Reaching today’s patients
requires more than a website
by Dr. Duncan Brown
Video is a vastly underutilized tool in
orthodontics, perhaps as a result of the
clinical focus of most orthodontists. Given
that Dr. David Sarver highlighted the
value of video in capturing dynamic smile
records in clinical practice more than two
decades ago,1 it is surprising that video has
not penetrated more deeply into common
orthodontic clinical practice. Perhaps we
are looking at video the wrong way.
Video drives social media
For our aesthetic dentistry colleagues,
video has extended far beyond its use in
clinical practice and also become a key tool
in marketing the benefits and services of
That video is a primary tool in emotional
engagement is well recognized in
the social media marketing community;
posts with videos gain more viewers, retain
interest longer and are more likely to
drive consumers to purchase decisions than
posts containing only text or images. Using
video marketing to close the gap between
interactions that are primarily “transactional”
and those that are primarily “relational”
can add value and differentiation
opportunities for orthodontists.3
Dr. Tom Pitts and I believe orthodontists
would do well to adopt marketing
strategies based on “potential, process and
results” within a heavy social media presence
and an engaging, informative website.
When combined with a highly visible, embracing
professional presence in the dental
community,4 this approach can secure a
dominant competitive position, regardless
of the economic situation, and independence
from the “lower fee” pressures that
many of us face.
When orthodontists augment their
imaging/video activities and apply them in
a manner that is more efficient—appearing different and valuable in the eyes of the
patient and simultaneously embracing and
educating the greater dental community5—
their practices thrive. This article will offer
suggestions to help flatten the adoption
curve and position your practice to fully
leverage the benefits of video marketing.
4 major principles for videos
1. Use “consumer-directed” video
marketing strategies that also embrace
the dental community. Direct-to-consumer
(DTC) marketing remains the prime component.6 The important shift toward internal
marketing—rather than traditional
“muffin run” external marketing focused
on primary care dentists, or experience-focused
marketing strategies that concentrate
on office décor or experiences7—is a
good one, in our view.
Including the dental community as potential
consumers of our services is a key
contributor to long-term practice success.
Few primary care dentists know what contemporary
is capable of delivering. Promoting the
orthodontists’ professional participation
within the sphere of collaborative dentistry
is an often-overlooked component of contemporary
DTC marketing approaches.
Generally, the dental community is not
that well informed, and is attracted to similar
messaging as potential patients, so a
video marketing strategy that engages both
groups makes a lot of sense.
Given that 80% of social media marketing
uses visual assets, 82% of consumer
internet traffic contains video, and Google
owns YouTube, the focus on video should
not be surprising,
2. Let your actions be your marketing.
Authenticity—an important and valued
characteristic to consumers—is easily captured
in video. Making images and video
an integral part of everyday office processes
not only provides an endless stream of media
but also supports the practice’s aesthetic
brand and relational office culture.
Hardware can be as simple as a smartphone
and gimbal stabilizer, while software
specifically designed for posting social
media is readily available, easy to use
and inexpensive. These tools are best used
to capture short, 15-to-30-second videos
of office events, patient testimonials, and
treatment progress or results. These posts
bolster the relationship between patient
and practice, and increase the interest in
social media content.
When orthodontists augment their current
imaging/video activities, apply them in
an efficient manner that makes them appear
different and valuable in the eyes of
the patient, and simultaneously embrace
and educate the greater dental community, their practices will thrive.
3. Hire talent, because you have only
a few seconds to capture interest and retain
it. DIY video can take you only so far,
however. To create and edit content that
is more complex than short video soundbites,
hire a professional videographer.
The hardware and software required to
produce professional-grade video is expensive
and time-consuming to master;
fortunately, most companies that offer
this service will provide good value for the
Remember, nobody knows your practice
and the image/culture you wish to
convey through social media better than
you do. Professionals experienced with
video storytelling will ask a lot of questions
or conduct a survey to make sure the media
you receive reflects the values and image
you wish to create,
4. Tell stories people want to hear.
We discourage “red ocean” marketing strategies,
which link price with commodity, in
radio and TV ads because viewer interest is
quickly lost and differentiation is minimal.
Very often when speaking to orthodontists
about video marketing, we hear,
“Great idea, but what do you talk about?”
One of the greatest barriers to entry when
considering video marketing is trying to
identify storylines that differentiate the
practice from the competition while capturing
the attention of the audience.
We believe what you’re saying is less
important than whom you’re saying it
to, so focus storytelling on the orthodontic
process as the patient experiences it.
Placing the patient as the “hero” in the
narrative—as seen in the post in Fig. 1—provides a wonderful opportunity for emotional
Acclaimed mythologist Joseph Campbell
identified and described the stages in
a classic adventure “hero journey,” a classic
storyline common to all human endeavors
and appreciated by every audience.8 (It
formulated the storyline for George Lucas’
Star Wars movie franchise, for one.)
Orthodontic treatment is the patient’s
hero journey and our practices are fi led
with potential stories—if we know how to
Deliver the right story
at the right time
Understanding the stages of personal
engagement and the timing of decision-making
processes allows orthodontists to
tell stories patients perceive as valuable in
making the emotional purchase decision
at the stage they are ready to appreciate
them. Addressing these hot buttons within
the office systems and processes increases
perceived value of our services and makes
us more available to potential and existing
To find you—and believe you can deliver
the desired results—potential patients
must first be aware of the possibilities.
Awareness stage video content, designed to
capture attention, should be short, catchy,
memorable and directed toward the most
common concerns patients voice. Research
indicates posts that display before-and-after
treatment images or video, or demonstrate
professional expertise, have higher impact
on gaining future patients than posts that
display content about the practice team
members’ family or social lives.9
Community involvement and service
is highly valued by prospective patients,
so images/videos that support the practice’s
personal and community reputation
are important to include in social media
posts. Links to more detailed information,
meanwhile, allow access to richer content
that viewers can review for further consideration.
As prospects become more serious, they
enter the consideration stage of engagement;
video content that is fuller, richer
and highly personalized to address patient
questions is suggested. Links to content
that are specific to the orthodontic practice
team, and what to expect at the first
visit, are important touch points. A call to
action about scheduling an appointment
at the office should direct patients to the
website and phone number to make that
first contact, or provide an email address to
allow “permission marketing” of materials
related directly to individual inquiries (the
“click funnel” approach).
The decision stage of engagement usually
occurs after the prospective patient has
attended the office, and requires that they
like you, trust both you and the process,
and commit to proceed with treatment.
Video content that supports the image of
a highly competent, likeable and ethical
practice is valuable at this stage—collecting,
assessing and presenting information
differently, in a “speak less and show more”
examination process. Emotional touch
points are supported visually through the
use of before-and-after visual presentations
of cases similar to the patient’s, delivered
via the context of storylines to the prospective
patient during the exam and on in-office
TV streamed content.
For adults, enabling technology such
as SmileCloud or SmileFy that presents a
visual aesthetic objective to the prospective
patient is very impactful. Engaging
the patient in the planning process, establishing
the aesthetic benefits of white and
pink tissue adjustments and validating case
management techniques (SAP bracket position,
ILSE, disarticulation) differentiate
the practice and the approach.
As the patient proceeds into and
through treatment, the engagement goal
is to support and encourage them while
continually validating their decision to
proceed. This retention stage of engagement
is frequently a missed opportunity
in a social media campaign. Social media
posts enable your patients to thrive and to
support and promote your aesthetic brand
within the community, ensuring a continual
inflow of like-minded patients seeking
the same quality of results and services.
“Process” and “progress” marketing media
approaches are ideal during this stage.
Some simple strategies can help orthodontists
hone their processes so they
acquire, then market, engaging materials
through social media during treatment
and retention.4 The effort involved in taking
“every appointment” photography and
patient videos describing their experience
will be rewarded by an endless amount of
quality content for social media.
5 story strategies to use
during the “hero journey”
Video testimonials: A very powerful
conversational tool. These messages encourage
confidence in the office. “Lifechanging”
experiences and “Wow”-worthy
results are very easy to incorporate in short
social media posts.
Explainer videos: These content pieces
are a good place for the neophyte to
start. Explaining in a conversational tone
why you do what you do is a wonderful
way to personalize complex treatment
strategies in layperson language and provides
the opportunity for viewers to hear
it in your own voice. There is tremendous
differentiation and value in demystifying
common procedures for patients!
Culture/vibe videos: As patients seek
emotional connection with people in the
office, videos that display office culture and
people are very compelling.
Experience videos: Patient apprehension
can be relieved by video content that
shows what they can expect during visits or
Biographic videos: Doctor or team
biographies are very commonly presented
in a text format, but videos personalize the
Is your practice ready?
Patients and potential referral sources
value orthodontic providers who have
stellar reputations, an elevated visual presence
online and elsewhere, and present
enhanced skills, proven “Wow!”-worthy results, and an aesthetic style and practice
environment. Success today depends on going
beyond the metric of outstanding clinical
skills, and this new reality provides a
wonderful opportunity for differentiation.
We are often asked about the challenges
in implementing an “aesthetic differentiation
strategy” into the practice. A detailed,
organized approach focuses on the details.
The good news is that the work does not
necessarily require an external consultant,
and makes a very rewarding team project.
Where external consultation is needed, it
will be both more effective and less costly
the better your understanding of the desired
In the final analysis, establishing positive
differentiation within your community
is priceless, and well worth the effort.
Social media posts: The ultimate short story
The anatomy of a successful social media post contains:
- Title: Short and catchy.
- Media: Either photography or, preferably, video.
- Company logo: Small and tastefully presented.
- Text: Covers no more than 20% of the image.
- Call to action: Encourages the viewer to the next stage of discovery.
- Links: For more information or contact.
- Hashtags: To increase viewership and SEO standings.
1. Sarver DM, Ackerman MB. “Dynamic Smile Visualization
and Quantification: Part 1. Evolution of the Concept and
Dynamic Records for Smile Capture.” Am J Orthod Dentofacial
Orthop. 2003 Jul; 124(1): 4–12.
2. Coachman C. “The Digital Smile Design Concept,” digitalsmiledesign.
3. Geier J. “Cultural Relevance.” Orthotown 2021 Jun; 14(6):
4. Pitts T, Brown D. “Esthetics: Results, Process, and Possibility-
Based Marketing.” The Protocol 2019 V10:6–14.
5. Brown D. “Images and Video: A Key Process in Differentiation
To Thrive.” PCSO Bulletin Summer 2021: 75–9.
6. Kravitz ND, Bowman, SJ. “A Paradigm Shift in Orthodontic
Marketing.” Seminars in Orthodontics 2016; 22(4);
7. Meghna V, Nikhilesh V, Dhaval F, Meeali S. “Integrating
‘Experience Economy’ Into Orthodontic Practice Management:
A Current Perspective on Internal Marketing.”
Seminars in Orthodontics 2016; 22(4):301–9.
8. Livni E. “This Classic Formula Can Show YOU How To
Live More Heroically.” quartz.com, 2022.
9. Meira TM, Prestes J, Gasparello GG, Antelo OM, Pithon
MM, Tanaka OM. “The Effects of Images Posted to Social
Media by Orthodontists on Public Perception of Professional
Credibility and Willingness To Become a Client.” Prog
Orthod. 2021 Mar 8;22(1):7.
Dr. Duncan Brown,
who has practiced
45 years, has offices in
Calgary, Canmore and
Okotoks, all in Alberta.
Brown is an associate
clinical professor at
the University of Alberta and served as a
guest lecturer at the University of Manitoba,
the University of British Columbia and the
University of Western Ontario. He is a coauthor
of "The Protocol," a broadly circulated
publication on the subject of passive self-ligation.
He has served as a consultant for
P&G, Carestream Dental, G&H Wires, Ormco
and OC Orthodontics.