Orthodontists no longer rely on primary care dentists for referrals. Instead, they have adopted a strategy to educate patients and market products directly. This is referred to as direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising. With regard to clear aligners, the direct-to-consumer (DTC) model has been gaining prominence, attributed to cost and convenience. As per Inkwood Research, the global clear aligners market is expected to project a CAGR of 27.04% during the forecast period, 2023-2032.
This blog briefly examines the credibility of the direct-to-consumer (DTC) model with regard to clear aligners.
What has steered the DTC Model in Clear Aligners Market so far?
A study on the factors influencing the selection of direct-to-consumer (DTC) aligners found that 45% of respondents had already heard of DTC aligners before the survey. This means they are rapidly emerging as a treatment option. The primary channels through which people became acquainted with DTC aligners include television advertisements, the internet, online platforms like social media, and recommendations from family & friends. Consequently, DTC marketing evolved into a crucial strategy for companies in the clear aligners industry. It emphasizes the product and the associated cost & convenience over the service the provider delivers.
However, most respondents who had opted for DTC aligners cited treatment quality as the biggest concern. At the same time, they chose DTC aligners despite the low-quality treatment, indicating a greater emphasis is on cost, convenience, and shorter duration.
Furthermore, direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing proponents claim that it empowers consumers with information. For instance, Invisalign followed a DTC marketing path with clear aligners. Today, its DTC marketing encompasses full-page ads in popular women’s magazines and prime-time television commercials. As per the ads, everyone is a potential candidate. Besides, the ads may imply that wires and brackets are an outdated and painful technology, whereas clear aligner therapy is simple and easy.
As a result, Invisalign has taken its marketing directly to the consumer. This has increased the patients’ inclination toward Invisalign. They opt for it even before receiving a detailed evaluation of whether the product suits them. Additionally, skilled orthodontists are under pressure to prescribe Invisalign treatment despite their limited interest or experience with the product. This is simply due to the fear of losing patients. Such scenarios are against the public’s best interest. (Source)
On the other hand, the DTC model’s opponents claim that it does not give the full disclosure needed to make an informed decision about the treatment. Also, such ads (Invisalign) blur the line between a primary care dentist provider and an orthodontic specialist.
DTC Aligners’ Treatment Model: Dental Professionals voice their Concerns
A study on dental professionals’ perspectives of the DTC aligners’ treatment model found that 94% of the respondents felt it is not within the standard care to administer orthodontic treatment without a panoramic radiograph or full mouth series. They also mention the need for an in-person clinical exam and patient observation during the treatment. Most DTC companies eliminate these aspects. This indirectly gives patients extra responsibility to fully understand their oral health.
Furthermore, 22% of dental professionals said that the patients they advised against the DTC aligners started the treatment anyway. Another study found that only 53.8% spoke to a dentist before starting the DTC aligners’ treatment. Overall, it is inferred that half of the patients seeking DTC clear aligners are not consulting a dentist. Whereas a portion of the other half who do consult a dentist do not listen to the advice given.
Thus, the lack of sufficient diagnostic records raises concerns regarding the quality of pre-treatment patient education. Moreover, it highlights the absence of adequate informed consent before starting DTC treatment and the subsequent burden placed on patients to determine their oral health status.
Clear Aligners Market: Future of Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Model
Dental professionals’ substantial concerns about the DTC model are centered on misinformation about treatment and substandard orthodontic care. Nevertheless, a number of factors will influence the existing clear aligners’ marketing realm. These include increased use of direct-to-consumer ads, shifting referral patterns & sources, lax restrictions on advertising and ethics, and a rising number of primary care dentists offering orthodontic treatments.
Our analysis of the global clear aligners market by distribution channel includes laboratories and direct sales. The segment growth is accredited to the increasing adoption of innovative technologies to enhance the treatment and deliver optimal results for orthodontic procedures.
By Akhil Nair
Which are the leading companies in the global clear aligners market?
Envista Holdings Corporation, Align Technology Inc, Dentsply Sirona Inc, etc., are among the leading companies in the global clear aligners market.
Which trend is projected to be lucrative for the global clear aligners market growth?
Dental tourism is projected to be lucrative for the global clear aligners market growth.