Rather than wait for a decline, orthodontists can take specific actions to ensure the ongoing success of their practice.

By Roger P. Levin, DDS

I never like to use scary titles or even bring up negative subjects, but I would be remiss not to address some of what is going on right now in orthodontics. Over the last year, we have started to see the first declines in some orthodontic practices. These are practices with a history of annual growth who are now finding that referrals and starts have slowed. Most orthodontic practices are still holding up OK, but it is time to take specific actions to ensure the ongoing success of your practice.

Establish your strategy

Every orthodontic practice should have an annual strategic planning session. This will force the practice to focus on where it is going, exactly what is to be accomplished in the next year, what goals will be achieved, who is going to achieve each goal and how everything will be measured. If you take charge of the future, the odds are exceptionally good it will be bright. If you simply let external circumstances affect the practice, you may gradually find the practice plateaus and eventually declines.

Implement a strong referral marketing program

This may be the most crucial time in orthodontic history to have a comprehensive referral marketing program in place. There are five focus areas of referral marketing that every orthodontic practice needs to address—parents, patients, referring doctors, social media, and the community. You need strategies in each of these areas and they need to be carried out consistently. Failure to do so could result in erosion of referrals.

Update your management systems and train your team

In the business world management systems are often referred to as operational systems. Systems need to be clearly outlined, proper scripting needs to be in place, and the team needs to be trained. Systems also need to be upgraded on a regular basis (as frequently as every three years) in order to maximize practice potential.

As always, expanding competition puts pressure on many practices. We now have orthodontists competing heavily with other orthodontists, DSOs that are offering orthodontics at a lower cost, general dentists who can provide orthodontics as well as direct-to-consumer orthodontic companies which is still operating, albeit at a relatively low level.

Orthodontics is changing. The smart strategy is to not wait until the practice has challenges, but to focus on putting all of the right strategies in place now. OP

Roger Levin

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the CEO and founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 practices to increase production. A recognized expert on orthodontic practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the U.S. and around the world. To contact Levin or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Orthodontic Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit levingroup.com or email [email protected].