One of the most frequent complaints we hear from patients who transfer to our practice from corporate dental offices (those owned by companies instead of doctors) is that their orthodontist just disappeared. They start treatment with one doctor only to have them leave and replaced by another within a few months. We frequently hear that patients may have three or more different orthodontists during a typical two-year treatment. Not only do they lose the relationship they develop with their doctor, but the change is even more difficult if the next one has a different treatment plan than the previous one.
Many Orthodontists Do Not Own Their Own Practices
Growing up in Missouri in the 1970s, my family had one physician, one dentist, and one orthodontist. Why do orthodontists move around so much these days? Although the full explanation is a bit complex, it can be summed up in one short sentence: Many orthodontists do not own their practices anymore. Here is why:
New Orthodontists Have A Lot of Debt
Orthodontic education is expensive. Becoming an orthodontist requires at least ten years of education after high school (four years of college, four years of dental school, and at least two years of orthodontic residency). The average new orthodontist owes hundreds of thousands of dollars for their education upon graduation. Not only do they end up with a lot of debt, setting up a new practice costs hundreds of thousands more. Consequently, most recent graduates do not feel comfortable starting or buying a practice of their own.
Many Orthodontists Work For Companies Until They Can Afford Their Own Practice
“Corporate dentistry” has recognized the situation in which most new orthodontists find themselves and has taken advantage. Here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the number of corporate dental offices with orthodontists has exploded over the past decade opening more than 40 offices. These practices are run by a centralized company that sets up the facility, manages the business, and hires doctors to provide the care. Many young orthodontists are willing to sacrifice earning potential to avoid the additional debt that would be required to start or buy a practice. Their mindset is to work for someone else until they can afford one of their own. Without any “skin in the game,” it is easy for them to leave when another opportunity comes.
Possible Issues with Orthodontic Care In A Corporate Practice
The purpose of this blog post is not to disparage corporate orthodontists nor their training. Doctors who work for companies are usually intelligent orthodontists who have completed the same training as those who own practices. There are some drawbacks associated with the corporate model that may affect the quality of your care, however. Depending upon the company, here are some of the issues you may encounter:
- They tend to hire newer, less experienced doctors
- They may dictate how the treatment is provided
- The orthodontist who starts your care may not be there long enough to finish it
- Your next orthodontist may disagree with the original treatment plan and change it
- The length of treatment may suffer if you have to see several different doctors
Privately Owned Practices Tend to Offer More Consistent Care
I have to admit that I am biased. I own my practice, and I believe that the best care is provided in privately owned practices where the doctor/owner is there for the long haul, treats patients, and makes practice decisions based upon the needs of the patients and not a corporate spreadsheet. Although corporate offices may appear to offer lower fees, the results you may receive may not be as consistent or efficient as if you see the same doctor every time, all the way through your treatment.
At Jorgensen Orthodontics, we have had the same orthodontist for the past 29 years and completed over 10,000 cases. This continuity has resulted in treatment techniques and outcomes that are consistent and predictable. Although some treatment plans may be modified as care progresses, it does not happen because a doctor’s contract runs out, and they move on. Now that my son Dr. Brent has joined my practice, we treat patients together to continue our tradition of providing beautiful smiles for your family and friends.
NOTE: The author, Dr. Greg Jorgensen, is a board-certified orthodontist in the private practice of orthodontics in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (a suburb on the Westside of Albuquerque). He was trained at BYU, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Iowa. Dr. Jorgensen’s 29 years of specialty practice and 10,000 finished cases qualify him an expert in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems (including conventional braces, Damon and other self-ligating brackets, Suresmile, and lingual braces). This blog is for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. Jorgensen is licensed to diagnose and treat patients only in the state of New Mexico. He cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor select treatment plans for readers. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with the author’s written permission.