President's Message

Dr. Jay Philippson pitches his spin on how he views Direct to Consumer companies.

As I enter my eighth month as CAO President, I am somewhat reflective of what we have accomplished and how much work there is still to do.  When I started in September, Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) care was just beginning to operate in Canada.  We knew that a head on approach to ensure the protection of Canadians’ health would be difficult and expensive.  Experience from the United States shows the litigious nature of these DTC companies when confronted.  We have taken a more behind-the-scenes approach by engaging with all stakeholders in Canada including DRA’s, Provincial Health Ministers, Health Canada, the CDA, and the presidents of individual dental member organizations. 

The challenge is that the DTC companies have set themselves up like dental supply companies.  In doing so, they direct the responsibility and the liability of care to their consultant dentists who have approved the cases.  Legally, this is not much different than the orthodontic supply companies who are not liable for the treatment their orthodontic clients perform.  The CAO views it differently.  We believe that these companies are providing restricted services, but we have difficulty proving that this is the case.  It is imperative that dentists who approve treatment for DTC companies be held to the same standard of care as the traditional practitioner.  The CAO’s strategy is to ensure that DRA’s do not create a double standard when it comes to the provision of dental care in Canada.

The advertising budgets of these companies are huge and difficult to counter.  In a recent online article, an endodontist claimed that DTC orthodontics is less expensive and faster than traditional orthodontics.  This raises significant concerns.  Firstly, I question the qualification of an endodontist who comments on orthodontic treatment mechanics.  Secondly, I question his insight into orthodontic fees when our typical treatment is much more complex than a typical DTC case.  Self-proclaimed ‘experts’ put orthodontists at a disadvantage as these ‘experts’ are seen as providing information to the public while the orthodontists’ interests’ are trivialized as ‘self-serving’.

Their advertising is also pervasive and potentially misleading.  A popular Canadian singer is used in a DTC company’s advertising emphasizing the importance of a good smile.  There is nothing in the advertisement that claims that this singer has been a client of the company, but the assumption is that this company created their smile.  The truth is that the singer’s smile was created with braces by a member of the Canadian Association of Orthodontists.

Our advertising budget is small in comparison, but the CAO is making inroads. The metrics show that our target audience continues to receive the message and that message is being heard. We will continue inform the Canadian public that the best orthodontic treatment is with a CAO orthodontist.

In March of 2019, the CAO Board participated in a strategic planning session. Prior to the session, a focus group of both members and non-members was held to identify the key points of discussion from a membership perspective.  The facilitator took us through an intensive day that focused and energised all who were involved and at the AGM in Fredericton we will be presenting our new vision to the membership. 

I am proud to be working with such a strong, diverse and energetic group of individuals that we have on the Board of the CAO.  I would also like to thank Alison Nash and her team at the CAO Office.  Their dedication and professionalism are unparalleled, and I cannot imagine a better group of people with whom to work.