by Christopher Piehler

A year and a half of editing Orthodontic Products has given me ample time to read about how to straighten teeth, pore over  pictures of perfect teeth, and obsessively examine my own slightly crowded teeth. So last week, I went to an orthodontist to see what it might take to transform my so-so smile into a pair of the gleaming white arches that you see in our “after” pictures.

The orthodontist examined me and discussed a few different treatment options. Then, like the car salesman who shows you all the cool features of the convertible you covet and then lets his manager deliver the bad news about how much it will cost you, he left me with the treatment coordinator. She very pleasantly explained to me that what I had considered a dental tune-up would run me at least $5,000 and possibly more than $7,000. Now, I know that orthodontic perfection costs more than an Earl Scheib paint job, but somehow, hearing those figures at the end of my appointment took me aback.

I think this has to do with the fact that, as Paul Zuelke writes in his article “Don’t Discount Yourself ” (page 32), “Orthodontists have historically been unwilling to discuss their fees in a public forum.” While I can see why orthodontists might be concerned that revealing their fees might put them at a competitive disadvantage to their peers, I agree with the late Ron Roth, DDS, MS, who famously said, “Doctor, it is not about you; it is about the patient.”

Patients are consumers, and consumers like to have some idea of how much big-ticket items are going to cost them. It used to be that physicians would never dream of publicizing their prices, but these days, medical shoppers are well aware of the basic costs of procedures from laser eye surgery to liposuction.

I’m not saying that every orthodontist should publish a fee schedule stating precisely how much it will cost to move a bicuspid 2 mm. I’m simply saying that there are many ways to improve case acceptance (for one example, see “The Magic Touch” on page 15), but sticker shock is not one of them.