Master of Science in Dentistry
Bhavna Shroff, D.D.S., M.Dent.Sc., M.P.A.
Purpose: To evaluate the factors that influence potential orthodontic patients choosing between an orthodontist, general dentist, and direct-to-consumer (DTC) aligners for their treatment, and to determine the demand for each provider type.
Methods: An electronic survey was administered to 250 individuals among the general population of adults in the United States. Questions were designed to determine the respondent’s level of interest in pursuing orthodontic treatment with each provider type, evaluate their current level of knowledge concerning provider options, and identify factors influencing their selection. Pearson’s chi-squared test and ANOVA were used to evaluate the factors influencing patients in their selection.
Results: When asked their preference in provider type, 43.8% of respondents selected orthodontist, 34.1% selected DTC aligners, and 22.1% selected general dentist. Among respondents with the highest level of interest in pursuing orthodontic treatment, 50% selected an orthodontist and 27% selected DTC aligners. For respondents with moderate levels of interest in pursuing treatment, only 21% selected an orthodontist and 48% selected DTC aligners. The biggest perceived advantage of treatment with an orthodontist was quality of treatment, and the biggest disadvantage was cost. For DTC aligners, the biggest perceived advantage was convenience, followed by cost, and the biggest disadvantage was quality of treatment. Among adults with children, 34% selected DTC aligners for themselves and only 16% selected DTC aligners when selecting for their children.
Conclusion: Adults in the United States have similar levels of interest in pursuing orthodontic treatment with orthodontists and DTC aligners and, to a lesser degree, general dentists. A significant portion of those who select DTC aligners for their treatment are patients who would not have otherwise undergone treatment with an orthodontist. Patients tend to select orthodontists due to quality of treatment, whereas DTC aligners are selected due to convenience, followed by cost. Even among parents who prefer DTC aligners for their own treatment, parents tend to select an orthodontist for their child’s treatment.
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