Practice growth remains elusive for many orthodontists. According to a recent ADA report,1 64% of surveyed orthodontists said they experienced lower income than the previous quarter. The economy may be slowly recovering, but you can’t wait for practice growth to occur—you have to make it happen.

Here are three ways to kick-start your own recovery:

1) Improve the new patient experience. Every new patient who calls the office must be seen as a major opportunity. In a recent Levin Group survey, we found that almost 15% of patients who call orthodontic offices never schedule an appointment. Create scripting and training to help the front desk staff schedule every patient who calls the office. Scripting should highlight values and benefits as well as answers to frequently asked questions.

2) Evaluate the timing of consults and starts. You must see all potential patients within 7 days or less. The quicker you can meet with parents and potential patients, the more likely they will become active patients. Anything over 10 days gives parents and patients too much time to "shop around" or have second thoughts about keeping the appointment.

3) Systemize your case-presentation process.
In this economic era, it is critical that practices are able to close 95% of patients who present for potential treatment. Review your 1-hour new-patient consult and break it up into step-by-step protocols with appropriate scripting. A well-trained treatment coordinator can help practices significantly increase case acceptance while allowing the orthodontist to spend more time on patient care.

New patients drive orthodontic growth. The easier you make it for people to become patients, the faster you can start growing your practice!

Roger P. Levin, DDS

1. Quarterly Survey of Economic Confidence Fourth Quarter 2010. ADA Survey Center. March 2011.