by Christopher Piehler

Christopher Piehler

It seems like every time I go to the gym these days, I see a television ad for a certain orthodontic appliance. Since my gym is the kind where they try to help you ignore the pain of working out by blasting music at a volume that could drown out a jumbo jet, I’ve never heard what the ad says. It ends with a lovely woman smiling to reveal her perfectly straight and white teeth, though, so as far as I can tell, it’s an effective spot.

The ad also stands out in my mind because very few orthodontic companies advertise directly to consumers. In this area, internal medicine is the leader, with its flood of commercials that end with an avuncular voice advising you to “ask your doctor about” some life-changing pill or other. Comparing this cascade of information to the relative trickle coming out of the orthodontic companies raises two questions: “How much advertising is enough?” and “What type of advertising is most useful to orthodontists?”

In response to the first question, my answer as an interested observer is “The more advertising, the better—until it gets annoying.” So tasteful TV ads, yes. Sponsored Web links, absolutely. But in a world where commercial real estate has expanded to include valet parking stubs and people’s foreheads, restraint can be a good thing. Here I think orthodontics has a great advantage over internal medicine because seeing your own subpar smile in the mirror is the best advertisement for doing something about it, and most people spend at least a few minutes per day inspecting their own reflection.

Here’s where things gets trickier, because someone saying, “I should do something about my teeth,” is very different from their saying, “I should see an orthodontist and begin long-term treatment.” This is where the AAO’s “More Than a Smile” campaign comes in. The campaign’s TV ad explains what makes orthodontists specialists at straightening teeth—which is educational for those who don’t know the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist, but is also vague. While I appreciate the information, I am more likely to be spurred to action by the ad for the specific appliance. I think that advertising, like so much else in life, is multifactorial.

How do you promote your practice? Please write or call and let me know.

Christopher Piehler