Personalization in Orthodontic Care: The UX of Customized Treatment Plans

June 17, 2024

In an age when so many interactions happen digitally, it is essential that dentists prioritize the adoption of accessible, user-friendly Web experiences. This is particularly true for orthodontists who are now competing with direct-to-consumer, mail-in services such as invisible aligners. The user experience for dental care could include consumer interactions with a dental practice’s Web site, social-media posts, and digital ads, along with the various services or products that the practice provides.

It’s no secret that many people do not like going to the dentist or the orthodontist, which could already lead to patients avoiding the care they need. Unfortunately, in today’s competitive landscape, where consumers are increasingly choosing convenient experiences over high-quality care, it’s even more likely that patients would avoid seeing an orthodontist in person if they don’t have to.

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This makes UX design even more critical for dental practices that want to remain relevant and retain their patients. Specifically, dental providers and practices must create more accessible, user-friendly, and personalized experiences if they want their patients to continue making appointments for the higher level of care they need to stay healthy.

Orthodontic Care in the Digital Age

In recent years, technology has completely transformed numerous industries, as well as the ways in which they do business. The digital disruption in healthcare has been a particularly hot topic. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and telemedicine have revolutionized both patient and provider experiences.

Orthodontists, for example, can use AI tools to assist them in capturing images of patients’ teeth and creating braces, aligners, and retainers. IoT technology can provide real-time data on tooth movement, enabling more personalized treatments and more precise adjustments to fittings. However, while these advanced tools have benefited the dental industry, there are also ways in which digital technologies are harming the dental industry—specifically for traditional dental practices.

The Rise of Direct-to-Consumer Dental Services

With advances in technology, we’ve seen newer, more innovative brands emerging that are using the latest technologies to cater to modern consumers who prefer convenience. Specifically, ecommerce brands have created direct-to-consumer (DTC) systems, so patients no longer need to go into a dental office for things such as getting aligners for their teeth.

The key factors that make these brands more enticing than having to visit a dentist in person are convenience and accessibility. Patients simply sign up online, receive a kit that takes impressions of their teeth, then return the kit by mail and wait for their custom-made aligners to arrive. This DTC approach is simple, fast, and affordable—making it extremely attractive to modern consumers.

However, it’s not only the convenience of these brands that draws people in; it’s also their marketing and UX design. The user experience for these brands is spot on because they’ve done the work necessary to better understand today’s consumers. They use fun logos, catchy slogans and copy, and user-friendly interfaces to grab people’s attention and reel them in.

The interesting thing is that, while consumers are choosing these DTC aligner services more often, research shows that they would actually prefer traditional treatment from a dentist. So why are these people still choosing DTC services over visiting the dentist? Because the UX strategies of these brands enable them to create more accessible, personalized, and enjoyable experiences for the user.

If traditional dental providers also started adopting more modern, innovative UX design practices, they could begin drawing patients back into their offices and offer them the higher-quality care they want and need.

Giving Orthodontics an Upgrade Through UX Design

If traditional dental and orthodontics practices want to compete with these modern DTC brands, they must also start implementing more strategic UX practices to create more personalized and customized experiences. Let’s consider five key areas on which they should focus to accomplish this goal.

1. Increasing Accessibility

Efficient, accessible, and user-friendly experiences are essential to expanding patient reach and increasing retention. Today’s users want and need services that are more convenient and accessible—for example, providing a Web site that patients can access 24/7 to obtain important information, learn about products and services, and schedule appointments.

A good Web-site design should ensure ease of navigation, so patients can readily find what they’re seeking. The Web design should be accessible, ensuring that everyone can navigate the site, no matter their disabilities. This could mean incorporating features that work with assistive devices such as alt text for images and closed captions for videos.

2. Enhancing Communications

Another key element in creating user-friendly experiences is better communications. For example, instead of requiring patients to book an in-person appointment, the Web site should provide an option for telehealth video appointments, enabling easier, more convenient communications.

Web sites and apps should also employ platforms that offer alerts and notifications such as important updates or reminders for checkups. Chatbot features can also help patients easily get answers to their questions without having to call in or book an appointment.

3. Boosting Empathy

Creating empathetic user interfaces is another important aspect of UX design. This means creating user interfaces that cater to the user’s emotional needs and, thus, deliver a more comforting interaction. Consider, for example, how many people avoid going to the dentist because it makes them feel anxious. A more empathetic UX design could mitigate this issue by using imagery and language that demonstrates a better understanding of and sensitivity to these anxieties.

4. Creating Personalized Treatments

A major benefit of UX design is being able to create more personalized and customized user experiences for patients. The personalization of products and services is a big reason why so many consumers are choosing DTC services over the traditional dentist.

As I mentioned earlier, orthodontists already have tools available to them that use technologies such as AI and IoT to enhance patient care. They could also use these same technologies to collect and analyze user data, which could help providers create content, experiences, and even treatment plans that are more customized and personalized to meet patients’ needs and expectations.

5. Facilitating More Informed Decision-Making

With such easy access to the Internet, patients often become inundated with information—and not all of which is correct or helpful. Through UX design, we can create user interfaces that direct patients toward the right information and, thus, help them make better-informed decisions for themselves. In the UX design industry, we call this designing for people, not products.

For example, dental practices can use their Web site and social-media accounts to educate and inform their patients on how they can make better choices for their oral health. Maintaining healthy teeth and gums is about more than just keeping up with their dental appointments. Patients need to care for their teeth as part of their daily lives to ensure they have a healthy mouth.

Part of implementing a good UX strategy is using online content to inform patients. For example, teaching patients about the best and worst foods for their teeth and gums is a great way of educating patients and empowering them to take control of their own oral health.

Wrapping Up

As the healthcare landscape becomes more competitive, creating more personalized user experiences through UX design is becoming increasingly vital. There is no way to stop modern DTC brands from continuing to attract patients, but traditional dental practices can keep up and remain relevant by adopting similar UX practices that prioritize the patient experience through personalization. 

Freelance Writer

Seattle, Washington, USA

Ainsley LawrenceAs a freelance writer, living in the Northwest region of the United States, Ainsley has a particular interest in covering topics relating to good health, balanced living, and better living through technology. When not writing, she spends her free time reading and researching to learn more about her cultural and environmental surroundings.  Read More

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