The phenomenon of general dentists providing orthodontic treatment for their patients results from two recent developments in dentistry. One is the introduction of new orthodontic technologies that make it relatively easy, in many cases, to straighten patients’ teeth. The other is that business has fallen off for many GPs since the Great Recession, so they’re seeking ways to stabilize and increase their production numbers. Inevitably, the convergence of these two factors has led a growing number of dentists to retain orthodontic cases rather than referring them.

You can’t change the conditions that are fueling this trend, but there are ways you can minimize its impact on your practice. Here’s what I suggest you do:

1. Maintain good relationships with all your referrers.

Don’t allow feelings of resentment to cloud your business judgement. Acknowledge that your referrers will sometimes choose to handle the simpler ortho cases themselves. Position yourself as a go-to practice for treatment that may prove to be more challenging. Act like a collaborator, not a competitor.

2. Initiate marketing strategies to broaden your doctor referral base.

It’s simple arithmetic. If you’re getting fewer referrals from each doctor, you need to be working with more doctors to reach your total referral target. Competition from other ortho practices may be intense, so you’ll need to develop innovative strategies.

3. Strengthen your patient referral and observation program.

Parlay your relationships with existing patients (and parents) into new patients. Use scripting to make it easier for you and your staff to ask for referrals, and employ other simple, inexpensive techniques for tapping this resource. Also, get siblings of current patients signed up for observation. Their parents will be less likely to turn to a dentist when the time comes for treatment.

4. Emphasize your credentials as an orthodontic specialist online.

On your website and through social media, highlight your special training and experience in ortho treatment. Consumers understand the value of relying on experts, so this messaging can persuade them to contact your office…even if they know their GP could handle the case.

General dentists will continue making inroads in the ortho market. It’s inevitable. But with the techniques discussed here, you can still ensure the growth of your practice. OP

Attend Dr Levin’s new seminar, “The Business of Orthodontics… Simplified.” Learn the systems essential for ortho practice success in Houston on September 16 or Las Vegas on September 30. See the complete seminar schedule by clicking here.