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Leveraging dental technology to attract high-quality patients

April 1, 2019
This dentist quickly learned that the dental technology in his office impressed patients and served as an excellent form of marketing.

Alex Smith, DMD

Dental technology gives you something exciting to advertise besides the typical bargain new-patient exam or free teeth whitening. Don’t get me wrong. I think it can be great to give a price break to new patients. You can lower the barrier to entry and allow prospective patients the opportunity to see your exceptional practice. This strategy gives you the chance to convert prospective patients into excellent, long-term recall patients.

However, it has been my experience that choosing to be overly competitive on pricing—which I define as performing any procedure for less than your overhead costs for that given procedure—causes an ethical dilemma in which you may feel forced to make up for the lost production elsewhere. Another unwelcome outcome of this pricing strategy is the attraction of patients who are focused on price alone, and who place little value on what makes you an amazing dentist. You will find that over time these can be some of your least promising recall patients.

When you boil it down, one of two things will happen when you offer bargain introductory pricing. First, you may get lucky and snag a quality patient who simply wants a minimal financial risk entry into finding a new dental home, but this is very rare. Secondly, and much more likely, you will attract discount shoppers who refuse much-needed treatment and leave for the next deal.

In contrast, the type of patients who respond to same-day crown advertising are usually turned off by traditional dental crown appointments with two visits, goopy impressions, and possibly being numbed twice, but they know a crown is necessary and they’re ready to take care of it. They put a higher value on time and comfort over price and will go where they can get the procedure done in one visit.

External marketing of dental technologies

From my experience, marketing campaigns focused on a unique technology or procedure have a much better return on investment than do marketing campaigns based on reduced pricing. After having limited success with advertising solely new-patient specials, I knew I wanted to try something different.

I first realized the competitive edge dental technology could give my practice when I added an intraoral scanner and lab mill to my office in 2015. I advertised it weekly in the local newspaper, sent out numerous direct mailers, and put up a billboard on the main road in town.

Almost overnight, our new patient counts doubled and have continued to steadily grow. I predicted we would get a higher new-patient flow, but I was pleasantly surprised that these patients in general put a higher emphasis on quality and viewed dental care as an investment in their health. These new patients were willing to do more ideal treatment to keep their mouths healthy, were more appreciative of my care, and have become some of my best ongoing recall patients.

Internal marketing of dental technologies

In my practice, I position all of my major dental technology, including my crown mill, CBCT, and 3-D printer, in high-traffic areas where patients must walk by it each time they enter my office. This leads to patients asking questions about the technologies. When asked about my 3-D printer, I can show them models of past clear aligner cases, wax-up models of past cosmetic cases, or show them a surgical guide. This naturally leads us to conversations about these procedures that may have not happened otherwise. Patients do not understand all that you can do for them unless they are shown and told about these offerings. In my case, prominently displaying these technologies in my office has been a great conversation starter.

Internal marketing of the same-day crown process

Most patients view the same-day crown technology as cutting edge. Though it’s been available for years, patients are excited to see their scanned teeth instantly on the screen, in full color and 3-D, at the wave of a wand (scanner). You already know you have high-quality patients in your chair, and if you play it right, they’re likely to refer their high-quality friends and family.

So, stop for a second, slow down, and show them their teeth in 3-D. If they’re showing interest at this point, sit them up in the chair and explain how you are personally designing their custom crowns. When you send the crowns to the mill, have your clinical assistant escort them to the mill and show them their crown milling. Patients who see the whole process of fabricating a same-day crown become walking, talking billboards for your practice. They will tell everyone they know how amazing their same-day crown experience was, which—guess what—leads to more quality new patients. Take the time, show them what you are doing, and make it a regular part of your procedures.

This process does not need to be limited to same-day crowns. Whatever you do that is unique, market that. If possible, make it a showpiece of your office. Make an effort to explain to patients how your process is different and how it specifically benefits them. You may be surprised at the quality of patients you will begin to attract.

Alex Smith, DMD, is in full-time private practice in Granbury, Texas. He is a graduate of Temple University, and an active member of the Woehler Research Group, founded in 1961.

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