Are in-house aligners profitable?

Let’s talk business. In 1973, the ‘Big Three’ car makers in the US possessed 82 per cent of the market share. Today, they own less than 50 per cent. All this is due to the aggressive and unrivalled entry of Japanese carmakers into the US market in the 1970s – led firmly by Toyota. Toyota’s business principle was simple – it aimed to produce more advanced and efficient technology by continuously improving its functional-level strategy. This focused on overlooking day-to-day operations, decisions, and goals.

Toyota spent several years studying the production lines of American carmakers such as Ford. They decided to make their weaknesses their key to success. The US market was confident that foreign-made cars would not be able to sell affordably on US soil due to the monstrous shipping taxes. However, this did not stop Toyota. They established production in the US, thereby eliminating the need to pay any hefty new import taxes. Not only did they continue to reinvent their strategies, but they also still manufactured cars for significantly less money than US companies could.

What Toyota did to reshape the US market is exactly what in-office clear aligners are doing to hone the production processes of the aligner industry. Clear aligners represent a monumental business opportunity for dental practices. On account of a high degree of digitisation and patient preference for aesthetic dental procedures, the market growth for clear aligners has seen a significant uprise in recent years.

Campaigns from direct-to-consumer (DTC) clear aligner brands have helped drive patients away from orthodontist offices by making aligner therapy accessible from the comfort of their own homes. This daring move was able to create a wedge in the business success of private dental practices. Orthodontists then began to rival this with business models of their own that allowed them to provide high-quality aligner services while at the same time cutting down on shipping and middleman costs. Soon, in-house aligners became the talk of the town.

We will investigate how in-house aligners made a mark in the clear aligner market and if it is as profitable as it is advertised to be.

Is the clear aligner market expanding?

The clear aligner business has been on a steep rise in recent years. The aesthetic need for achieving a “beautiful and healthy smile” has been one of the key drivers for the increased uptake of this treatment. Clear aligners are often considered straightforward treatments for patients, which, within limits, are guaranteed to elevate a crooked smile and offer a convenient and comfortable experience, especially when compared to fixed braces.

Today, more than 21 million people have been reported to have started orthodontic treatment with 4 million on the path to straight smiles with the help of clear aligners. The global dental services market size is valued at over $300 billion (approximately £250 billion) according to Grandview Research 2020. Despite the pandemic and its damaging aftereffects particularly on the clear aligner market in the US, it still stood at $1.28 billion in 2020 and $1.52 billion in 2021. In fact, it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17 per cent to reach $4.55 billion by the time 2028 rolls around.

Dentists are often faced with price sensitivity from their patients. Requests for a ‘better’ product yet at ‘lower’ prices have made dentists opt for in-house clear aligner 3D printing. All a dentist needs is to be equipped with a low-cost 3D printer and extensive CAD knowledge to be able to operate a thriving 3D aligner business without having to outsource to other companies. The truth is that rearranging the positions of the teeth is a complex biomechanical intervention. Therefore, the operator must be well-versed in the workings of the oral structures and employ 3D technology around these principles.

More and more dentists are now switching to fabricating their own aligners due to the variety of benefits they offer for their dental practice. Some of these benefits include:

Clear aligners bring in more patients

The ever-lasting love affair between dentistry and technology has given us some of the most innovative and state-of-the-art dental procedures. Clear aligners are one such invention that came into being through the integration of CAD/CAM technology and high-tech plastics. Today, patients have embraced clear aligners as a method of straightening their misaligned teeth. It is minimally invasive and does not require much of a lifestyle change.

Hence, producing clear aligners at your office gives you an opportunity to attract more patients to your practice. By offering end-to-end services through 3D printed clear aligners, your patients leave with satisfaction and a less lighter wallet than if they were to choose name-brand aligners like Invisalign or ClearCorrect.

Minimum in-person appointments equal more chair time for other procedures

Treatment with clear aligners does not require too many in-person visits. The fabrication of clear aligners in the office can be instant with patients having to visit only ever so often for evaluating the progress. With many virtual options available today, the patient can choose to stay in touch with their dentist digitally once the treatment starts.

This further reduces the number of chair time for the patient and frees up a lot of chair time for other services and procedures offered at your practice. Doing so not only diversifies the services you offer at your office but also adds revenue growth to your practice and helps you build a stronger relationship with your ever-growing pool of patients.

A steady revenue stream

Clear aligner treatment can take anywhere from 6 months to a couple of years to complete. It all depends on the complexity of the case and patient compliance for consistent wear of their devices. Upon the completion of the aligner treatment, the patient will also be required to wear retainers for as long as the orthodontist deems fit. Hence, clear aligner therapy involves quite a few procedures. If you’re able to lay out a good financial plan for your in-office aligner production, it will definitely give you a bang for your money. Also considering that getting a 3D printer and other accessories is a one-time investment, you’ll be able to make as many adjustments to the aligner treatment as needed without having to worry about additional laboratory costs.

With the right equipment and business model, clear aligners are one of the fastest-expanding areas in modern dentistry. With in-house aligners, clinicians can expand their revenue streams and maximise the utilisation of cutting-edge technology to make aligner therapy as affordable to their patients and as profitable to them as possible.

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