I remember when I first visited my dad’s dental office. I must have been around 5 years old and it was the early 1970’s. There are a couple of things I remember about that visit, namely, we had to walk downstairs to get into the basement dental office and the only evidence of my father’s practice was a small 6″x24″ sign that bore his name on a small steel post at ground level. That was it.
As a matter of fact, back in those days, a dentist-or any professional-wasn’t allowed to advertise in any significant way. Sure, times were easier in terms of competition and way less insurance involvement, but if one wanted to be progressive in promoting their practice, one could take out a bold listing in the white pages. No huge signs on the practice. No yellow page ads. No internet or social media. Word of mouth was it.
So, how did things change?
If you listen to the Orthopreneurs podcast episode with my dad ( I HIGHLY recommend it HERE ) he talked about the 1977 Supreme Court case that allowed attorneys to advertise. That ultimately changed the way all professionals were able to tell others about their services, but did anyone ever suspect that it would end up where it is today? Moreover, did anyone ever imagine the ubiquitous advertising of “lowest prices for braces” and that non-professionals such as at-home aligner companies could hawk their products to an unsuspecting public with potentially misleading statements? How did we get here and where are we headed?
Advertising professional services is a slippery slope. On one hand, we want to get the word out about what makes our practices unique, and on the other hand, it can be an escalating “arms race” where those advertising the cheapest and fastest or those with the most advertising money win out over the rest. Is that how it should work? This week, as federal regulators try to force companies to take down “fake” online reviews, studies show that even just one star extra in Amazon ratings can lead to a 26% increase in sales of a product. The public is easily misled and it’s happening more and more in orthodontics.
And what about the public? Don’t they deserve to be protected? When companies promise results that are impossibly fast or claim to be “X% faster than traditional braces” the public deserves the truth and some degree of protection.
The internet and social media have made advertising our practices (and the claims that go with it) easier and more widespread than ever before. Who is supposed to police advertising claims and where are they supposed to draw the line?
I don’t have the answer, nor do I claim that there is a right one. What I do know is that we’ve come a long way from the days of “no advertising” clauses in local dental societies and in many cases, the advertising has gotten way out of control.
We live in an era where the masses rush to the quickest, easiest and cheapest.The big question is: how do we compete with advertisers who at best skirt the truth and at worst, make outright false claims? Will it get worse, or will oversight agencies step in and level the playing field and do we want them to?
After all, it was US who asked for more freedom in advertising.
Wishing you all the best!!!
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GLENN KRIEGER IS AN ORTHODONTIST WITH 20 YEARS OF RESTORATIVE AND COSMETIC DENTISTRY EXPERIENCE BEFORE HE RETURNED TO ORTHODONTIC RESIDENCY. DR. KRIEGER LEARNED ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF WELL-DESIGNED PRACTICE POLICIES AND SYSTEMS DURING A YEAR AT THE SCHUSTER CENTER FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN SCOTTSDALE ARIZONA, AND AN UNDERSTANDING OF GENERAL ACCOUNTING PRACTICES AND INDUSTRIAL PSYCHOLOGY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON GRADUATE BUSINESS SCHOOL’S “DENTIST AS CEO” PROGRAM. HE IS THE HOST OF “THE ORTHOPRENEURS PODCAST”, MANAGES THE ORTHOPRENEURS FACEBOOK GROUP AND RUNS THE ANNUAL ORTHOPRENEURS SUMMIT.