Dentists beware: folks are ordering braces online

The news that many folks are actually ordering dental braces online is shocking for dentists and is an example of a service that you thought was “inseparable,” but is actually getting separated at the individual customer level.

For sure not everyone will be ordering dental braces online and bypassing the dentist, but almost everyone will be researching possibilities when the bill could be from $300 (for a dental mouth guard) to $10,000 (for teeth straightening). The NBC clip suggests that the online patient was expecting to pay only about $1000 for the entire teeth straightening process to the online provider.

It was that we believed that a plumber or electrician  in the US was safe from outsourcing, because you needed pretty advanced skills that needed to deploy at the the location of the task like fixing a leaking faucet. The growth of the D-I-Y (Do it yourself) stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s in the US was due to the high costs of calling in a plumber or electrician at least for simpler tasks like changing a plug. Within  a skill spectrum the local electrician and plumber were sure that they would be called in for a complex task (eg. remodel the bathroom) that would provide decent pay.

With YouTube and the very large number of helpful videos, this enterprising blogger (with negligible mechanical skills)  could successfully change the Clothes Drying Machine belt. The belt could be ordered online  and thus avoided calling a technician who had quoted half the cost of a new dryer for a) diagnosing the problem and b) fixing it -with parts charged extra.

There are two things going on here:

  • Consumers are moving up the D.I.Y. value chain: Because  information and knowledge is so readily available online, a consumer who is unsure about fixing a leaking faucet takes up daunting tasks like changing the dryer machine belt.
  • New business opportunity at higher ends of D.I.Y. value chain: You may not find a specific dryer belt at the local Home Depot or Lowe’s, but will find it online.The online store who caters to this emerging high end DIY market has opportunity. A range  of online dryer belts is similar to the online dental braces, who have been able to modularize/split  the dental mold making from getting the mold made at the dentist office, to having this made at the online patient’s home as D.I.Y. Remember, that the actual task of taking the mold in a dental office is done by a dental assistant under the supervision of the orthodontist who has historically been able to charge a high price.

So where does this leave our local dentist?

    • Dentists can be sure that existing patients have mostly checked the online options and prices and know that they are paying their dentist more, sometimes much more. At the least, patients are somewhat resentful. Over time the patients who are able to build confidence to go online will increase- and the dentist braces business will decline…. unless
      • Dentists actively recognize this change and perhaps discuss with patients upfront and work more with payment plans and also consider letting them go online after the initial treatment and set-up. This is similar to physical therapists who give you exercise sheets to do at home after a few paid physiotherapy sessions.

Either way, all skilled professionals need to re-evaluate their marketing approach and offering as customers go up the DIY value chain. About StratoServe Digital Marketing Services.

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