Access to Orthodontic Care: An Ethical Imperative
Guest post by specialist orthodontist, Dr Marc Ackerman, DMD, MBA
Access to orthodontics through the generations
When my Grandfather started practicing orthodontics nearly 90 years ago, the average orthodontic patient was a member of the upper class. Orthodontics was a strictly elitist activity. When my Father joined the orthodontic specialty nearly 60 years ago, the average orthodontic patient was from the upper middle class. Orthodontics was something that you aspired to have. When I graduated from orthodontic residency nearly 20 years ago, there was no such thing as the average orthodontic patient. Private dental insurance and Medicaid government insurance coupled with low cost orthodontic providers in the market gave access to orthodontic care for all social classes.
Why only a fraction of the population is accessing orthodontic care
With all of the positive economic, social, and technological change that has occurred in the past 20 years, why are there still hundreds of thousands of consumers of orthodontic treatment shut out of the market? The answer is relatively simple. Consumers want straighter teeth at an affordable price and most orthodontists want to completely remake their bite at a much higher price. With no evidence to support the radical remake of the bite concept, many consumers are denied access to enhancement orthodontic care.
What patients want vs. what orthodontists offer
If an orthodontist is willing to straighten just the front teeth, the price of treatment is often nearly as high as more comprehensive treatment. This is because in the traditional orthodontic practice model, the orthodontist must account for a large office overhead and will compensate for this by charging accordingly. If traditional braces are used, they require multiple inconvenient office visits and entail wearing unaesthetic hardware. Orthodontists who choose to offer in-office aligner treatment eliminate discomfort and improve appliance esthetics but render treatment at a much higher price due to the lab cost charged by the aligner company. Social smile enhancement shouldn’t be cost prohibitive to the consumer.
A new model for greater access to orthodontic care
Through a robust teledentistry platform, Straight Teeth Direct™ offers the consumer access to high quality, affordably priced at-home clear aligner treatment that is planned and supervised by an orthodontist. The virtual orthodontic office leverages clinical know-how and innovative state of the art technology to provide the consumer smile enhancement effectively, efficiently, and conveniently fit into their own lifestyle.
Orthodontics: the ethical imperative
It is ethically incumbent on the orthodontic specialty to respect the autonomy of the consumer to make an informed choice about how they want to straighten their teeth.
It is equally important for orthodontists to follow the ethical principles of beneficence (action done for the benefit of others), veracity (truth-telling), and distributive justice (a just allocation of goods/services for the benefit of society).
Straight Teeth Direct™ presents orthodontists with a unique opportunity to fulfil their ethical obligation to society by increasing consumers’ access to enhancement orthodontic care.