Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA
Many dentists are interested in providing more elective services to their patients. Whether we are referring to specialists for cosmetic dentistry, dental implants, or other elective services, there has been a literal explosion of interest by the dental profession. To a large degree, we have been significantly helped by manufacturers who have developed outstanding new products that can be used in a number of different situations. Examples of popular elective services include dental implants to replace missing teeth, tooth whitening for brighter smiles, bonding to close gaps, porcelain-laminate veneers to repair broken or chipped teeth, and tooth contouring which modifies the shape of teeth and gum lines to create a more pleasing smile.
The main challenge confronting the implementation and high acceptance rate for these new elective services is how we present information to patients. It was once sufficient to simply explain to patients about a specific need and a specific solution. Patients understood a broken tooth necessitated some type of repair, and it was only a matter of which option a patient would accept. In most cases, patients who visit dentists regularly are not willing to simply lose teeth when there are viable options available to save their teeth.
Elective services are vastly different and, by definition, are not essential. Patients do not necessarily perceive a need or even care about a particular situation. At this point, it is becoming obvious that not all Americans care if they have bright smiles. We know that patients are interested in other products that they feel will make them look more attractive. We believe this to be a result of media marketing by companies that sell these products. In fact, most of our daily lives are heavily influenced in perception by the effects of marketing that we have experienced over the years.
Effective marketing can influence public perceptions
Marketing is a key factor in creating a mass perception by the public. Unfortunately, this level of marketing has not truly penetrated into the American psyche, and patients are not overwhelmingly demanding elective dental procedures.
All of this leads up to the realization that each practice will have to individually educate and motivate patients regarding elective dentistry.
Each patient should receive a basic clinical explanation of the procedure being discussed. Dentists and team members should subtly switch gears and talk about the end results and the benefits of treatment such as achieving beautiful smiles. When explaining the single-tooth replacement option you should tout the fact that a missing tooth can be replaced without having to remove tooth structure on any other tooth. Patients will begin to respond favorably when you talk benefits of elective dentistry!
Remember that many patients are not truly familiar with elective dental procedures. They need to be educated about the myriad of options available in the field of elective dentistry. I was recently talking to a dentist at a seminar that I was presenting. He informed me that he had switched in the last few months to talking about benefits rather than the technical aspects of a dental case. His comment was that it was already making a tremendous difference, and he wished that he had understood the psychology of the patient many years earlier.
Think benefits. Talk benefits. Build value. All of this leads to increased elective dental case acceptance.
Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA, president and CEO of The Levin Group and the Levin Advanced Learning Institute, provides worldwide leadership in dental management for general dentists and specialists. Contact The Levin Group at (410) 654-1234.