One may not equate an online advertising and marketing business with producing dental statistics. However, OutRank by Rogers proved to be an exception. This “one-stop shop for marketing and advertising your small business” recently gathered some interesting statistics about the changing face of today’s dentistry, in particular regarding invisible braces and adults choosing corrective cosmetic procedures.
“The data is based on thousands of clients (and hundreds of dentists) across Canada, excluding Quebec,” said Carrie Shaw, Director of Marketing at OutRank by Rogers. “We set up search-optimized websites for our customers and have access to all of the searches that lead to views to our clients’ websites. That is how we acquired five million searches. The data shows how the industry is changing. To date we’ve seen about 34% of our dentistry partners optimizing their advertising for search words such as Invisalign, invisible braces, aligners, and smile correction.”
“Why did we decide to dive into this research? It was an insight offered by one of our customer service associates that made us realize there was a story here,” Shaw said. “This person works on a lot of dental accounts and noticed the increasing prevalence of dentists offering corrective treatments. We pulled the data and found that indeed, many people are searching for terms such as Invisalign, and more dentists are showing up at the top of the results, not just orthodontists!”
A large part of this change is being driven by the ease of integrating these kinds of procedures into a dental practice, according to Rogers’ research. For a system such as Invisalign, a dentist can assess alignment issues and create molds of patients’ teeth, techniques that are already common in dental practices. These molds are then sent to a laboratory, where 10 to 20 sets of retainers are created. Requiring no new tools or additional staff, systems like this represent a great way for dentists to generate new business.
Dr. Sundeep Patel, a dentist who handles numerous requests for smile correction, sees a growing acceptance of cosmetic dentistry from both patients and doctors. “When I started my practice 15 years ago, only about 1 in 10 adults came into my office requesting cosmetic dentistry. Now we live in a cosmetic age where esthetic treatments make up about 6 in 10 new patient requests. A fair portion of these includes some form of orthodontic treatment.”
From his practice in Winnipeg, Dr. Patel continues to refer patients to orthodontists, but explains that “choosing to refer a patient is entirely up to the dentist. Each day I see more and more dentists doing general orthodontic work and I honestly think you’ll see this trend continue, especially among young dentists in saturated markets.”
But what’s great for dentists may be a cause for alarm for orthodontists.
Dr. Bruce McFarlane, an orthodontist and mentor at ICANDO, explains, “For every orthodontist there are 10 dentists. Naturally oral health care professionals are expanding their services to adapt to the increased competition, but this doesn’t signal the end of orthodontics as we know it.”
There are many cases where traditional orthodontics are necessary for such issues as skeletal issues, overbites, and narrow bite profiles, which cannot be resolved with Invisalign. Adult corrections represent about 30% of Dr. McFarlane’s total practice, and of these cases only about one third are right for braces alternatives. “The worry for me is less about the competition, and more that patients are listening to their doctor’s advice and not fixating on a single treatment option,” he said.
“As far as the link between doctor, patient, and Internet, I think the salient point is that search engines show us what’s trending and we see businesses respond to that,” Shaw said. “I think dentists and orthodontists can learn a lot from what Google tells us, and I think that is a really interesting way to understand what prospective patients want. I would imagine the trends are similar in the U.S.”