Many dentists considering adding orthodontics to their practice want to know the cost versus the benefits.
If they spend time and money investing in the training and the time away from the practice, what will the financial benefit be?
Over the years, we have worked with thousands of dentists who added orthodontics into their practice. And the financial benefits of orthodontic treatment are pretty clear.
But, much does it actually cost to setup orthodontics in a general dentist's practice?
What is the true cost breakdown?
Orthodontics by the Numbers
Let’s break down the logistics of adding orthodontics. In a typical orthodontic case, here are the average costs and time frames.
Orthodontic treatment time: 18 to 24 months (monthly visits)
Time to start to treat patients from training: 3 to 4 months
Orthodontic Fixed Costs
These costs are the non-negotiables. Meaning at some point you need to invest to get setup. But over time, the cost is definitely a wise investment. These are a typical American GP's start up costs below:
Getting setup for orthodontics requires training and is one of the largest expenses you’ll incur.
Shorter training programs will range in cost from $3,000-$15,000. However, the disadvantage is that with shorter, limited programs, you may not have the full knowledge or support to finish orthodontic cases successfully.
Comprehensive training and tuition is more expensive up front, but allows you to treat orthodontic patients with better knowledge, predictability and efficiency and helps to avoid unwanted complications.
Most dentists don’t need a lot of equipment to start.
You'll need instruments, record taking items, a band sizing kit, and a some set up materials which will cost approximately $7,000 for smaller-volume practice. Higher-volume offices may invest in more inventory to be more efficient, closer to $18,000.
Optional: Some offices also decide to install a ceph machine (new from $20,000 to $50,000) to make record taking convenient. Don't have the funds to buy a ceph? Don't worry. This machine is not necessary to have in-house since you can send patients to a dental imaging lab. You can also find good pre-owned or installment deals to keep costs down.
Marketing: $0 - $1000
Most general dentists will be able to grow their orthodontic cases from their own patient source. However, if you wish to do some additional marketing it can increase your cases quickly.
Orthodontic Variable Costs
Within reason, most orthodontic cases will cost you between $200-$900 per case (plus chair time). Here is a breakdown for the variable costs per case for managing an orthodontic patient.
Buying appliances per case is usually the best business choice for GPs. To minimize inventory, appliances can be purchased after your patient agrees to start treatment. Read more on different orthodontic appliance brands and pricing here.
Extra Materials: $50-$100
Some cases will need glue, coils, headgear, retainer case, colored elastics, ligature wire, etc.
Patient Records: $0 - $200
Many dentists arrange for their orthodontic patients to pay for their own records. This also filters out the less serious patients and helps you to optimize your time. If you decide to cover the records, expect a couple hundred dollars more of expense.
Chair Time: 5-8 Hours
Minimizing chair time is a key to financial orthodontic success. Assuming a 2-year case, you can expect to see your patient every month. With 15 minute appointments, and 1 hour initial and final appointments, this adds up to about 8 hours of chair time. If you use smarter brackets, expect the patient to have 5 hours of chair time.
Consulting (optional): $300-$600
Some dentists will choose to pay a consultant for guidance on a case. Most doctors can minimize their use of consulting and mentoring after around 10 to 40 cases.
Is the cost worth it?
These are the basic costs of setting up and running a successful orthodontic service in a general dentist practice.
From our experience, the benefit of adding orthodontics to a general practice can be an additional $100,000 to $200,000 in annual revenue. This can add up to $3-$6 million for a conservative dentist over a 30 year career.
Sound appealing? Use our Ortho Calculator to see how profitable your orthodontic practice would be.
In our next article, we will break down the potential profitability of adding orthodontics into a general practice.