Riding the 'Extreme Makeover' WavePart 2 of 2: Points for Success

May 1, 2004
Every week the television show "Extreme Makeover" introduces new winners flashing cosmetic dentistry makeovers, people get more excited about getting new smiles.

By Amy Morgan, CEO, Pride Institute

Every week the television show "Extreme Makeover" introduces new winners flashing cosmetic dentistry makeovers, people get more excited about getting new smiles. As I travel the country, I hear from frustrated dentists who want to do the same thing as our highlighted doctors from Part 1, but they don't have workable strategies or they've encountered obstacles. Whether you live in a thriving city or small town, you can ride the wave and provide patients with beautiful smiles and long-term oral health. Follow this plan, and we'll see you at the beach.

Pride Action Points

Pride Point 1)— Create your treatment philosophy for success.

If cosmetic dentistry has not been a significant service you provide, it is vital to motivate yourself and your team. Your treatment philosophy should state why you're adding this new service and include expected benefits for you, your patients, and your team. Your philosophy and strategy for implementing new levels of cosmetic care must match and support your practice values and goals. Key questions to ask while developing your new treatment philosophy include:

What do my patients expect, and what will I provide that exceeds their expectations? It could be that you want to offer upgraded technology, new levels of aesthetic care, as well as customer service that provides a caring experience.

What will my team's role and commitment be in supporting this new philosophy? A new level of listening and understanding patients' motivators and concerns regarding cosmetic care and long-term oral health needs to be implemented to support a cosmetic strategy. Without strong communication skills and a desire to build genuine patient relationships, it is nearly impossible for a doctor and team to establish the trust, credibility, and desire necessary for patient commitment to extensive cosmetic treatment.

"To ride the aesthetic explosion wave, have patients tell you what they want to change about their smile. This is not a have-to-do treatment, it's a want-to-do, so my advice is to listen to your patients and quit telling them what to do," says periodontist Brien Harvey of Tucson, Ariz.

Pride Point 2)— Determine a marketing profile of your ideal cosmetic patients and a plan to attract them.

If you market to every kind of patient, every kind walks in. Establish a focused marketing profile of patients who want the level and type of cosmetic dentistry you will offer. Ask yourself these questions:

• What do I want to be known for? You might focus on cosmetic dentistry as a fundamental aspect of maintaining oral health. Or perhaps you want to provide ultra-cosmetic care in a pain-free environment with spa-type services, or friendly, family service.
• What is my ideal patient profile? Determine the specific characteristics of the patients you want to attract.
• Am I seeking patients who want simple enhancements to their smiles, complete makeovers, or both?
• Age range?
• Do I want patients who take responsibility for their oral health and have the financial means to invest in ideal care?
• How and where will I find my target patient?
• What marketing means will I use to reach my prospects?
• Will I use internal or external marketing, or a combination?

We recommend starting with a strong internal campaign. Prosthodontist Steve Hudis of Princeton, N.J., obtains most of his new patients through word-of-mouth referrals. "From the first time we pick up the phone," he says, "we market by taking care of the patients, and it shows. They say to us, 'You know, you really run a good office. I'm happy coming here.' My treatment isn't unique — there are other prosthodontists in town — but we try to treat each person as an individual and give the best quality. Treat each patient like your family — if you like your family."

Pride Point 3) — Create statistical benchmarks for your makeover success.

Without having benchmarks for success, you won't be able to determine how profitable or productive your new cosmetic services are.

Do you have systems to monitor every aspect of your cosmetic cases, including referral sources for every patient, the amount of treatment presented, the amount accepted, the number of new patients coming from each referral source, and the return on investment of each of your marketing endeavors? Additional numbers such as production per hour, expense percentages, and continuing care compliance also need tracking to analyze the success of your campaign.

"Now that all this fantastic aesthetic dentistry can be done technically, it's important to have management systems in place, such as financial arrangements, to make treatment affordable, or appointment scheduling to coordinate cases with other specialists, or ways to measure success of your marketing efforts," says prosthodontist Mark Adams of Flint, Mich.

Pride Point 4) — Train yourself and your team to the highest levels of clinical, operational,

Once you've defined your vision and goals in a treatment philosophy, additional training must be planned to implement the new skills. Training should not only deliver new information, but provide opportunities for the team to fully integrate the new skills. Most dentists underestimate the effort required to do this, which results in great ideas never fully implemented into the new culture.

What are the best continuing-education opportunities that exist for you and your team to develop the skills necessary to deliver the type of treatment you want to be known for?

Dr. Randy Allain, a general dentist in Highland, Mich., is completing a 500-hour certificate program in aesthetic dentistry at the University of Minnesota, as well as moving into a new facility and changing the name of his practice to West Oakland Advanced Dental Artistry to emphasize his special clinical training.

You and your team also must engage in ongoing training for managing the office systems at peak efficiency, improving customer service, honing verbal skills, and providing the highest service environment to match the clinical excellence.

Establish a budget for investing in training and technology, then set aside the time for continuing education in your annual plan.

Pride Point 5) — Develop financial arrangements and controls that support practice profitabili

Review your existing financial systems, including patient financial arrangements, collections, and your fees to ensure practice profitability and patient affordability.

Have you set production goals to ensure your desired return on investment? Establish a monthly goal for the number and kind of cosmetic cases you expect to do to make all your efforts worthwhile.

Do your cosmetic dental-care fees mirror the quality of your clinical product, service, and time spent? Fees must be competitive and compensate you for cost and time. We recommend a 25-percent to 40-percent profit margin above cost as a minimum return on investment.

Have you established patient financing options that allow patients to pay for cosmetic care on favorable terms and within a reasonable time? Investigate third-party financing from such industry leaders as CareCredit, Dental Fee Plan, Helpcard, and Citi Healthcard.

"Without our financial plans, cost could be a big obstacle for our patients," says Dr. Walter Brown, a Kokomo, Ind., general dentist. Using effective financial options, his practice continues to reach new levels of production with collections of 100 percent.

Establish firm but professional collection guidelines that immediately follow up on delinquent payments.

Pride Point ª — Create a team that supports and promotes ideal service and care.

To deliver the high level of service that excellent cosmetic dentistry requires, you and your team must be fully committed to your treatment philosophy and to each other.

Is your team committed to the goals and strategies of the practice? You'll want a well-educated staff in all clinical and managerial aspects of state-of-the-art care.

You'll need to develop your leadership skills to inspire your team to reach these heights. They need to willingly and cheerfully expand their skills in all aspects of quality care. What leadership methods will you use to develop and maintain an enthusiastic and productive team?

"It's an entire staff effort," says Joe Dindo of Dr. Ban Barbat's practice in Shelby Township, Mich. "Everyone understands the marketing we do and why we do it. We involve our staff in everything."

This already highly trained dentist and team are still attending regular clinical and practice management courses to learn the latest and best techniques.


Now let's confront common obstacles by following the experiences of a specific dentist. Dr. Barry Gibberman of Cincinnati (Web site: drgib berman.com) is a Pride general dentist who has taken advanced clinical courses for 15 years and averages a couple of smile makeovers per month plus many more three- to four-tooth cosmetic treatments.

• Define what you want your cosmetic practice to be like and set reasonable expectations.
"Something I struggled with in the beginning was unrealistic expectations," Dr. Gibberman says. "I thought I could have a completely cosmetic practice. Cincinnati is a tougher town to do that in than New York or Los Angeles. Cosmetic cases are fun, and they add to my production, but I and most general dentists can't make a living doing only cosmetic dentistry. When I thought I could, all I did was disappoint myself. Now, I just relax, continue marketing for cosmetic cases, and enjoy being a general dentist."

• Do everything possible to make sure you're well-known and well thought-of in your community.
"The biggest challenge is letting people know you do cosmetic cases," Dr. Gibberman says. "Radio and TV ads didn't result in a direct ROI for me, but did get my name out. I now run a Yellow Pages ad that generates a huge response. It's a decent size and leads with 'Have the Smile of Your Dreams.' I'm getting an ROI of 4- or 5-to-1 from it. In the ad, I offer a free consultation, which is a 20-minute look-see, without X-rays or a comprehensive exam to find out the patient's condition, motivators and concerns. I'm also working with a public relations person who has gotten me TV and radio interviews on topics like whitening. For Valentine's Day, the Cincinnati Inquirer interviewed me for an article on bad breath. It's too early to tell the results of the P.R., but we'll know, because we use the Pride tracking techniques."

• Invest in all aspects of training — clinical, business, and service — so you and your team will be ready.
"Another hurdle," Dr. Gibberman says, "has been getting a good education and being technically excellent. This involves more than just knowing the cosmetic part; you have to really know occlusion, otherwise you could put things in that won't work or the dentistry won't last. I've taken a lot of hands-on courses. In 2003, for example, I took about 80 hours of clinical CE. And I also had to develop a staff and an environment where people will spend $10,000 to $12,000. I have a fabulous staff who are a big plus to my practice. We try to make the patient's entire experience like being at a spa. We have a beautiful office, aromatherapy, heating blankets, CDs, and a variety of hot and cold beverages. We even tried a massage therapist, but it wasn't cost-effective. The long hours of treatment are hard on cosmetic patients, so we have to make their visits as pleasant as possible.

• Develop financial arrangements that make advanced cosmetic treatment affordable.
"Cost has been another major issue. We offer a 5-percent adjustment for pre-paying, and we work with Dental Fee Plan, Care Credit, and other financing plans so I don't have to become the bank. We help patients fill out the paperwork and offer service every step of the way."

The win-win appeal of financing plans also works for Dr. Adams. For years he has had what he describes as "a negative accounts receivable, meaning no one owes me money — I owe them treatment. It used to be in dentistry that if you were buying a car, you bought the left door, then the right door, then you saved up and eventually bought the hood. And one day, maybe, you saved enough to buy the entire car. Now in dentistry, if you buy the car, you get the whole car at once, and you pay over time, as you do with a real car. The dental fee plans that make this possible are one of the greatest things to happen in dentistry."

Dr. Brown also offers internal payment plans with no interest over three to six months and 8 percent interest for periods up to a year. Pride finds that both internal and external financial options have resulted in collections of virtually 100 percent; nevertheless, this must be controlled through effective office systems.

• Create an exam and consultation process that fully engages patients, explains the treatment, and addresses their questions and concerns.
"Another obstacle," Dr. Gibberman says, "is overcoming the patient's misconceptions about the time or cost of treatment. Sometimes they see the TV program and think they can have their makeover in six weeks, too. Sometimes they can, but other times I have to explain why the best result for their particular case will take longer. Having the right verbal, listening, and case-presentation skills is very important."

The complexity of today's dentistry mandates that dentists have the skills and systems in place for properly communicating with the patient.

Come on in, the water's fine.

If your average cosmetic case runs $6,000, and you see an increase of two to four of these cases a month, that's $12,000 to $24,000 added to your monthly production — a satisfying result for many general dentists.

It's time to get out your surfboard and have a great ride. You can improve smiles, enhance lives, and build the practice of your dreams.

Develop the staff and systems you need to build the practice of your dreams. ForaCE seminar in a city near you and for management study opportunities, call Pride Institute toll-free at (800) 925-2600.

1)Create a treatment philosophy
2)Create a marketing profile
3)Create success statistics
4)Train to the highest level
5)Make finances support goals
6)Create team support

Sponsored Recommendations

Clinical Study: OraCare Reduced Probing Depths 4450% Better than Brushing Alone

Good oral hygiene is essential to preserving gum health. In this study the improvements seen were statistically superior at reducing pocket depth than brushing alone (control ...

Clincial Study: OraCare Proven to Improve Gingival Health by 604% in just a 6 Week Period

A new clinical study reveals how OraCare showed improvement in the whole mouth as bleeding, plaque reduction, interproximal sites, and probing depths were all evaluated. All areas...

Chlorine Dioxide Efficacy Against Pathogens and How it Compares to Chlorhexidine

Explore our library of studies to learn about the historical application of chlorine dioxide, efficacy against pathogens, how it compares to chlorhexidine and more.

Enhancing Your Practice Growth with Chairside Milling

When practice growth and predictability matter...Get more output with less input discover chairside milling.