Technological advancements have come fast to the clinical side of the practice. Now it’s time for the business side to play catch up.

This column offers a close-up look at orthodontic product purchasing and how it is evolving. Orthodontic Products teamed up with Jeff Biggs, DDS, MS—who is not only the owner of his own private practice in Indiana, but also the founder and CEO of Orthodontic Details Marketplace, an online marketplace built for orthodontists’ purchasing needs—to get his unique insight into the orthodontist-supplier relationship and purchasing trends, and, more importantly, answer your questions. 

“Staying busy over there, Dr Hansen?”

My practice partner, eyes glued to his phone during lunch, picked up on my sarcasm and tossed it right back: “Far busier than you’ll ever be, old man.”

This back and forth is fairly common for us. But what he followed up with shifted my perspective in a way I didn’t expect.

“Just ordering groceries…”

“What the hell are you talking about?” I replied.

“I’m ordering groceries… my wife wants me to pick some stuff up on my way home and if I order them now all I have to do is show up and they’ll bring them out to me.”

This was a few years ago, and the concept seemed relatively new here in the Midwest. But just like that, my perspective on shopping for groceries changed. Today, ordering groceries from your phone is commonplace.

It’s no longer new, novel, or noteworthy.

There have been similar technology shifts in orthodontics over the years. Intraoral scanners, in-house aligners, self-ligating brackets, and 3D printed brackets, just to name a few.

Today, each of those concepts is a natural part of many orthodontic practices. But there was a time when they weren’t. When even the idea of something like online DTC aligners weren’t on our radars.

Despite all of these advancements on the clinical side of our practices, however, technological advancements on the business side have come slowly, just look at purchasing.

We think COVID has shifted this.

Over the past year we’ve been closely watching purchasing trends on Details Marketplace. They’re what prompted our introduction of Details Concierge—a way for practices to order all their supplies from one place, without changing suppliers.

What we’ve seen leads us to believe there’s going to be a massive shift in how practices think about purchasing.

If you’re interested in our full trend analysis, email us and we’ll share it all. But here are two trends we’ve spotted:

#1: Practices are ordering from more suppliers than normal. Because of supply chain issues beyond supplier’s control, availability of common supplies (gloves, masks, even brackets) has been inconsistent. This supply chain pain results in practice pain. As a result, practices have expanded the average number of suppliers they’re ordering from each month, so they have redundant paths to the supplies they need, in case their preferred supplier falls through.

#2: Purchasing staff have less time for ordering than ever before. As a result of the hiring challenges mentioned in our last column, and fluctuations in patient appointments due to school openings and closings, the staff assigned to purchasing are spread thin. This means there’s less time to negotiate pricing with new suppliers, research new products, deal with backorders, etc. This “internal bleeding” often goes unnoticed at first, resulting in wasted time and money.

Add those two trends to the unprecedented and unpredictable price swings across multiple categories and you have a market ripe for disruption. An opportunity for both suppliers and practices to find better ways to handle purchasing.

What are the technology advancements in purchasing that will advance the business side of our practices the way self-lighting brackets, in-house aligners, and intraoral scanners advanced the clinical side?

That’s the question we’ve been working hard to answer, and while I think we’ve developed something compelling as a result (more on that soon), we believe the answer must come from multiple sources. This isn’t a multiple choice question where there’s only one right answer—it’s an essay.

And that essay is being written in real time every day by orthodontists like you. We as orthodontists have the opportunity to shift the business side of our practices, in a way that may reduce costs, save time, and significantly reduce staff stress.

And so, we’re curious: How do you want to see purchasing shift? What other aspects of the business side of our practice do you want to see change? Let us know! OP

Send us your thoughts and questions at [email protected] and we will answer them in a future column.

jeff biggs

Jeff Biggs, DDS, MS, is an ABO certified orthodontist with more than 20 years of experience. In addition to actively practicing in Indianapolis, Biggs is the CEO of Orthodontic Details Marketplace, and a sought-after advisor for other practices.