Why do different orthodontist charge different fees? Aren’t they all doing the same job?

- May 1, 2024

It is a common finding that orthodontic patients are surprised to find out that the cost of braces or any clear system like Invisalign or Spark commonly varies from office to office. Assuming that the treatment plan and final results would be similar (which may or may not actually be the case), what causes fees to be higher in one office than another? What factors affect orthodontic fees and how are they calculated? Before we start this conversation, it is important to understand that not chefs are the same. Each chef has his/her own way of creating a meal plan and also choosing ingredients. Some chefs will pick high quality ingredients and some will pick mediocre. Most likely if you go to a Michelin Chef restaurant, you are expecting a highly praised and experienced chef who has very meticulously picked his menu and ingredients to the highest standards. Orthodontist are very similar to a Chef.

There are multiple factors that determine what an orthodontist will charge for his/her services:

  1. Cost of the materials and supplies: Orthodontists has available to them a lot of options for deciding which company braces or supplies to acquire. Some brackets are cheaper than others. Dr. Nizam loves to use the Damon Bracket System, which is one of the most expensive brackets you can get. She loves the technology built into them and the comfort for the patient. There are also a lot of supplies needed during the course of your treatment to take you to the finish line. Some equipment and supplies are not visible to the patient such as sterilization equipment, appliance placement and removal tools, and the lab where models and retainers are made. Some orthodontist uses impression material to capture your teeth and bite, Dr. Nizam uses the most advanced technology pf the iTero scanner so provide a much pleasant experience while capture the 3D models of your teeth. Offices that use better materials, more innovative appliances (including clear aligners), and better technology must pass the costs of these improvements on to their patients.
  2. Cost of staff: It is a well-known fact that experienced staff members cost more. By far the biggest expense for all orthodontic practices is staff salaries, and those can be very different between offices. Smaller offices have a much more controlled staff training environment compared to offices that have multiple locations and are seeing 2000-3000 patients in a year. Newer offices or offices that experience a lot of turnover may have less experienced employees and that should be reflected in a lower fee.
  3. Location: The cost of living and operating a practice can vary depending on the location. Orthodontists practicing in areas with higher living expenses may charge more to cover their overhead costs. Same goes for housing cost. In Calgary, some areas have higher rent than others.
  4. Experience and Expertise: Orthodontists with more experience and expertise may charge higher fees due to their specialized knowledge and skill set. They may have invested more time and resources in their education and training, which can contribute to higher costs. This is also true if you are comparing pricing for orthodontics obtained from a dentist vs an orthodontist. Orthodontist go to school for an additional 3 years to study just tooth movement.
  5. Business model: There are three business models in the orthodontic world. Single-owned orthodontic office (like ours), Multi-location and multi-clinician offices with high patient volume and orthodontic offices that are owned by investment corporations that runs the operation merely for profit with a very high orthodontist turnover rate. Single-owned (mom-and-poop concept) offices, have great advantages such as you will always be seen by the same clinician, your treatment design is more customized which leads to a more controlled environment to achieve excellent results. Multi-location offices have multiple orthodontist and your treatment plan will most likely change at every visit, depending on which orthodontist you will meet at that appointment. This usually leads to longer treatment time and less customized treatment plan. The corporate offices are just in for the profit, so you are just a number to them. They have a financial goal and you become a part of that goal.
  6. Practice reputation: Orthodontists who have established a strong reputation for providing high-quality services may charge higher fees. Their reputation and track record of successful outcomes can contribute to their pricing structure.

It is important to note that while cost is a factor to consider, it should not be the sole determining factor when choosing an orthodontist. The quality of care, experience, and reputation of the orthodontist should also be taken into account to ensure you receive the best possible treatment outcome. It is recommended to consult with multiple orthodontists, discuss your specific needs, and compare their treatment plans and fees before making a decision.