OP image Alison175By Alison Werner

When I hear that an orthodontist will, in an emergency, see patients at his or her home outside of office hours, I automatically think of a private-practice orthodontist located in a small town where everybody knows everyone. Maybe that’s my own bias, given that the “smallest” city I’ve ever lived in was Washington, DC. I’ve never had a doctor or a dentist tell me, “If you need anything, and it’s after hours, give me a call at home.” I would never see them at the market or the local movie theater. The places I’ve lived have been too big, too spread out.

But plenty of you do provide that level of customer service to your patients regardless of what size community you live in. You base your practice’s reputation on being there for your patients when they need you, wherever they need you. They know that they can come to your house to pick up their retainer after the office is closed or get a wire clipped on a Sunday night.

What might surprise you, however, is that the first time I heard of an orthodontist doing this, he wasn’t in private practice. He was working for a corporate practice—one with 27 locations in the Atlanta area.

When I talk to orthodontists like you about your practices, a common theme emerges: You all want to make your patients feel like they couldn’t get the same quality and type of care anywhere else. For this reason, prospective patients, referring dentists, and orthodontists themselves often view corporate orthodontics negatively. The perception being that the corporate practice lacks the ability to provide that level of personal care.

In this month’s issue, we talked to three orthodontists who opted for a corporate, rather than a private, practice. A recurring theme throughout our discussion was the importance of this level of personalized care to succeed, regardless of who owns the practice. Because when it comes down to it, the success of a practice, whether private or corporate, rests on the doctor treating the patient.

In the coming years, the corporate model is likely to play a larger role in orthodontics, just as it has in physical medicine. However, even as the model of care evolves, one thing will remain true, and will remain true for both models: An orthodontist who meets the needs of patients and provides excellent customer service will succeed whether they are in private or corporate practice. OP