How the demand for aligners bounced back after COVID-19
Shelley Clegg talks to Catherine McCanny about the pleasant surprise of high demand for Invisalign after reopening.
One of the positive stories that has come out of the direness created by COVID-19, has been the increase in Invisalign enquiries and uptake of treatment.
While some practices have understandably struggled under the weight of the pressures and demands of the pandemic, there are others who have had a different experience.
We are hearing from lots of orthodontists pleasantly surprised during lockdown about the number of enquiries they received about Invisalign. And even more so about how many of those enquiries became patients who took up treatment once the doors reopened.
For these practices, their Invisalign services have provided a real boost to their morale about the future and their cash flow as they returned to the practice.
I spoke to Catherine McCanny, director of St Michael’s Orthodontic Practice and member of the Invisalign Advisory Board, about her experience so far and her thoughts on the future.
How have you found returning to the practice?
It’s amazing how busy we’ve been. Since we reopened, I’ve never had so many new patient enquiries. The vast majority of which are for Invisalign.
There continues to be demand even now, a few months later.
What were you doing for patients during the lockdown?
I had already been using Dental Monitoring for about a year. But it really became invaluable during lockdown as a way to remotely supervise and guide patients without seeing them face to face.
Patients who already had aligners could carry on with their treatment as they could send in scans via the platform. And those who were just about to start were still able to go ahead as well.
We also used Smilemate, which is a great tool for all the new patient enquiries we were receiving. The first thing we ask new patients to do now is download their photos onto Smilemate. This gives us a good starting point for a virtual consultation.
We can then arrange a clinical appointment for those patients who are ready and wanting to start treatment.
We did do some low-cost marketing during lockdown. But we mainly focused on the fact that even though the practice was shut, our team was still available to answer any queries and support patients through their treatment.
I did virtual consultations during lockdown, which meant I had a cohort of patients ready to start treatment as soon as we opened our doors. I am continuing to do these as it is a very effective way of communicating with potential new patients.
Where do you think this demand is coming from?
People have been looking at themselves on video calls. Things that didn’t bother them before about their appearance are now starting to bother them.
Plus, while some people have been hit hard financially by lockdown, others are finding they actually have more disposable income. This is down to being furloughed but not going out as much or commuting. Or because the money they saved for a holiday they cannot spend on that any more.
Will you continue with some of the changes in the practice?
We want to minimise the amount of time patients are in the practice and the number who are in the building at any one time. Plus we want to keep the clinical teams separate. So I will continue to do virtual consultations from home.
One of the surprising things I’ve found during this experience is how easy it feels to build relationships and rapport in a virtual consultation.
Patients seem more relaxed, and I am too. There is no pressure of having another patient in the waiting room. So if the patient wants to just chat, you can.
Plus, it’s convenient for patients. Especially if it’s for schoolchildren and parents would otherwise struggle to get to the practice between work, school, children’s activities, etc.
Fantastic, and finally, how are you feeling about the future?
I feel very optimistic that there’s still a big demand for aligners and teeth straightening. And I’d question why any orthodontist wouldn’t offer Invisalign and use Dental Monitoring right now.
I will definitely keep doing as much as I can digitally. It will be a long time before we can go back to seeing normal levels of patients. And I think patients really like how convenient it is.
So, despite what we may have felt like in March when we locked down, we’re now positive about what might happen next.
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Catherine is the director of St Michael’s Orthodontic Practice in Wakefield and a member of the Invisalign Advisory Board. She is also a clinical speaker for Invisalign. She graduated from dental school at Queen’s University Belfast in 1988 and commenced her specialist training in orthodontics at Leeds Dental Institute.