Gum Disease Awareness Month and its impact on one practice

In November 2012, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn declared February as Gum Disease Awareness Month. Gum disease is a silent killer in our society, affecting more adults than cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.

By Kirk W. Noraian, DDS, MS, MBA

In November 2012, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn declared February as Gum Disease Awareness Month. Gum disease is a silent killer in our society, affecting more adults than cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. With 74% of the population affected, only half are even aware of it.

While gum disease has long been associated with heart disease, strokes, and preterm births/low birth weights, in the last 12 months a significant number of systemic connections have been made between periodontal health and overall wellness. This focus on overall wellness has resulted in exploring periodontal links to obesity, erectile dysfunction, pancreatic cancer, diabetes, dementia, and rheumatoid arthritis.

We Earn Our Reputation One Patient At A Time

In my practice, Gov. Quinn's declaration was seen as a way to increase awareness of the systemic connections to gum disease within the community, and an opportunity to launch a direct-to-consumer marketing campaign by building public awareness of this largely underdiagnosed health threat. Located in central Illinois, our progressive, technologically advanced office focuses on periodontal treatment; however, we had never participated in a direct-to-consumer marketing initiative.

Working with local marketing firm Business Builders, we designed a campaign that focused on public health awareness by offering educational tips in a visually appealing manner, along with comprehensive periodontal exams and full-mouth radiographs at no charge during February. We ran this campaign during the first quarter of 2013 as a rapid-fire, three-month blitz, and allocated a budget of 2% of monthly production for a three-month period. The campaign was a multiprong approach with a combination of social media, local ads (newspaper/magazines), radio, and a letter to referring doctors alerting them to our efforts.

We were successful in achieving our goal of attracting the attention of new patients and becoming a resource for the public and the dental community.

Going From Good To Great

The experience with this campaign changed our office in ways we had not anticipated. While we did not see a surge of new patients or set record growth numbers, what we did find is that return on investment is not always measured by numbers.

Our practice has become customer-oriented, and our services have expanded. One key part of the direct-to-consumer marketing campaign was advanced communication with local doctors. Since we had not talked directly to the public previously, we wanted colleagues to be aware of our efforts, as well as offer the opportunity for a lunch-and-learn on topics that educated their practices on what can be done for patients.

This new strategy opened the lines of communication between offices and underscored the need to develop relationships for our staff. As a direct impact, we now encourage staff to have face time with referring dental offices by delivering patient updates and reports in person to create a personal rapport.

Before the campaign, we struggled with a schedule and therefore revised scheduling policies to make work flow more efficiently. Surgeries are booked in the morning with lighter work in the afternoon. When we follow this schedule, we meet daily production goals and have time for charitable care.

By increasing awareness of gum disease, we were able to support the "Fight Gum Disease" program. This benefited the overall health of patients and informed the community about service offerings to treat gum disease. The campaign has positioned our office as one that is accessible to patients and referring dentists.

We have developed various take-aways that better explain how our office works and the support services we offer since people do not realize how great you are unless they are told. During the course of a year, we found that patients who are given a choice during the referral process now recognize our name, and are likely to choose the practice for treatment. We are meeting production goals in a struggling economy and our practice has a six- to eight- week wait for new patients.

Most markedly, we have found that the consumer awareness campaign has positioned us locally as a resource for patients and peers. This recognition makes the entire team feel rejuvenated and enthusiastic about our daily work. The awareness we have created for the practice and services in our area is the ROI we never knew was needed.

The periodontal and dental implant practice of Kirk Noraian, DDS, MS, MBA provides education, examination, and treatment in Bloomington and Urbana, Ill. For more information, contact Dr. Noraian at his office in Bloomington at (309) 663-4577, or visit www.docperio.com for more information.

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