Boy counting coinsDr Runa Mowla-Copley asks if patients are getting a good return on their investment in orthodontic treatment

Many of you will have heard the story of 11-year-old Madison Root from Oregon who made national news last year selling mistletoe from her grandfather’s farm to help fund her braces. This young lady obviously values what braces will do for her and the need to invest in her own future. This young lady ‘gets it’!
And then there is the American mother who dipped into her rainy-day savings when her husband became unemployed, to correct her son’s overbite because she felt strongly about the fact that orthodontics for her child was a better long-term investment than her savings in the bank (which let’s face it, right now wouldn’t be earning much interest!).
The uptake of orthodontics in the UK has increased tremendously over the last 10 years. And the huge numbers of adults undergoing orthodontics for the first time is testament to the fact that our patients understand the benefits a healthy straight set of teeth can give them.

‘Is it really worth the money?’

And yet we have all had the father of a teenage patient with an 8mm overjet and severe crowding ask us, ‘Are you sure my child needs braces?’ To which I am forever flabbergasted by! This is often combined with the fact that the father in question is weighing you up wearily with the, ’is it really worth the money?’ look.
Financing the perfect smile is a big ticket purchase. And the truth is how do we measure our patients’ return on investment?
The answer is we can’t measure the exact value for each and every patient.
We can present the myriad of studies, data and trials confirming  the benefits of orthodontics. Having straight teeth not only has health benefits but the psychosocial benefits over a lifetime are immeasurable. For patients who undergo orthodontics at a young age, they never get to endure the negative judgements made about people with crooked teeth. After all a nice smile goes a long way. According to the Kelton study conducted on behalf of Align Technology in 2012, an impressive 73% of Americans would be more likely to trust someone with a nice smile than someone with a good job, outfit or car.
Other studies tell us attractive people usually earn 3-4% more money, which can add up to hundreds and thousands of pounds over a lifetime.

A sound investment

What this all points to is a good return on investment – if an economist were advising our patients, he/she would place orthodontic treatment as a sound investment.
In 2013 there was a report about the government urging dentists to join a ‘comparison website’ to help raise standards and provide patients with value-for-money. Websites such as give power to the consumers allowing them to search and compare some of the UK’s top dentists and specialists to get the best available treatment. With a few simple clicks clients can compare a list of dental treatments provided by well-respected clinics. The site also offers an ‘Ask the Expert’ option so if the patient does have a question about a particular problem or treatment which could impact on their treatment decision they can ask the very best in the business. This gives it an edge over other sites that are just ‘Find a Dentist’ by offering prospective clients opportunity to really make informed choices about the right treatment and clinic for them.
Ultimately, when patients feel they are getting a good return on their investment, it is a win:win situation for both parties. We as clinicians feel we have provided the best standard of service and care, the happy patient recommends us further and so it continues.


Runa Mowla-Copley BDS DipOrth graduated from Sheffield University in 1995 and has worked at a number of prestigious practices in London, including the award-winning Elleven Orthodontics in Devonshire Place. Runa is a member of the British Orthodontic Society and the Faculty of General Dental Practioners (UK). Her particular area of expertise is interceptive orthodontics and she is also very experienced in dental marketing and PR.
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