Dr. Leon Klempner

Despite the headwinds of the economy, there has never been a better time to be an orthodontist. You read that right. Even though the economic forecast is dour, the tools and technology available right now to every single orthodontic practice – no matter how big or how small – are suited to not only help you weather a broad financial downturn but also position you to take an even greater share of an expanding marketplace once we rebound.

Orthodontics is a recession-resistant industry; the data backs this up. Any year-over-year decreases are temporary dips on a longer term growth trend. One report shows that the industry will grow to $9.60 billion by 2029. (That’s from $3.76 billion in 2022.) You want to take advantage of that!

In the meantime there are five things you can do right now to ease any impact of a temporary downturn, putting your practice ahead when the big bounce happens.

Secure your team – The secret to creating a more efficient practice is to focus on building a high performing team. For example, consider a hybrid work from home office model for some administrative functions. Your TCs can work at home on tasks that don’t require them to be in the office. With the right technology and workflows there’s an argument that they don’t have to be in the office at all. Office managers can also do certain things like billing from home. Also, if you’re offering a starting salary that’s lower than the Walmart down the street, you might want to reassess and reinvest in your team. Training new people costs time and money and potentially loss of revenue due to an immature, inexperienced staff. That’s not what you need in an economic downturn. You want a solid, high performing team with people who know their jobs and can execute professionally and efficiently.

Increase your marketing – When the economy starts to falter, businesses tend to tighten up the pursestrings and marketing seems like the natural place to cut spending. You can actually use that to your advantage. A Harvard Business Review article explains that if a company can maintain or increase its advertising budget while others are decreasing theirs, they can capture market voice, thereby growing revenue. Basically, you’re going to get more business when you’re the only practice that people see on their social feeds and in their Google searches.

Capture the limited treatment market – During a recessionary period, people focus on self-care and improving their beauty. There is a name for it. It’s called the “Lipstick Effect.” When times get tough people will spend any discretionary income they have on things that bring happiness and one of them is their smile. Capturing the limited treatment market among adults can be very profitable. Properly priced and planned with the right technology, workflows and a clear aligner partner with the proper fee structure in place, limited treatment cases actually have higher Value Per Visit compared to comprehensive treatments. That means it’s going to be much better for your bottom line.

Make your website work for you – Does your website promote engagement and a clear path to becoming a patient at your practice? Are there informative articles that build trust and educate potential patients? The busy consumer is no longer waiting on you to get back to them when you can schedule some time to return calls. That’s a fact. They expect immediate responses so they can check the box on a task and get on with their busy day and feel accomplished, especially when they are pressed for time and money. And, the more qualified leads you get, the more cases you will start.

It’s All About the Timing – Don’t wait until a crisis hits in order to change the way you treat patients, market your practice, and retain an experienced office team. The time is now, before we are in a full-blown recession. The worst time to make smart decisions is when you’re under the gun. These changes are not short-term solutions. During the pandemic we saw an acceleration of trends that were already evolving in the industry. We learned a lot about running a successful practice in a downturn when Covid-19 hit. That timeframe was short and we had to enact changes quickly. Some of those changes are with us for the long term.

The Golden Age of Orthodontics is Right Now – A smooth sea never made for a good sailor. Grab hold of the wheel, weather the storm and make the next few months a time for opportunity that will create a better future for your practice. We will bounce back better than ever and you can be ahead of the game by implementing the strategies above. The Golden Age of Orthodontics is upon us if you know how to take advantage of it. 

Leon Klempner, DDS is CEO of People + Practice, a digital marketing consultancy exclusively for orthodontists, and the co-host of The Golden Age of Orthodontics podcast. Dr. Klempner also serves on the Executive Board of The New York State Society of Orthodontists