The best of innovation and entrepreneurialism comes from the heart. There are few examples out there in the world as powerful as our orthodontics practice. We know what you might be thinking: “What’s so innovative and entrepreneurial about Birmingham Orthodontics?” It’s a reasonable question. But, to answer it, we must tell you a story that begins almost three decades ago, when Dr. McCarthy had less gray in his hair and shorter hair on his head.
Twenty-five or so years ago, a younger Dr. McCarthy had just finished dental school at UAB and decided to serve his country by enlisting in the U.S. Army. With his hair high and tight, the young doc did his orthodontics residency in military hospitals, putting braces on the teeth of the sons and daughters of our servicemen and women. He would spend ten years in military service during which he would have an epiphany that would forever change the way he thought about being an orthodontist.
Dr. McCarthy’s children grew up as he served his country. They lived in places like Germany and South Korea. It was during the McCarthys’ last tour of duty in Korea that Dr. McCarthy discovered that his own daughter, Katie needed braces. That wasn’t the only thing he discovered. He also learned that he couldn’t afford those braces on military pay. The reality of the situation dawned on him: braces were for rich people. It was a realization that didn’t sit well. At that point in time, a couple of things happened: he came up on his reenlistment, and his mother back home in the states was diagnosed with cancer. Dr. McCarthy and the family made the tough decision to leave the military for private practice and move back to Alabama so he could be closer to his mother. But, Dr. McCarthy made a promise to himself then and there: that, if he was going to be in private orthodontics practice, he would make braces accessible to as many people as he could – not just the wealthy.
In those days – the early 1990s – braces were even more expensive than they are today. It was commonplace for an orthodontist to require a downpayment of $1,000 to $2,000 before they would even agree to put braces on your child. The cost was prohibitive for many families. Dr. McCarthy wondered what he would have done had he not been an orthodontist when Kaite needed braces, for believed every child deserves a great smile. He wondered if there might be a way to provide the same quality braces at less expense to the children who needed them. So, he studied the operations of orthodontic practice. He looked at what made sense to the families he would serve. He looked at ways to streamline the work. And he came up with a few critical changes. (Yes, finally we’re getting to the part about innovation and entrepreneurialism.)
The first thing he did was to locate his offices close to schools not dentist offices. In those days, most orthodontists located near the dentists who referred patients to them. Dr. McCarthy didn’t think proximity to a dentist was necessarily the easiest thing for children and their families. He reasoned that if his offices were close to schools, it would be easier for moms and dads to get their kids to the office for adjustments on their braces and other visits to his practice.
The second thing he did was he created an operation that looked for lots of ways to save money so that he could pass those savings on to his patients. He learned that by operating a tight ship he could give children the smiles they deserve for as much as $2,000 less than other orthodontists. That said, he chose not to cut any corners in terms of the quality of the braces. In fact, Dr. McCarthy is one of only 25% of orthodontists who are board-certified. And the braces he installs are as top notch as any you can find out there. This wasn’t about being cheap. It was about being affordable. And, to his way of thinking, there’s a world of difference. He also chose to do away with down payments altogether and to create family-friendly payment plans. For Dr. McCarthy, it’s always been about what’s best for the families he serves, not his own checkbook.
Next, he advertised. Back then, orthodontists thought it was unseemly to advertise. Dr. McCarthy felt that letting people know braces could be affordable was more important than “unseemliness.” He also recognized that a patient could come in for a consultation and not have to have a dentist referral. He was the first in the state to reach patients directly, and, to this day, offers up a free consultation as a way of determining if a child (or adult for that matter) really needs braces.
Because giving back is a priority for us, Dr. McCarthy has extended that benefit to his team as well. He has worked hard to create an environment that encourages and empowers people to invest in their communities and families. We provide personality testing to help our people identify their strengths. We provide paid time off for our staff to volunteer with non-profit organizations at work in their communities. If you’d like to learn more about our company culture and our investment in our team, here’s a good article to check out.
Almost 30 years ago, a daughter’s need for braces sparked and entrepreneurial and innovative approach in a young orthodontist, who realized that, while every child deserved a great smile, not all of them could afford one. His love for his daughter, Katie, far outweighed his need to make money. He decided then to take his God-given talents and pay them forward. And thanks to that revelation, that heartfelt desire to change the world, today we have Birmingham Orthodontics.