By Anthony Feck, DMD
Zig Ziglar said, "You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want." What Zig said about life in general is crucial to success in business, and dentistry is no different in this regard.
Start by finding out what your customers want; then discover how to give it to them. While this may seem painfully obvious, it is commonly overlooked when it comes to strategic business planning. This is the theme of the timeless, best-selling business book by Spencer Johnson titled, Who Moved My Cheese?,1 in which the "cheese" is what the marketplace wants -- and it is constantly changing. According to Johnson's business fable, if we don't change with the marketplace, we get left behind.
My roles as dentist, consultant,2 and educator give me a unique perspective on when and where the cheese is moving, as well as how some successful dentists are capitalizing on the opportunities that accompany these moves. What follows are four of these game changers:
Game Changer NO. 1
Short-term cosmetic braces for the adult patient
One thing is not changing. People want attractive smiles, but they are increasingly reluctant to seek out invasive methods to accomplish this. The dentists I talk to on a regular basis remark about performing fewer porcelain veneers than in the past. Adult patients want cosmetic solutions that conserve tooth structure. They also want that solution to be fast, cosmetically appealing during treatment (no metal showing), and of course, less expensive.
These objectives were the impetus for development of the general dentist-oriented cosmetic braces system, Six Month Smiles.3 This system uses clear brackets and tooth-colored wires with shape memory to straighten teeth in about six months. Bracket position, critical to any straight-wire system, is provided by Six Month Smiles bracket specialists through means of a bracket-bonding tray that allows for bonding of all the brackets on an arch at the same time. These trays are included in a Patient Tray Kit along with all the necessary supplies to start a case. Because much of this short-term orthodontic treatment can be delegated, the potential for increased productivity is significant. The system also comes with comprehensive support including a robust forum supported by an experienced network of Six Month Smiles providers.
Game Changer NO. 2
Practical implant placement for the general dentist
The demand for implants has never been greater. Dentists and patients alike have long appreciated the benefits of implants to other forms of tooth replacement, and even endodontic treatment in many cases. Today's additional demand is being fueled by age and economic demographic shifts, the aforementioned minimal invasive paradigm, as well as implant systems such as OsteoReady.4 This allows general dentists to place implants less invasively, more efficiently, more prosthetic friendly, and more affordably. Now more than ever patients can have implants placed, and receive the prosthetic solution, from the same professional -- their general dentist. Often this can be done in four months or less.
In addition, the OsteoReady system is flexible enough to allow the general dentist to place conventional dental implants without surgical flaps or grafting. OsteoReady has a small-diameter implant for thin ridges, short-wide implants for minimal ridge height such as is often encountered in the posterior maxilla, a technique for immediate implant placement following an atraumatic extraction, a one-drill technique using a multi-drill that can replace multiple step-drills, and a system for placing abutments and impressing for crowns and bridges at the same time the implant is placed. General dentists who are placing 80% of all implants are the new "cheese."
Game Changer NO. 3
3-D imaging: diagnostic and treatment-planning technology
I have seen dental radiography evolve from dipping films in tanks filled with chemicals to automatic processors, to digital X-rays, to the fast-approaching new standard of care, three-dimensional radiography. I can attest (i-Cat machine5) to the difference between seeing a two-dimensional view of a three-dimensional object and a three-dimensional image of that same object.
The difference in diagnostic information between the two views is like the difference between night and day. Bone height, width, density, and relationship to important anatomic structures, including soft tissue, make this a worthwhile investment in patient care. It not only improves diagnostic and treatment-planning ability, it gives the patient a favorable impression of the practice that results in more case acceptance and referrals.
There is no question that the implant side of my practice has grown significantly due in large part to the increased confidence patients and I have in the outcome of the procedure as a result of 3-D imaging. The technology can also be applied to orthodontics, endodontics, as well as sleep and TMJ disorders. I found the training in use of the i-Cat hardware and software to be comprehensive and straightforward. The machine paid for itself within a short period of time.
Game Changer NO. 4
IV sedation dentistry: a new twist on a solution to a universal problem
Sometimes the "cheese" shifts only slightly. I have been providing sedation dentistry for nearly two decades, and the demand has been consistently high. Fear, the No. 1 reason for people seeking sedation providers, is not shrinking in size.
The second most common reason, time, is more important than ever in our culture. But since more and more dentists are providing this valuable service to patients (something I have played no small part in), each provider's slice of the proverbial "pie" of demand has become smaller. This has caused many to seek out new ways to separate themselves as sedation dentists in the marketplace.
One such way oral sedation providers are accomplishing this is to add intravenous (IV) sedation to their sedation tool kit. IV administration expands the population of patients you can treat with sedation, and addresses some limitations that accompany oral administration alone.
These include onset of action, the ability to administer analgesia in addition to sedation, dehydration, hypoglycemia, and the hypo-responsive patient. When oral andIV sedationare combined as taught by DOCS Education,6 the sedation provider has the best of both worlds, as well as the ability to market the distinction associated with a more advanced level of care.
Opportunities abound in a constantly evolving dental marketplace. Recognizing these shifts in consumer demand is essential to achieving and maintaining a prosperous business and a productive practice. The marketplace changes discussed in this article involve advanced methods of dealing with dental anxiety, minimally invasive approaches to cosmetic and implant dentistry, systems to provide these services more efficiently, and technological advances for achieving these objectives. Four opportunities have been presented that can allow the practice to maximize productivity and enhance patient care.
1. Johnson S. (2002). Who moved my cheese? An amazing way to deal with change in your work and in your life. New York: Putnam.
2. Sunrise Dental Solutions, www.SunriseDentalSolutions.com, (800) 750-0737.
3. Six Month Smiles, www.6Smiles.com, (866) 957-7645.
4. OsteoReady, www.OsteoReady.com, (855) 299-0367.
5. i-Cat, www.i-cat.com, Available in the USA exclusively through Henry Schein Dental, (800) 372-4236.
6. DOCS Education, www.docseducation.com, (866) 592-9618.
Anthony Feck, DMD, practices in a multi-doctor practice in Lexington, Ky., and is an educator, consultant, and author. Dr. Feck is the founder of Sunrise Dental Solutions (SunriseDentalSolutions.com), a comprehensive consulting company. He can be reached at Tony@TonyFeck.com.