Gregori M. Kurtzman, DDS, MAGD, FACD, DICOI, DADIA
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In our "I want it yesterday" society, tray bleaching does not meet many patient expectations since it takes one to two weeks before noticeable results may occur. Compliance also becomes a factor and patients become frustrated quickly with the delayed results.
In-office bleaching is a great practice builder since it gives patients immediate results that satisfy the need for immediate gratification. In-office whitening systems, such as Zoom (Discus Dental, Culver City, Calif.), help satisfy this need and can be supplemented with tray bleaching at home for maintenance.
Along with taking blood pressure and checking for changes in medical history, taking a tooth shade of the maxillary anterior teeth is an essential component of every dental exam (providing a patient does not have restorations on these teeth already). Patients may not be aware that their teeth are dark in shade compared to what is possible with bleaching.
At the time of the exam, the dental professional might say, "Mrs. Jones, according to the shade guide, your teeth are a C3. That's a fairly dark color. Have you ever wanted a whiter, brighter smile?"
Sharing this information with the patient can plant the seed for tooth whitening (soft sell) or open the door to questions from the patient on what is possible. We have found that electronic shade systems, such as the Vita Easyshade (Vident, Brea, Calif.), make capturing shade information more consistent than using standard shade tabs.
Additionally, patients appear to be more accepting of a machine shade indication versus a staff member who arbitrarily selects a matching tab.
Dental practices can also take a lesson from our colleagues in plastic surgery. These practices provide their services to staffs at no charge (or minimal charge), since nothing sells a service to patients better than a staff member saying that he or she had the treatment.
So an important and often overlooked first step in building the whitening aspect of the practice is to "Zoom" the entire staff. Not only do staff members become instant walking/talking advertisements for your whitening program, it gives your team the opportunity to practice with the technology.
The second step is to incorporate photography of every case before and after bleaching treatment. Photographs should be taken with the matching shade tab in the before image clearly showing the tab shade indicator. The after picture should show the before-whitening tab so that a good contrast is noted where shade started and what results occurred. This step is important for in-office bleaching since the patient and you can compare results immediately after treatment, and again during the important touch-up process.
Another benefit of capturing before-and-after imaging is to create an album for the waiting area for patients to flip through while waiting for appointments. Placement of select before-and-after images on the treatment room walls also helps tell patients what is possible and helps plant subconscious seeds.
No matter how you approach it, in-office whitening offers patients yet another flexible option to beautify their smiles and motivate them to get and maintain improved oral health. When added to a comprehensive whitening program, in-office whitening can be an important way to grow your patient base.
Dr. Gregori Kurtzman is in private general practice in Silver Spring, Md. He is a former assistant clinical professor at the University of Maryland, Department of Endodontics, Prosthetics, and Operative Dentistry. He has lectured nationally and internationally on restorative dentistry, endodontics, implant surgery and prosthetics, removable and fixed prosthetics, and periodontics. Contact him at [email protected].