As we all know, a growing number of general dentists are offering orthodontic treatment directly to their patients, rather than referring to orthodontic practices. There are a number of reasons why more patients are going this route and thereby pulling down orthodontists’ production numbers.

What’s Driving GPs to Provide Ortho Treatment

The most obvious is the availability of new orthodontic technologies that make it easier to treat patients, putting simple cases within the GP’s range of capabilities. Another is the fact that many GPs have experienced production declines in the past several years, so they are hesitant to refer patients to another practice and prefer to capitalize on the production potential themselves. And, finally, patients who have a good and trusting relationship with their GP will have no reason to seek orthodontic treatment elsewhere if their doctor assures them it’s not necessary.

Even if you understand why some of your referring GPs are keeping ortho cases to themselves (not to mention trying to attract new orthodontic patients), you may feel like striking them off your list of referrers. Think twice before doing this.

Why They May Still Be Good Referral Sources

Though it may make sense to move them down your marketing coordinator’s priority list, you should still maintain those relationships because:

  • They will still be referring cases that call for greater expertise. Some orthodontic cases are too challenging for the typical GP to handle. By positioning yourself as the “go-to” orthodontist for those patients—even consulting on cases to facilitate GPs’ decision-making—you may receive a substantial number of referrals after other orthodontists have cut off the relationship.
  • If they manage to increase general dentistry production, they may begin referring more of the orthodontic candidates they see. Smart GPs who’ve experienced production declines since 2009 are rethinking and restructuring their service mix. Changing with the times and looking for solutions, they may de-emphasize orthodontic treatment in the future. By maintaining cordial relations, you’ll be there in the right place at the right time.

To keep new patients coming, you’ll want to put more emphasis on referrals from current patients, parents, and pediatric dentists, building your observation program, and other marketing strategies… but don’t give up on those GPs. They can still help grow your practice.

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