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The Beauty Of Data

Data is important to business as it demonstrates the subtleties of both the inner and outer transactions that occur every day under one roof.

 It’s awe-striking for both its vastness in size, application and its complexity. What’s more is the meaningful change that can come as a result of the insights we have access to. Orthodontics may appear different from other businesses to the consumer, but the clinician’s need for data is as necessary as an ERP system used by a local grocery store for inventory tracking. 

With each orthodontic case set up to go between 6 months to ~2 years, proper tracking of the patients in the pipeline, patients in circulation, patient scheduling, and patient time in the chair all have a direct impact on the bottom line. Orthodontic and dental practices are clinical first, but with deep insights into the behavior of their patients, doctors can maximize procedure efficiencies, and thus, profitability.

A well run practice triangulates the clinical customer experience feedback with data outputs from its operations to assess its overall health.  


AI (Artificial Intelligence) concept. Deep learning. GUI (Graphical User Interface).

Tracking Data

There are hundreds of procedures and activities a practice can track, all the way down to the way a patient transacts financially for their treatment. In this way, the environment is akin to the human body, with several different inputs that affect how well the whole system works.  

Because data is so ubiquitous, it can be daunting to identify the appropriate key performance indicators that make an impact, rather than the false positives. An example of this is paying close attention to the top line production of a practice against case starts without consideration around the amount of appointments per patient or the time spent chairside with them in an orthodontic case.   

With an orthodontist’s focus directed toward patient care, there often isn’t time or interest in looking at the inputs that determine the financial fate of the practice. The lab fees can be particularly misleading with aligners because they tend to be anywhere from 5X to 10X the costs of brackets and wires for the same case. However, as Suzanne Wilson with Gaidge Analytics will attest, the materials costs are only one piece of the equation – the other being that of the variable costs of doctor and staff time. 

Per Gaidge (the leader in orthodontic practice analytics), the average number of appointments per orthodontic case in North America is 12 for aligners and 19 for bracket/wires, (2022 US aggregate) due to the difference in the ways each system is operated by the clinician. A bracket/wire orthodontic system tends to have more hands-on requirements with new wire insertion, bracket repositioning, and rebonding when necessary.  Aligner cases can largely be treated through the computer, with refinements typically being the impetus for an in-office visit. This removes the on-site requirements of a more mechanical treatment through braces. Consider a software update for a Tesla vs. tuning a rattling carburetor in a 1988 Mustang.      

Linking data to practice efficiency

For Dr. John Warford, of On Demand Orthodontist, it was data discovery that unlocked a new path for treating his patients. In deploying Gaidge into his private practice, he has been able to directly correlate the reduction in the amount of appointments from utilizing Dental Monitoring to the amount of time he and his staff spend chairside. This examination led to findings that he was notably lower than the national average of appointments while maintaining the quality of care that has existed since his father started the practice over 35 years prior.

Triangulating his clinical expertise with aligner cases and remote monitoring, he began to stitch together a process that was the inception for ODO. Although the opportunity to pull and manually analyze the data was always there with his practice management system, like many other orthodontists, Dr. John is not a business analyst, and does his finest work clinically. Gaidge simplifies the process of identifying the important data, then synthesizes and presents it as business insights so that he can see the short and long view of chairside efficiencies and the production possibilities it unlocks.

Take a deep dive into your data

Ironically, despite there being many features in a practice management software that inform on the health of an office, most clinicians just use the perfunctory tools available to record the information and go. 

In addition to utilizing data from Gaidge to review his appointment volume, Dr. John has been able to learn from the Dental Monitoring dashboard the amount of “go” vs. “no go” scans in any given orthodontic case (this is when there is an aligner seat vs. unseat; an unseat can delay moving to the next tray). He can review this information to better understand why certain cases have three refinements and others have one, which isn’t always associated with patient non-compliance. For example; in 2021, Dr. Warford had a statistically significant amount of Spark Aligner (Ormco) and Invisalign (Align Technologies) cases running concurrently in his practice. Dental Monitoring showed that his Spark cases had 77.7% “go’s”, and his Align cases had 71% “go’s”. A deeper hypothesis can be formed around the plastic for the Spark Aligner system, but inside of the practice, it “feels” like the patients are transitioning from tray to tray more fluidly. 

The net effect of these practice findings validated Dr. John’s decision to utilize Dental Monitoring almost four years ago and pivot to Spark Aligners. 

Create a jumping-off point

When making any business decision, looking at the anecdotal is always the path of least resistance to inform on next steps. It takes a little bit of extra time to determine the most valuable inputs and aggregate them into a meaningful data set, then understand the numbers. Although more work, it can help alleviate the impact of an impromptu, emotional decision that can start a negative cascade on the practice. Even without Gaidge Analytics, practice management systems usually have a wide array of tools that can give a directional readout into what is working and what is not.  


Start with examining a few simple criteria, then expand the analysis from there.

  1. How many orthodontic starts per year.
  2. How many patients are in the funnel, and how long have they been there?
  3. How many chairside appointments does each case have?
    1. Break this down by case indication.
    2. Further subset into brackets/wires vs. aligners.
  4. Divide the amount of appointments by the amount of starts and subtract materials costs to identify profitability per case.

Beginning here will give the practice owner a jumping-off point into better understanding into how the clinic is performing today and get them a rough order of magnitude of opportunity for growth. There are several tools that can deliver these statistics without you having to do the calculations yourself, but a tool requires commitment for use in order to receive an investment payback. To maintain this commitment, it’s useful to set goals for the 1-5 year outlook of the practice and leverage the resources already available to understand the current state. 

Although this will require some degree of mental transition into a world that is non-clinical, the findings can be surprisingly rewarding and insightful. While still at the mercy of variability, an informed, data-driven decision displays pathways once thought to not be of interest, and opens new ones that weren’t initially seen. 

Check Out How Gaidge Does it.

On the latest Get it Straight podcast, Dr. John Warford, Judd Johns and Jason Sirotin talk with Suzanne Wilson, Chief Operating Officer at Gaidge. The conversation runs through the benefits of data in the orthodontic practice, Dr. John’s experiences with Gaidge, and the latest features within their software that make it easier to leverage the right data for success.
You can check out the complete podcast episode here, and learn more about the way ODO can set up your practice to offer aligner-based treatment, with significantly less office visits, here.