StarAlignersPro’s clear aligner solution for orthodontists aims to treat patients who might have fallen through the cracks due to prohibitive costs.
By Steven Martinez
So much has been made of direct-to-consumer aligner solutions encroaching on the orthodontic profession in recent years that you might think orthodontists would be wary of any solution that promises easy online onboarding and fewer in-person visits.
But StarAligners latest offering, the StarAlignersPro, is proposing that orthodontists can recapture some of the patients they might otherwise miss out on by using modern techniques and technologies.
StarAlignersPro is a clear aligner treatment solution for orthodontists to help them treat minor to moderate cases or tune-ups. Usually, these patients would have previously had orthodontic treatment, but their teeth have shifted over time and need additional corrections.
“We’ve found an avenue here with StarAlignersPro that really compliments an orthodontic practice and gives [them] advantages to treat patients at a more affordable price,” says John Nabors, vice president of operations and sales for StarAligners.
These minor cases were often cost-prohibitive to treat at a traditional orthodontic practice, both for orthodontists and patients. In-office visits drive overhead for orthodontists and require them to keep prices high to cover their costs, simultaneously driving away patients.
But StarAligners Pro aims to solve this problem by keeping costs low for orthodontists. It does this by offering aligners at a competitive price while also targeting mild cases that may only require as few as two visits for the duration of treatment.
“The whole idea with StarAligners Pro is to reduce the number of office visits to keep the chair time down,” says Ron Redmond, DDS, MS, chairman of StarAligners. “Ideally, you’d receive your aligners and give them directly to the patient, and the next time you see them is when they’ve completed the round of all the aligners to remove attachments or to be looked at just to make sure you achieved what you wanted.”
StarAligners initially came up with the idea for StarAlignersPro when it was positioning the company’s direct-to-consumer solution, StarAligners. The company realized that orthodontists didn’t have the tools or the ability to address patients that only needed mild to moderate treatments.
Eventually, they came up with a solution. StarAligners would manufacture custom aligners for orthodontists based on their treatment plans submitted online. StarAligners first beta-tested its offering with the elite Schulman Group, a DSO that operates several hundred practices across the country. StarAligners received positive feedback and realized that their solution created a second pricing tier for aligner treatment.
The top tier was the typical cost of treatment for patients who had not been treated before and had a significant malocclusion. The second cheaper tier enabled through StarAlignersPro was for patients that needed only slight adjustments.
After refining its product offering and building out a website that allowed orthodontists to partner with StarAligners online and send their cases, StarAlignersPro was ready to be expanded to other practices and DSOs.
Orthodontists can sign up online, upload patient information like scans and intraoral photos, and StarAligners will create an aligner to fit the treatment. The designs are made available to the orthodontist within 3 days for approval, and aligners are delivered within 2 weeks.
The company is also adapting its software to allow orthodontists to manipulate teeth individually in a 3D rendering before approval.
StarAlignersPro is not meant to compete with DTC companies. Instead, it targets orthodontist groups and practices considering in-house 3D printing operations. StarAligners says that it can compete with in-house operations on costs while allowing orthodontists to focus on what they do best, treating patients.
“Orthodontic practices are not manufacturing operations. They do orthodontics,” says Nabors. “What we’ve been able to prove is that the cost of StarAlignersPro aligners to the orthodontist is cheaper than they can do themselves with much less stress.”
The company’s website features a calculator to compare the costs of StarAlignersPro with an orthodontist’s current supplier to see what it would cost to treat the number of mild to moderate cases they would like to see or have already seen.
StarAlignersPro charges on a per aligner basis to reduce costs and allow orthodontists to buy only what they need.
“We don’t offer packages. Packages are good if you need everything in the package, but typically it’s done to the manufacturer’s benefit,” says Nabors. “We’ve become much more transparent to the doctor, so they know exactly what they’re paying for an aligner and how many aligners are in that case, and they know what their costs are.”
Once shipped, the aligner kits come in thoughtfully packaged boxes. According to Nabors, the boxes are nicely constructed and feature attractive colors and have a high-end look. The kits include a retainer case with a mirror, teeth whitening and aligner cleaning foam, and chewies to help patients relieve pressure from the treatment.
Nabors and Redmond both feel they have a real opportunity to help orthodontists reach “lost patients” they might never have been able to or wanted to treat in the past. They talked about capturing cases like the mom coming in for her teenager’s treatment whose teeth might have moved since her own treatment years earlier.
“Most orthodontists wouldn’t have treated these types of patients in the past,” says Nabors. “The patient would have probably been treated by a general dentist, or maybe they would have gone direct-to-consumer for these minor treatments or minor tune-ups. So, it’s really up to us now to educate the orthodontist that we have a solution for them.” OP
Steven Martinez is the associate editor for Orthodontic Products.
Photo courtesy of StarAligners