by Angela Weber
Are all orthodontists the same?
The readers of this magazine would almost certainly answer
this question with “No, of course not,” and I’m inclined to
agree. Still, if all orthodontists aren’t the same, why do they all
present themselves in the same way?
If you take a little time perusing orthodontists’ websites,
brochures and other marketing materials, you will see the same
phrases repeated over and over again in slight variations. Here is
a quick sampling from actual websites:
- “We provide the highest quality orthodontic care in a
friendly and gentle environment.”
- “We are dedicated to meeting your unique dental needs in
a friendly, caring and comfortable environment.”
- “Our office has a dedicated team of highly qualified
- “It is the goal of our practice to provide you with the
highest quality orthodontic care in a friendly, comfortable
- (And on and on.)
You’re also likely to see in orthodontic materials the same
stock photography of the same smiling faces, recycled many
times over. To be sure, many orthodontists do offer “the highest
quality orthodontic care in a friendly, comfortable environment.”
And they do indeed create smiling faces similar to those
shown in stock photos. Nevertheless, none of this marketing
Over the years, orthodontists have gravitated toward standard
conventions for promoting their practices. They take
cues from their peers, and their peers take cues from them. As
a result, all orthodontic practices (as different as they may be) merge together in the public mind into a bland mush.
Furthermore, there isn’t any thought-out strategy behind this
type of self-presentation. It’s just how everyone does it. It’s what’s
accepted. It’s what’s safe.
Few people dare to be weird.
Why Be Weird?
Everyone in this world is kind of weird.
We all talk to ourselves when no one is
around. We all have our strange habits, odd
thoughts and idiosyncratic obsessions. Even if our own weirdness
doesn’t map directly onto others’ weirdness, everyone can
relate to the fact that we’re all unique in our own way. And people
want to do business with people they can relate to.
Orthodontists often complain that patients often seem to
care only about price, especially in our current economic times.
Competition and downward price pressure are only worsening
as the trend of general dentists pushing into orthodontics continues.
But if you look at the orthodontic options from a
patient’s perspective, going with the lowest-priced orthodontic
provider is a perfectly rational choice since all choices seem more
or less the same.
The fact is consumers aren’t as sensitive to price considerations
as many might think they are. Patients simply need compelling
reasons to make a choice that’s not based on price. If they
click with an orthodontist, if they find the practice enjoyable to
visit, if they feel a connection there, they are more likely to go
with that option.
There are other differentiators beyond weirdness an orthodontic
practice could promote, such as new techniques, a range
of orthodontic options and quality outcomes. But medical concepts
are hard for patients to understand well. Even outcomes
seem far off in the future and abstract to envision. That’s not to
say these topics are irrelevant. It’s just that there’s little emotional
connection there. With weirdness, there is. If you’re weird, you
will not only be relatable, you will be unique – and uniqueness
So, how to be weird as an orthodontist? Simply put: Allow
yourself to be yourself. There’s no instructional manual for being
weird, and don’t look to other orthodontists for ideas.
Remember, the point is to break out of the me-too sameness
that pervades the orthodontic field.
If you still need some inspiration, look outside of orthodontics
into other industries, and remember that weirdness doesn’t
necessarily have to mean eccentricity. People who are passionate about something tend to get really excited about it. As they get
worked up, they may say or do things that are unexpected. Their
animated behavior can come across as weird, but this weirdness
isn’t a negative. It’s an overflow of enthusiasm, which is something
people who encounter it will remember.
Orthodontists tend to be a conservative lot, reluctant to
embrace their inner weirdness. Some will object that:
“Being weird just sounds like a gimmick.” – It’s not about
gimmicks. It’s about finding the courage to be yourself and
letting your individuality out. Orthodontists all have different
techniques, philosophies and personalities, but most are
afraid to publicly take a stand for anything. That’s why everyone
“If I’m weird, I’ll alienate potential patients.” – It’s a fear that’s
unfounded. The opposite is true. Patients will remember you
and relate to you.
“Even if I don’t alienate people, weirdness will likely limit the
pool of patients my practice can attract.” – A mass retailer like
Wal-Mart operates on slim margins and needs a large customer
base. But you’re not Wal-Mart. You don’t need to attract everyone.
In any case you will find that standing out from the pack
will enlarge your customer base, not shrink it.
Our world is one where the population has embraced niches
and exult in their idiosyncratic passions, whether that entails
food trucks, an odd corner of pop culture, or personal charities
and causes. The Internet offers sites and forums devoted to every
topic imaginable. Weirdness is how people relate to each other
these days. It’s how they connect. If you’re still talking about “a
caring, comfortable environment” along with so many others,
you’re being left behind.