and will be the ability to get new patients in the door. Those who use Invisalign can harness their PR machine and those who do not, cannot. Simple as that. I’ll say it one more time for the record here: IF YOU CAN GET ALL THE NEW PATIENTS YOU WANT THEN USE A CHEAPER ALIGNER SYSTEM OR MAKE THE ALIGNERS IN HOUSE. If you can get all the patients you want, why the heck would you pay the Invisalign lab fee? However, if you have empty chairs, WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU THINK THAT USING A CHEAPER ALINGER SYSTEM WILL BENEFIT YOU IF YOU HAVE NO ONE TO TREAT WITH YOUR LESS EXPENSIVE SYSTEM? Same holds for insurance. Why would you take a reduced rate if you could get the patients in the door at your full fee? You wouldn’t, but a lack of patients in the door means it makes logical sense to pay the insurance “lab fee” to get access to their customers.
What’s the point of all this? Simple. If orthodontists would spend half the effort and energy on our practices and on our mindsets as we do on wailing about the injustice of the world, we would be too busy and too profitable to care about things like this – especially things we cannot control. I know there are many who disagree with my position but I’m willing to bet that the busiest, most successful and most profitable orthodontists are not among them… Those orthodontists who are too busy seeing new patients, putting braces on and scanning for aligners don’t have the time to whine and complain in FB groups that struggling orthodontists do! Struggling orthodontists can’t understand this and don’t believe anything they cannot see in their own practices (because they do it the RIGHT way). Thus they will never join the ranks of their more successful peers until they work on their mindsets and businesses…
This creates a Catch 22 situation that very few are able to escape! But a few do and when I get to witness the transformation from scarcity to abundance thinking, from struggle to success, it makes it all worthwhile!
Below are screen shots of the message sent out by Align.