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Increase your service and revenue with elective dental procedures

Sept. 2, 2022
Many dentists are looking for ways to restore their practices back to their prerecession, prepandemic service and revenue levels. Dr. Gordon Christensen says offering elective procedures can help you meet this goal.

Q: My gross revenue has not recovered from the dual challenges of the recession followed by COVID-19. I am practicing in a moderately affluent community, but patients do not seem to want to spend like they did previously. COVID-19, increased inflation, and the Great Resignation have slowed patient spending. What can I do to increase my practice revenue?

A: Before the recession, general practitioners were doing many elective procedures. During the recession, numerous labs reported a significant reduction in requests for procedures such as veneers, sleep appliances, occlusal splints, adult orthodontic appliances, and others (Darryl Withrow, Glidewell). This challenge was again a problem during COVID-19 as practices closed for a few months. Since COVID-19 has visibly subsided, it is my observation from speaking events that some practices are back up to the prerecession level, but others are not. What is the difference between the practices that are recovered and those that are still suffering?

Much of dental treatment is elective. Most patients do not know the great variety of elective services that dentists can provide. Some practices have excellent patient education while others do only what appears to be necessary treatment. Proactivity is the key to current practice growth. Patients desire elective dental procedures when they know about them. But patients have to judge their interest in elective dental procedures in relation to other elective purchases such as new clothing, a car, a vacation, home remodeling, or countless other expenditures. Are you providing motivational education to your patients about the elective procedures you provide, or are you waiting for patients to find out about them in magazines or from friends?

Related: Increasing practice activity: An ongoing team effort

Proactivity on the part of your team is the answer! How can you motivate your staff to be educationally proactive with your patients? You must be proactive in motivating your staff. What are some of the methods?

Ways to motivate your team

Staff meetings should not just be a list of coming events and patient challenges. They are a great time to encourage your team to accomplish patient education. But staff meetings are often too short to provide enough time for staff education. Devote a significant portion of your staff meetings to patient education methods.

In-service education should be increased to provide additional time for staff interaction and discussion about increasing patient acceptance of elective procedures. One-hour sessions are great for such meetings. Scheduling them before a patient day is ideal, since not only does the staff participate in planning patient motivation, but they also are especially prone to accomplish the proactive concepts discussed on that day and subsequently.

Give your staff bonuses when they proactively motivate a patient to accept elective treatment. How do you know the patient was motivated by a staff member? Ask simple questions such as, “How did you know we offer appliances to reduce or eliminate snoring?” The patient will mention the staff member. Bonuses work! All of us have some financial stress in our lives at various times, and staff members are no exception. Many of them are in the child-rearing years of life or other expensive times. Front desk staff and hygienists can easily motivate patients by asking questions such as, “How do you like your smile?” You will find that many patients will be very specific and state they do not like certain aspects of their smile. The immediate response by the staff member should be, “Let me tell you about what can be done and show you some pictures of this type of treatment.”

Educational pamphlets are available from many companies and organizations, including the American Dental Association. Consider the example of a young mother and a 5-year-old child at the front desk as they leave the office, having been given a pamphlet on sealants followed by a brief discussion about their value. This would not happen unless the front desk staff person or the hygienist had educated the mother.

Your website is a perfect place for patients to learn about services you provide. Almost all patients seeking a new practitioner will visit your website to see your qualifications and look at your reviews. Some knowledgeable patients may question reviews since there are many ways dentists can get good reviews illegitimately. Place motivating educational images and videos on your website.

Ask your patients who have just received elective treatment to tell their friends with similar dental needs about your practice and the treatment they received from you. Provide simple gifts to your most supportive patients. Word of mouth is still one of the best and most reliable in-office methods to encourage new patients to come to your practice.

Informative signs or patient education pamphlets placed appropriately in locations throughout your office can often motivate patients to ask about a procedure that caught their interest. This method of educating patients about the procedures you offer is highly suitable for snoring cessation, veneers, or tooth whitening, which may be topics patients hesitate to bring up themselves.

You are their dentist! They expect you to tell them about the elective procedures that might be of interest to them. I was just in for my annual physical exam, and my physician offered me several suggestions that I would not have thought to ask about; I subsequently requested additional diagnostic procedures. I educate my patients constantly about what I am doing while I am treating them. Often, they are motivated to request treatment if you pose a question. For example, a patient may require a restoration in a location in their mouth that is relatively unsightly. It is very easy to show them the unsightly tooth or restoration with an intraoral camera or mirror and ask if they would like to improve the overall appearance of that area, which is observable when they smile. Most patients will say yes.

Procedures patients want

The face is the only part of the body that is almost always visible. A beautiful smile is well-known to be one of the first characteristics that identifies a person (figure 1). Your patients want to look their best. As dentists, we can improve their feelings about themselves, improve their self-esteem, make them feel younger, and improve their lives by simply improving their smile (figure 2). Are you and your staff promoting esthetic dental procedures? Is your staff educated adequately to do so?

The following is a list of some of the esthetic dental procedures that are important to most of your patients, either for themselves or their family members. There are many more.

  • Adult orthodontics
  • Bonding with resin-based composite, diastema closures, tooth recontouring with composite
  • Botox and dermal fillers
  • Ceramic crowns and fixed prostheses
  • Ceramic veneers
  • Direct resin-based composite restorations class I-VI
  • Directly placed resin veneers
  • Esthetic oral and maxillofacial surgery
  • Implant placement and restoration
  • Indirect tooth-colored inlays and onlays
  • Periodontal plastic surgery
  • Simple tooth reshaping
  • Tooth-colored crowns and fixed prostheses
  • Teeth whitening, both in-office and at-home
  • Youth orthodontics

How many of these procedures are you doing in your practice? Are any of them doing harm to your patients? No, they are usually esthetically oriented elective procedures that patients want. You can do well by your patients with a few continuing education courses. You and your staff will be pleased to see the positive patient responses, and your services and revenue will increase.


Many dentists are looking for ways to restore their practices back to the prerecession, prepandemic service and revenue levels. Educating team members about the esthetic procedures you want to provide in your practice and equipping them to educate your patients about those procedures will do just that! Your patients want esthetic dental procedures, and you can provide them.  

Editor's note: This article appeared in the September 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

Author’s note: The following educational materials from Practical Clinical Courses offer further resources on this topic for you:

One-hour videos: 

  • Mastering Frequent Esthetic Challenges with Resin (Item #V3582)
  • Strong, Comfortable, Esthetic Rehabilitations with Zirconia (Item #V1942)

Two-day hands-on courses in Utah:

  • Restorative Dentistry 1: Restorative, Esthetic, Preventive with Dr. Gordon Christensen
  • Faster, Easier, Higher Quality Dentistry with Dr. Gordon Christensen

For more information, visit or call (800) 223-6569.

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