Eight priorities for establishing yourself as an esthetic dentist - even in the boondocks

Practicing in a small or rural town can provide an array of excuses for not providing esthetic dentistry. I have a practice in Smyrna, Tenn., the cosmetic mecca of Tennessee. If you are wondering where Smyrna is located, it is between Murfreesboro and Lavergne. (I am glad I could clear that up.) The population of Smyrna is around 10,000 with an average family income of $23,000.

Stephen D. Poss, DDS, PC

Practicing in a small or rural town can provide an array of excuses for not providing esthetic dentistry. I have a practice in Smyrna, Tenn., the cosmetic mecca of Tennessee. If you are wondering where Smyrna is located, it is between Murfreesboro and Lavergne. (I am glad I could clear that up.) The population of Smyrna is around 10,000 with an average family income of $23,000.

Many dentists talk about the small number of esthetic restorations they have done in the past year. If you will allow me a few moments of your time, I would like to share with you some secrets of success that created an esthetic-based practice in our small community.

Priority One

Invest in yourself. Hundreds of dollars are spent on your office and equipment, yet you are still doing the same dentistry you learned in dental school. There are many programs across the nation that you can learn from. Live patient treatment programs will elevate your skills quicker than any other type of program. Regardless of where you go, continue your education. It is the impetus to enthusiasm.

So while your office and equipment are important, knowledge should be your primary investment. It will be worth so much more than any piece of equipment!

Priority Two

If you have not restored the mouths of your staff and yourself, do it now! It is hard for your staff members to be missionaries for your practice by suggesting inlays and veneers when they have wall-to-wall amalgams, as well as stained and crowded front teeth.

We took one summer and several Friday mornings and made it mandatory for my staff members to have their mouths ideally restored. If they are good, long-term employees, do it for free or just the lab fee. As a result, they will sell more dentistry than you can imagine.

Priority Three

Go on a "lunch and learn" tour through your community. Collect a few good before-and-after slides. (I hope you are photographing your work.) This should include both anterior and posterior cases. Call all of the dental specialists in your community. Orthodontists would be the best place to start. Tell them you would like to bring in lunch for the doctor and staff and spend a few minutes talking about the latest advances in adhesive dentistry.

You will be amazed at how little the specialist is aware of as far as advances in adhesive dentistry are concerned. There are many ways you can assist orthodontists with their cases. Inform specialists that they don`t have to grind teeth down to a "nub," even when closing a space. We have several cases a month sent to our office with diastemas or congenitally missing teeth.

Orthodontists are a great referral source for all new patients who have just moved to the area. These patients are in the middle of their treatment, and invariably they will ask their orthodontist to recommend to them a good dentist. If you "wow" the specialist`s office with your slide show, then you can be assured of receiving a majority of their new patients with any restorative needs.

By the way, I would encourage you to take your 30-minute slide show to your local Rotary, Lions, or other civic club. They are always looking for speakers.

Priority Four

Create your own photo albums and use wording that is "patient friendly." Include any newspaper clippings, speaking engagements, or anything that can set you apart from the rest of the dentists in your area. We have several leather-bound albums throughout our office. We also encourage our referring specialists to have one in their office.

It is better to create your own albums. Include any notes from your patients commending you on your excellent dentistry. Premade booklets are not recommended because both patients and specialists ask a lot of questions about the work in the albums.

Priority Five

Contact your local or community newspaper. Let an editor or reporter know about the advances in esthetic dentistry and that you would like to contribute an article on the subject. Most of the time, the newspaper will let you write the article. If someone else writes the article, be sure to at least edit it. The responses obtained from the article will amaze you. All it takes is a little time. Not only will you attract new patients, but your existing patients will hold you in higher regard.

Priority Six

Is your office a dinosaur? Besides new carpet and paint, a updated "high-tech" office would assist you and your staff in the presentation of the type of dentistry you do. This would include the CAESY system in the operatories and an imaging system like Image FX. These tools, along with intraoral cameras and laser systems, will have a high impact on patient acceptance in your practice. Be sure everyone in the office is familiar with these systems and knows how to use them. Remember, this is a team effort.

Priority Seven

Take your high-tech equipment - especially your imaging system - into the community. In the South, we have the Southern Women`s Show. Almost the entire show is centered around health and beauty. Your office can make a good impression on many future patients and can also make many contacts with modeling agencies, plastic surgeons, and other health professionals You will be surprised at how many patients and contacts you can make.

Priority Eight

In this day and time, service is lacking in so many businesses. If you are giving five-star dentistry, but only two-star service, you will still have trouble being successful. When a patient accepts treatment in your office and chooses to invest thousands of dollars, it is imperative to see that patients are treated like guests are at the Ritz Carlton. This can include not only hot, moist towels when you are through with treatment, but also lip balm, head phones, and any other services that would enhance the visit.

If you want a more productive practice that sees fewer patients and still delivers excellent esthetic dentistry, consider some of the ideas listed above. These ideas have been tried and do work - even in Smyrna.

Stephen D. Poss, DDS, PC, has made numerous lectures internationally. His postgraduate education includes the Contemporary Esthetic Diagnosis and Treatment course at Baylor University. He also completed the advanced continuum at the Las Vegas Institute of Advanced Dental Studies. Dr. Poss is a clinical instructor at the continuum at Baylor University. Dr. Poss has been appointed as the Clinical director for the anterior esthetic program at the Las Vegas Institute of Advanced Dental Studies. He maintains a cosmetic oriented restorative practice in Smyrna, Tenn.

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