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Six ways to grow your cosmetic services

March 1, 2007
COSMETIC DENTISTRY represents an area where dentists can substantially increase their profitability.
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by Roger P. Levin, DDS

COSMETIC DENTISTRY represents an area where dentists can substantially increase their profitability. It also provides many doctors with more enjoyment than need-based dentistry because patients see and appreciate the results of a cosmetic procedure right away. Not only is the doctor performing more challenging and interesting procedures, but satisfi ed patients often provide an additional revenue stream for the practice in the form of referrals.

For every successful cosmetic procedure performed, you are likely to receive referrals from the original patient. Here"s the real advantage these new patients come to your practice already interested in cosmetics! An infusion of new patients will likely result in an increase in the number of elective procedures you do, and this can have a tremendously positive impact on your practice"s bottom line.

To achieve greater satisfaction and increase profitability in your cosmetic practice, Levin Group has found six key elements to practice growth.

  1. Set goals
  2. Educate patients
  3. Enhance case presentation
  4. Set the right fees
  5. Evaluate offi ce appearance (and update when necessary)
  6. Provide "WOW" customer service

Set goals

Adding cosmetic services or even taking the next step of designing and developing a purely cosmetic practice will not happen overnight. It takes preparation, planning, and, most importantly, goal-setting by the doctor. Remember that goals must be written out and assigned a deadline.

In addition, you must set performance targets for cosmetic production. Understanding what cosmetic dentistry can and cannot do for your practice will help you successfully implement the right procedures in your service mix.

Educate patients

Just as with need-based dentistry, patient education is critical to increase case acceptance for cosmetic dentistry. However, a significantly different approach is needed with cosmetics. With need-based dentistry, patients are often only educated about what is causing their pain. Why? That"s all that is usually required. How many patients have said to you, "This will relieve my pain? Let"s do it!" In contrast, cosmetic dentistry requires more comprehensive patient education.

Among the more effective ways to educate patients about cosmetic dentistry are:

  • Pamphlets and brochures available that explain esthetic procedures. Beyond whitening, patients are typically unaware of the variety of cosmetic treatment options available.
  • Before-and-after photos and case testimonials from satisfied patients.
  • Models of particular cases patients can ask questions about during their appointment.

If patients are interested in improving their smiles, they are candidates for one of the procedures highlighted in your educational materials. The key is to educate every patient about all the procedures your practice performs. While not every procedure is the right course of action for every patient, there is likely at least one cosmetic treatment that suits each patient in some way.

Cosmetic procedures have one great advantage over need-based treatment. As mentioned, need-based procedures are usually accepted to avoid pain or the possibility of pain.

Enhance case presentation

Cosmetic procedures have one great advantage over need-based treatment. As mentioned, need-based procedures are usually accepted to avoid pain or the possibility of pain. Cosmetic procedures have a much different dynamic one that is just as powerful as pain avoidance. Simply by looking in a mirror and smiling, patients are constantly reminded that their cosmetic dentistry procedure was a good idea. In the best of circumstances, this positive reinforcement will last for many years.

Cosmetic dentistry is all about emotion. When presenting a cosmetic dental case, you are asking the patient to make what is essentially an emotional decision.

Patients will decide to accept treatment based on how much better they will look and feel about their appearance after this cosmetic procedure is performed. Emphasizing these benefi ts is an excellent way to promote any cosmetic procedure.

Keep in mind that patients are listening to you because they have a genuine interest in improving their smiles. Patients are often very willing to listen to all the ways their smiles can be enhanced, especially since many individuals are completely unaware of all the available options. These patients will find a way to pay the fee involved for the procedure if the value and benefi ts in the short and long term are clearly and honestly explained. Remember that they will be far more willing to pay the fee if you provide convenient financial options for cosmetic treatment.

Setting the right fees

Setting high fees is risky at best. We have found that practices become the most profi table when offering a mix of cosmetic services with other basic dental procedures. While the fees are typically higher for cosmetic dentistry procedures than for need-based dentistry, keeping the fees to a level that patients perceive as reasonable will ensure a steady patient fl ow, increase referrals, and generate greater production and profitability.

Remember, the critical factor for the practice is not what the fees are it is the amount of profit generated so the dentist can run an effi cient, healthy practice while enjoying a high quality of life. By reducing fees for a cosmetic procedure such as whitening, you will likely perform more of these procedures, which increases production and profitability.

Evaluate the look of your office (and update when necessary)

Appearance matters! Make no mistake ... how your practice appears to potential cosmetic patients may be as important as the treatment plan presentation. A patient is not likely to accept treatment designed to make their teeth look significantly better if the office atmosphere is not esthetically pleasing.

The key is to make certain that your office is attractive. While this is true for any type of dental practice, it is especially true for practices wishing to successfully add cosmetic dentistry to the service mix. Update the look of your offi ce to keep it as contemporary as possible. Patients especially those considering cosmetic procedures often assume dentists with the most esthetically pleasing offi ces possess the best cosmetic skills. Without question, outdated or worn-out furnishings convey the wrong message!

Provide "WOW" customer service

What is "WOW" customer service? Here is our definition. Greatly impressed by your customer service, your patients say to themselves, "WOW!" This should be the goal for every practice, and it is absolutely critical for a cosmetic practice. How do you achieve "WOW" customer service? You do it by exceeding patients' expectations and making absolutely certain patients could not imagine going elsewhere for their dental needs. This increases referrals as well.

Conclusion

While addressing need-based dentistry will always be the first tenet of quality patient care, today's patients are interested in improving their smiles and looking more attractive. Practices that offer a combination of need-based and esthetic services are in a strong position to better serve patients while increasing production. The six areas covered in this article are the building blocks for greater cosmetic case acceptance and practice growth.

To receive a complimentary copy of "10 Tips for Building Your Cosmetic Practice," call (888) 973-0000, or send your name, phone number, and address to customerservice @levingroup.com with "Cosmetic Dentistry 10 Tips" in the subject line.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is founder and CEO of Levin Group, a leading dental management consulting fi rm that is dedicated to improving the lives of dentists through a diverse portfolio of lifetime services and solutions. Since the company's inception in 1985, Dr. Levin has worked to bring the business world to dentistry. Levin Group may be reached at (888) 973-0000, or at www.levingroup.com.

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