Why it’s important to understand that the difference isn’t just in their names.

By Roger P. Levin, DDS

Combining orthodontics and pediatric dentistry into one practice can be an excellent idea. So, should it be a pedo-ortho practice or an ortho-pedo practice? The difference isn’t just in their names. These practices have distinct characteristics and it is important to understand what they are from the orthodontist’s perspective.

First, let’s examine the pedo-ortho practice. Here’s what is important to know:

1. Pediatric dentistry is the fastest growing segment of dentistry.

In fact, it may be the only segment of dentistry growing overall by more than 2% per year. Parents like the idea that their children go to specialists. It makes them feel that they are getting better care and that they’re taking their children to a practice that is focused on those needs.

2. There aren’t enough pediatric dentists to allow practices to amortize revenue and income over a larger population of practices.

The reality is that if there were more pediatric dental practices, their average income would drop. This is because the success of most pediatric dental practices is more about supply and demand than excellent business or marketing skills.

3. The number of pediatric dental resident positions is essentially doubling.

The projections are that the future supply of pediatric dentists will grow much faster than the need. Over time, pediatric dentistry will flatten out in terms of revenue and production and begin to look more like other dental specialties or general dentistry in terms of growth rates.

4. Pediatric dentistry is an outstanding practice to implement orthodontics.

The reason is simple. Pediatric dental practices have lots of kids and orthodontists need lots of kids. As the kids reach the right age, the orthodontic practice will almost automatically be successful as the pediatric dental practice feeds the orthodontic practice.

5. Orthodontic case acceptance will be much higher than case acceptance in a standalone orthodontic practice.

This is because parents almost always assume that the orthodontic care will occur in the same practice. They’re already familiar with the practice so it becomes a no-brainer that they would continue their orthodontic care there. Keep in mind that the dental hygiene visits will also serve as observation appointments for the orthodontic future patient.

6. Orthodontists in a pediatric dental practice will not receive referrals from general dentists.

General dentists will be afraid that if they refer to those orthodontists inside the pediatric dental practice, parents will want to keep their kids in the pediatric practice for all services. This means that the orthodontist will be completely dependent on the pediatric practice and/or patient referrals and community referrals.

Now, let’s examine the ortho-pedo dental practice. Here are the factors to consider:

1. Referring doctors will stop referring.

This was explained above. We believe that many orthodontic practices today are giving up on referring doctors prematurely. They do not necessarily realize or recognize the potential that referring doctors can play in contributing to a highly successful orthodontic practice.

2. It will be a few years before the orthodontic practice begins to fully benefit.

This is because the pediatric practice will initially attract younger patients who aren’t yet ready for orthodontic treatment. For a young orthodontist who needs income right away to pay back student loans and other expenses, it’s important to be aware of the waiting period or to have another source of income.

3. Orthodontists must know that they will gradually become dependent on the pediatric dental part of the practice.

The safest course of action is to eventually have two pediatric dentists. If one leaves, the orthodontic practice does not fall off because the pediatric dental practice isn’t covered.

Despite their differences, ortho-pedo and pedo-ortho practices have very high potential for success. One of the most important factors to consider is the potential revenue based on number of cases that the practices feel they can attract for each specialty. If the numbers work, it may be an excellent idea to create a combination practice. However, there is other information that will affect the decision to go into this type of practice such as who the owners are, who the associates are, and who can be fired. Whatever practice combination you pursue, it’s best to know everything you’ll face upfront.

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 dental practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the United States and around the world. To contact Levin or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit levingroup.com or email rlevin@levingroup.com