By Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA
In our office, I find that the gateway to cosmetic dentistry is whitening. We’ve been doing this for many years, and we find that our patients become much more self-confident after their teeth have been whitened. Generally, they tend to smile more and are more outgoing, and they tell us that they have more fun after having their teeth whitened. In time they also become more aware of the teeth in the back of their mouth, and they ask more questions about the care of all of their teeth.
In our office, every new patient is introduced to a “new patient process.” I know what you’re thinking — every practice does a new patient exam — but we’re different. No longer is a new patient handed a clipboard with multiple pages of forms to fill out. Our “process” starts with an interview with one of our highly skilled team members. One of our first questions is, “What are your expectations of our office?” Then we listen, because all of our team members are excellent listeners. We ask lots of questions as we conduct the dental history and medical history.
One question we always ask is, “When you look in the mirror, are you pleased by the way your teeth look? If not, would you be interested in whitening your teeth?” Of course, all of our team members (including the doctor) have already whitened their teeth, so patients have already noticed the beautiful smiles in our office.
Having gone through the whitening process makes it easy for us to tell patients what to expect, and answer questions pertaining to shade, sensitivity, and time. Somewhere during this process, we explain our objective – our promise to all our patients is to help them keep their teeth for the rest of their lives.
When the doctor is examining a new patient’s teeth, the team member explains what she has learned from the patient so that the doctor can confirm that Mrs. Smith is an excellent candidate for whitening. Usually the next team member to see the patient is the hygienist, who asks about whitening at some point during the procedure. If the patient is interested, the hygienist will tell her more about the process — different types of whitening, and how we manage sensitivity in our practice so there is no worry about discomfort.
If a patient is interested in office whitening, the procedure is thoroughly explained. If someone opts for home whitening, the hygienist will emphasize the importance of compliance.
We’re very aware of customer service, and we constantly try to over-deliver our services. We try to make whitening convenient by having a “whitening night,” where we do nothing but in-office whitening for several hours on a selected evening. We choose a date about a month in advance, and then offer a “special,” which makes it convenient for our patients and an incentive for our team as well.
One of the interesting outcomes of our patient interviews is that when we mention whitening, patients often mention Zoom. This is the only product name that people seem to know or ask for. So, we’re glad that we offer the new Zoom WhiteSpeed. We find it very convenient because everything we need for the procedure comes in the Zoom kit.
We offer many incentives for our patients, such as specials for an entire wedding party to whiten their teeth.
One of the greatest compliments we receive is when patients refer family members or friends to our practice. Many times new patients come specifically to have their teeth whitened, and we love that, but we still have everyone go through the new patient process. We believe in telling all of our patients exactly what they need to do to keep their teeth for the rest of their lives. That can include whitening, perhaps more cosmetic procedures, and restoring their mouth to a healthy condition.
Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, has over 30 years of chairside experience. She is currently the office manager/chairside assistant to Dr. Eric Hurtte of O’Fallon, Mo., a member of the ADAA, director of the Dental Careers Institute, and an independent consultant specializing in assistant training, team building, office organization, and CEREC assistant training. She can be reached at [email protected], or find her on Facebook.
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