HOW TO PROFIT FROM...cosmetic dentistry — How to create an exceptional aesthetic practice

Nov. 1, 2001
As part of the research I did for Dr. Bill Dickerson's and my newly released book, How To Create an Exceptional Aesthetic Practice: Ten Dentists Who Have Done It, I visited the offices of 10 graduates of the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies.

by Dr. Nate Booth

As part of the research I did for Dr. Bill Dickerson's and my newly released book, How To Create an Exceptional Aesthetic Practice: Ten Dentists Who Have Done It, I visited the offices of 10 graduates of the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. Even though the 10 practices were in different parts of the country, in different-sized cities, and at different levels of maturity, they all have extremely successful aesthetic practices. Dr. Dickerson and I discovered there were 13 keys that open the vault of success. In this article, you will learn five of the most important.

Key #1 — Excellent clinical skillsTo build a successful aesthetic practice, excellent clinical skills must come first. There are four reasons why this is true:

Clinical excellence creates confidence. Patients pick up on this confidence level every time you communicate with them. You can say all the right things and have fantastic office décor, but if the confidence level isn't there, you might as well be shouting in an isolated forest. Nobody will hear you.

Your team will sell much of the aesthetic dentistry you do. Your team knows your level of clinical expertise. If they don't believe in your skills 100 percent, they either won't talk to your patients about aesthetic dentistry, or they will do it in a halfhearted way. I don't blame them.

If the only clinical tool you have is a hammer, all of your patients' problems will look like nails. It's the same with aesthetic dentistry. You must have excellent clinical skills before you will be able to see the problems that can be corrected with those skills.

You must deliver on your promises. If you promise a great-looking smile and end up with an average result, you're better off doing nothing.

Key #2 — A new attitudePractices doing significant amounts of aesthetic dentistry have an attitude — an attitude that communicates to patients "our office is different." This attitude is contagious; patients "catch" it the moment they walk in the door.

At my presentations, I love asking the doctors in the audience: "How many of you would like to have the best dental practice in your area? A practice that delivers the highest-quality treatment and has the highest fee schedule? A practice that is known by everyone (including all the other dentists) in the area as the outstanding practice in town?" What percentage of doctors do you think raise their hands? About 10 percent. This blows my mind! Why wouldn't everybody raise their hands to a question like that? Because dentists have been trained that if they raise their hands, they have an attitude problem. People might say, "You think you're better than everyone else." Crazy, isn't it? There are powerful forces out there that support this craziness. Those forces want all dental offices to be the same ... to be a commodity. It's easier to control you that way.

Successful aesthetic practices also have a sense of enthusiasm about the treatment they provide. The word enthusiasm is derived from the Greek words en theos meaning "the God within." That's a hint to the power of enthusiasm.

Key #3 — An image as an aesthetic dental practiceThink about it for a second. Who's the perfect patient to walk in your door? Isn't it someone who wants and needs aesthetic dentistry, has good financial resources, and has heard wonderful things about your practice and you? These people are attracted to a certain kind of dental office — one that has the image as the best in town, is extremely successful, and has a specialized focus toward aesthetics. That image does more than get patients in the door, however. It predisposes them to accept the care you recommend. What people hear about your office before they walk in the door is the most important part of the case-acceptance process. Often, they ask for aesthetic treatment. All you have to do is agree with them. How tough is that?Key #4 — Be an example of the aesthetic dentistry you provideIf you went to any Mercedes dealership tomorrow, what brand and year of car would the dealership's owner be driving — 1989 Plymouth? That would be ridiculous, wouldn't it? I can guarantee you that the owner is driving a new Mercedes. Why? The owner wants to be an example of the kind of cars he sells. Last year, he probably had last year's Mercedes that looked and worked fine at the end of the year. But he traded it in for the newest and best model, because he knows you're watching what he drives.

I see the reverse of this happening all the time in dentistry. Dentists are trying to sell aesthetic dentistry with "old" dentistry in their mouths. Patients look more than they listen. You may be saying, "This $24,000 treatment plan will change your life for the better," but your smile is saying, "I don't really believe it."

Everyone in your practice needs to be a walking example of the type of dentistry you want to provide. Fine clothing stores know this. They require all of their salespeople to wear this year's clothing styles. The clothing the salespeople had last year wasn't worn out at the end of the year. They gave the clothing away while there was still wear left in it, because wearing it again this year would have sent the wrong message to their customers. What year of dentistry is in your and your staff members' mouths? If it doesn't look and function like the kind of dentistry you want to provide right now, replace it with high-quality aesthetic dentistry.

How about your office décor? Does it represent the quality of treatment you want to provide? If not, get rid of it! If you don't, the décor will get rid of the patients who are attracted to comprehensive, aesthetic dentistry. Update the look of your office at least every five years. Get professional help if necessary.

Key #5 — An effective case-acceptance systemMost of the dentists I studied were not "natural salespeople." But they all did have effective case-acceptance systems they followed religiously. Their systems allowed ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results.

There are two ways to learn how to do something in life. The first is the "School of Hard Knocks." In this school, you have a goal, move toward that goal with no references on how to achieve it, make mistakes, learn from your mistakes, and keep going. There is nothing wrong with the School of Hard Knocks, except that it takes a long time, can be very expensive, and doesn't consistently achieve your goal.

The second way to learn something is from other people's experiences. When you effectively use other people's experiences, you have a blueprint for the achievement of your goal. You select people who have achieved that goal and learn from their mistakes and successes. You pick their brains to discover what they did and how they did it. Then you do similar things yourself if you want to expand the amount of aesthetic dentistry you're doing.

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