Pulse of Purchasing: It’s Time To Start Asking ‘What If’ Again

When what was once innovative becomes embedded in our daily workflows and loses its newness, it’s time to turn to those who are starting out to find the next innovation in orthodontic purchasing.


“Innovation” is a funny thing. Something new can come along and everyone gets excited and then, before long, that innovation becomes expected. The magic of its very innovation soon forgotten.

Sometimes I think we use the word “innovation” when what we really mean is “new.” Don’t get me wrong, new is good, but think of how quickly various innovations quickly become embedded in our society, and, as a result, become boring.

For instance, 5 years ago most chat bots on websites were still new, evolving, and required a human on the other side. Today, automated bots can handle an incredible amount of communication and tasks (check out Intercom for a leader in this space), and are a fixture of being online.

In parallel, there are some innovations that take some time or a cultural event to catch on. A few recent examples that come to mind are QR codes and contactless payment. While these technologies have been around for years, it took consumers getting comfortable with the concepts (contactless payment) and external forces (COVID policies resulting in QR code menus) for them to take flight.

Broadly, as a culture, we’ve come to expect new and shiny things. And yet, I don’t see that same behavior within orthodontics from a purchasing perspective. For some reason, as orthodontists, we’ve come to accept the status quo.

Typically, the “status quo” consists of clinical staff needing to order from 10 or 15 or 20 different suppliers, which means as many ordering channels (emailing orders, calling sales reps, multiple logins to e-commerce sites). “Status quo” is receiving an order only to find out only half of the products were available, leaving staff scrambling to find replacements. “Status quo” is every practice paying a different price for the exact same products due to the legacy nature of sales in orthodontics.

What will it take for us to modernize this area of our practice? Of course, simply noticing the headaches clinical staff experience, producing pain, inefficiency, and overspending, often leads you to make a change. That’s how we started building what became Details Concierge—a desire to solve the pain I saw clinical staff experience with ordering in my practice.

The truth is, solving problems often requires fresh eyes. Which is why the technology team we’ve built features expert designers and developers from outside orthodontics, who have worked on projects ranging from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 companies. They were able to learn by sitting side by side with our practice customers, and then apply what they learned using their technology experience.

But these aren’t the only fresh eyes we’ve found that are helpful in trying to modernize orthodontic purchasing. Perhaps the most insightful are those of freshly graduated orthodontists. These are professionals with a younger perspective, who don’t have any of the assumptions or knowledge of the way things are today. They don’t have blinders that someone who has been in their industry their entire career has (ie, me). When they learn how ordering is typically conducted in an orthodontic practice, they’re astonished. Puzzled, they ask, “Why isn’t there a better way?” For these younger generations who have experienced world-class e-commerce from a young age, calling a human to buy something sounds like something from a Saturday Night Live sketch. My practice partner, Dr Vince Hansen, has been one of these younger orthodontists offering his perspective from the start.

New orthodontists offer a fresh perspective, new ideas, and different ways of thinking that can greatly improve our practices. They ask, “Oh, what if…?” And “What if…” is a fantastic place to start when you’re trying to solve a problem like orthodontic product purchasing. If you’re lucky (and work outrageously hard), you just might find an innovative approach you had previously overlooked. OP

This column offers a close-up look at orthodontic product purchasing and how it is evolving. Orthodontic Products teamed up with Biggs—who is the owner of his own private practice in Indiana and founder and CEO of Orthodontic Details Marketplace, an online marketplace built for orthodontists’ purchasing needs—to get his unique insight into the orthodontist-supplier relationship and purchasing trends.

Send us your thoughts and questions at [email protected] and we will answer them in a future column.

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Jeff Biggs, DDS, MS, is an ABO certified orthodontist with more than 20 years of experience. In addition to actively practicing in Indianapolis, Biggs is the CEO of Orthodontic Details, the company behind Details Concierge, which is a platform allowing orthodontic practices to order all of their supplies from one website (without changing suppliers).