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3 key takeaways about the state of cosmetic dentistry

April 1, 2017
Cosmetic dentistry has the potential to make the difference between flat production and double-digit growth. Whether you're a general dentist or a specialist, find out how to boost your cosmetic dentistry production below.
Cosmetic dentistry has the potential to make the difference between flat production and double-digit growth. Whether you're a general dentist or a specialist, find out how to boost your cosmetic dentistry production below.

People want to look better and feel better about themselves. That’s the premise of cosmetic dentistry, which accounts for 23% of general practice production, according to the most recent Dental Economics-Levin Group Annual Practice Survey. I believe that the majority of general practices will see an increase in cosmetic dentistry in the coming years—that is, if dentists seize the opportunities within their practices.

Why am I so optimistic? I just spent some time reviewing the latest research report from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), “Cosmetic Dentistry: State of the Industry, Survey 2015.” (1) Some of the data it presented immediately caught my eye:

  • New patients—63% of survey respondents said word of mouth was the most effective marketing for acquiring new patients.
  • Implant growth—Of all the cosmetic services, implants experienced growth in more practices (45%) than any other treatment, and 64% of dentists said they expected implant production to increase in the following year. (figure 1)
  • Patient financing—Of the dentists surveyed, 73% said offering third-party financing was instrumental in persuading patients to accept the recommended treatment.
  • Cosmetic production—More than half of the practices surveyed (52%) generated between $100,000 and $499,999 in production for cosmetic services, with 27% generating $100,000-$249,999 and 25% generating $250,000-$499,999.

There might be some readers out there saying, “Yeah, but this is a survey of cosmetic dentists. That’s why those numbers are so high.” While it’s true that most of the participants (74%) were AACD members, only 29% self-identified as cosmetic dentists. The majority of participants (60%) self-identified as general dentists.

Need-based dentistry will remain a vital part of every practice, but cosmetic dentistry has the potential to make the difference between flat production and double-digit growth.

Here are three key takeaways from the AACD survey.

No. 1: Your patients are your best marketing team

Happy patients drive referrals. They become walking advertisements for your practice and for your clinical skills. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents (63%) said patient referrals were the best way to gain new patients. In a related question, 93% of respondents said referrals from friends and family were the most critical factor in spurring demand for esthetic dentistry.

When your patients recommend your services to their friends, family, and neighbors, they are highly persuasive. So what are you doing to delight and wow your patients? Do you and your team go out of your way to impress every patient? Have you held at least three patient appreciation events in the last 12 months? Do you receive at least one referral from 40% to 60% of your patients every year? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, it’s time to get to work. Your patients will only be motivated to recommend your services to others if you provide outstanding customer service and dental treatment.

No. 2: Baby boomers will continue to be game changers

As more baby boomers reach their 60s and 70s, the demand for implants will escalate. People are living longer, healthier lives, and they want to continue to look their best during their later years. This means many boomers—in far greater numbers than past generations—will opt for implants over dentures, which are viewed as a remnant from their parents’ or grandparents’ time. This attitude will help fuel implant growth in the coming decades.

That said, implant case acceptance is a process that can often take years. Practices should educate their older patients—even those who are fully dentulous—about the benefits of dental implants. Creating greater awareness about available services is the first step in building a case for treatment. The sooner you start the conversation, the sooner you’ll reap the rewards of greater implant case acceptance.

No. 3: Affordability is the X factor

Outside financing can be the difference between “yes” and “no” for patients who are considering cosmetic treatment. Today, very few people can write a $1,000 check to pay for dental care. Just as consumers will agree to finance a car or a home improvement, many will do the same when it involves a better smile and a better quality of life. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of survey respondents said patient financing facilitated patients saying “yes” to recommended treatment. The majority of practices offer patient financing, but many do a poor job of letting patients know that it’s available. Want to get more cases accepted? Tell patients you offer outside financing - and do it early in the case presentation. This way, patients will listen more intently because cost is less of an obstacle.


Dentists are in a unique position. They’re caretakers of patients’ oral health and their appearances. By providing great customer service to turn your patients into your marketing team, promoting implants more effectively, and offering outside financing during every case presentation, you can increase your cosmetic dentistry production and add more profit to your practice.


1. Cosmetic Dentistry: State of the Industry, Survey 2015. Madison, WI: American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry; 2015.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the chairman and CEO of Levin Group Inc., a leading dental consulting firm. A nationally recognized speaker, Dr. Levin presents practice management seminars throughout the country.

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