by Christopher Piehler

Christopher Piehler

As I talk with orthodontists and read what they’re writing in various Internet forums, it’s clear to me that many of you are concerned about the impact that general dentists who perform orthodontic procedures are having on your practices.

Not so long ago, the AAO itself addressed this issue by launching an ad campaign to define the differences between general dentists and orthodontists. While it made sense to provide a clear point of difference between specialists and generalists, no ad can slow the pace at which more and more dentists are moving teeth as part of their daily routine—and more and more products are coming on the market that give them the technology to promise patients results that used to be available only from an orthodontist.

So what is a market-conscious orthodontist to do? To me, a useful way of looking at this issue comes from Wes Ball, the author of a book called The Alpha Factor: The Secret to Dominating Competitors and Creating Self-Sustaining Success.1 In his book, he points out the differences between what he calls “alpha companies” and “nonalpha companies.” And what is the first distinction? Nonalpha companies focus on “staying ahead of the competition,” while alphas “focus on what … customers want to buy.”

My thought on the matter is this: general dentists will continue to move teeth. As will other orthodontists. The alpha orthodontist does not fret about what others are doing. Instead, the alpha ortho focuses on what his patients want or might soon want. Here we move from economics into psychology. Every consumer business delivers not just a product or service but an experience. This experience includes how the customer is treated and how the customer feels about what he has bought. The alpha orthodontist delivers excellent results—that’s a given—and also makes his patients feel like they aresavvy customers who have chosen the very highest standard of care for themselves and their families. How do you do this? By finding a way to give your patients more than they expected.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing your opinion on this and any other orthodontic matter.

Christopher Piehler


  1. Ball W. The Alpha Factor: The Secret to Dominating Competitors and Creating Self-Sustaining Success. Lititz, Pa: Westlyn Publishing; 2008.