Value-added services

May 1, 2004
In the marketing world, business people are always looking to differentiate themselves. When it comes to marketing our dental offices, we are looking for the same thing.

Louis Malcmacher, DDS

In the marketing world, business people are always looking to differentiate themselves. When it comes to marketing our dental offices, we are looking for the same thing. How are we just a little different to our patients so they will think of our dental practice as something special? This may rub some readers the wrong way, but most patients think dentists are basically all the same. To a limited extent, dental services have become a commodity because of dental clinics in major retail stores, preferred-provider organizations and insurance plans, as well as the loads of advertising you see in the newspapers and Yellow Pages. When you look at Yellow Page ads in all the cities across the United States — which is something I do every time I go to a city and lecture — they basically look like "Doc in a Box" ads. Everybody is doing fillings, crowns, bleaching, bonding, partials, extractions, etc.

A primary way to significantly differentiate your practice is by giving patients value-added services they have not had before or do not expect. An example of this is the process of sampling. Many times in the office, we get samples of over-the-counter dental products. We have one table in our office where we place all the samples, and patients are free to take any samples they wish. The samples range from toothpaste, toothbrushes, tongue cleaners, mouthwashes, and sugar-free dental chewing gums. Many patients look forward to our little sample table so that they can see what's new and try out some over-the-counter products for free.

Another important example of this is providing the patient bleaching kits from companies that also include samples. A good example of this is the Rembrandt Company. Because they also are a consumer company, all of Rembrandt's bleaching kits come with alcohol-free breath drops, peroxide toothpastes and peroxide mouthwashes to maintain the bleaching process. Patients are thrilled to be able to use some new products while maintaining the whiteness of their teeth after bleaching.

One of the biggest hits in terms of value-added services in our office has been a new product from the Kerr Company called Toothprints. Toothprints is a thermoplastic wafer that is placed into boiling water for a couple of minutes until it softens. Once it is slightly cooled, it is placed into a child's mouth, and the child bites into it. This gives you a quick and easy bite registration/impression of the occlusal scheme of the child's teeth. Once it hardens in the patient's mouth, it is taken out and put into a special plastic bag on which we write the patient's name and date, and then give it to the child's parent. Mom or dad takes it home and stores it in a safe place. It can be used if, heaven forbid, a child is ever missing. DNA from saliva also is on the Toothprint, and could be used years later if needed. Every child in our office gets one at no cost, and the response has been terrific. Parents are impressed that we take this issue as seriously as we would with our own children.

Value-added services could be as simple as doing an oral cancer exam. I can't tell you how important it is to tell the patient what you are doing. I tell the patient, "Now we are going to do an oral cancer exam. We'll look for any funny lumps or bumps in your mouth, just like we do every time you come in." And the patient will turn to me and say, "Nobody has ever done this for me before." I know, of course, that most dentists or hygienists have done this to the patient before, but what they haven't done is told the patient what they are doing. That is the big key in value-added services — letting patients know that this is something that differentiates your office from any others.

Take advantage of the value-added services that you may already provide or will now provide to patients. This lets everyone know how special your office really is. People are always looking to get more for their money. Every office is looking to differentiate themselves in patients' eyes. These two goals come together perfectly by offering value-added services to your everyday mix of dental services.

Dr. Louis Malcmacher is an international lecturer and author known for hiscomprehensive and entertaining style.An evaluator for Clinical Research Associates, Dr. Malcmacher is a consultant to the Council on Dental Practice of the ADA. For close to two decades, Dr. Malcmacher has inspired his audiences to truly enjoy practicing dentistry by providing the knowledge necessary for excellent clinical and practice-management skills. His group dental practice has maintained a 45 percent overhead since 1988.For details about his speaking schedule, Dr. Malcmacher can be reached at (440) 892-1810 or via email at [email protected].

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