Are clear aligners the next frontier for the industry?

February 19, 2020

Last month, Clove Dental announced the launch of their first ever invisible aligners under the brand name, Clove InvisiBraces. Besides aggressively marketing the product across media channels, the company has also announced special offers for the invisible aligners. Clear aligners have recently started receiving special attention from dental chains, who are actively promoting the benefits of the treatment through blogs and interviews, with the latest published as recently as yesterday by Sabka Dentist. At Clove’s Leadership Conclave yesterday, InvisiBraces were highlighted as the next big revolution in the dental industry.

A key driver behind Clove Dental’s move is cost, according to Dr. Satish Alavandar of M2M Dental Clinics in Chennai. “The objective here is to undercut other clinics with regards to aligner cost and also to completely eliminate the need for an orthodontist to monitor the treatment. All the treatment planning is done by a software (3Shape Clear Aligner Studio). They would just have to invest in a 3D printer (which costs ~INR 3.5 lakhs). Overall, it works out to be cheaper for them. In fact, this is already being done on a small scale by several orthodontists,” he adds.

The aligner market is very crowded, with several low-cost options. With the launch of Clove InvisiBraces, the company is trying to differentiate its product from low-cost options, while maintaining a cost advantage over popular brands such as Invisalign. Dr. Satish believes that proper treatment planning by the aligner maker plays a much more important role than the brand, which could give Clove Dental an edge.

The increased attention to the service offering, evidenced by the marketing push, suggests dental chains want to make the most of the technology. Dental chains are likely to undercut costs vs. other clinics, and pass their savings to the customers to gain market share, a formula that has worked well for them in the past. A 2014 article in Outlook Business suggested that aggressive pricing has been key to the growth of MyDentist, now rechristened Sabka Dentist. In the article, Vikram Vora, CEO and co-founder of the company, insists that he charges barely half of the going rate in the business.

Dr. Satish cautions dentists from participating in such a price war. “It will be a race to the bottom to see who crashes first. Moreover, the demographic of patients who seek such high-end treatments are usually high-profile individuals who are generally very demanding and will not accept any compromises. As in anything else in dentistry you get what you pay for. Lower cost means lower quality, and results in poorer treatment outcomes and increased patient attrition.”

“We have all seen what a price war has done to the telecom industry. Let us not follow the same path,” he adds.

Dr. Satish also cautions patients who may be overwhelmed by the aggressive marketing of the product. “In the current scenario, treatment outcomes with aligners are unpredictable, and I would advise anyone going for this treatment to be very cautious and take multiple opinions with specialists in the field before they make a final decision,” he says.

About the author

Dr. Shilpy Bhandari is a Hyderabad-based Periodontist and the founder of Dentistry Insider. She has worked extensively across dental clinics of all sizes — from large corporate chains to small, independent setups.

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