By Christopher Piehler 

Chris PiehlerIn my 8 years at the helm of the magazine, this issue marks the first time our cover has featured an orthodontist/employee. Burdened by enormous debt after finishing his orthodontic education, Jeffrey McMillan, DDS, chose to work for an orthodontic, dental, and vision company rather than become an associate or borrow more money to start his own practice.

As McMillan makes clear in the article on page 16, he earns far less income than his private practice peers do—but his overhead costs ?are zero.

This business model is relatively new in the orthodontic field, which has traditionally been the province of doctor/owners who either start a practice from scratch or buy one from an existing practitioner. But in a specialty where the number of graduating (and generally heavily indebted) orthodontists is far greater than the number of opportunities being offered in private practice, we may well see more young practitioners following McMillan’s path in the years to come.

On the other side of the issue, as I wrote in this space last month, many established orthodontists are looking to expand the scope of the services that they offer their patients. On page 42, Ken Fischer, DDS, examines the pros and cons of hiring a dental hygienist.

This month’s Focus on Practice-Management Software (page 44) also ties in with our theme of the changing ways in which orthodontists can handle the business side of their practices. As practice-management programs add new features like social media integration and the ability to access your entire practice from smartphones and tablets, orthodontists have new choices to make about how they interact with their patients and their staff.

This also brings up the question: What is the boundary between work and life? For someone like McMillan, the line seems clear, but for an orthodontist who can virtually take his practice home with him, work can easily absorb life. We’re here to help with that—not to push orthodontists down any one path, but to provide a map that shows all the different paths as clearly as possible.