Arvid Saunaitis, CDT
Whether a person is a medical doctor, a dentist, or a dental technician, the way to enjoy one's profession is found through striving for excellence. Since the chosen profession dictates a person's lifestyle, it is important from the start to put one's career on the right track by making quality the stepping stone to success.
Dentists who open new practices and charge low prices to increase patient flow will not achieve excellence in their profession. If making a profit requires cutting corners and using poor-quality laboratories, the dentist's practice will never establish a satisfied and permanent clientele. Eventually, the increasing number of adjustments, remakes, and dissatisfied patients will overwhelm the practice, adversely affecting the dentist and the entire staff.
If a dentist decides to provide services to patients with limited means, providing them with poor-quality products and services also can tarnish the overall reputation of the practice. For those patients, instead of providing them with a poor-quality partial denture that the patient can't wear from a low-cost lab, a less-expensive partial from a quality lab would much better serve the patient. By following proactive office procedures and providing accurate impressions to a quality laboratory, a two-clasp all-acrylic partial with a strengthening bar will satisfy the patient's needs and also eliminate aggravation and additional chair time needed to perform adjustments and remakes.
The same holds true for dentures, crowns, and bridgework. Taking a chance with a low-end laboratory to save $50 to $100 on a full denture may require the dentist to spend additional hours performing adjustments, or worse, remaking the entire denture.
How much is your time worth?
A poorly constructed crown or bridge also can have negative consequences. For example, a crown with no undercuts that is constructed to accept a partial denture or an attachment — one that has no clearance for the male portion of the attachment — can cause the entire treatment plan to fail.
Five years ago, I had a crown constructed for No.14 that never felt right and in which floss was always getting caught. Three years ago, I decided to have the crown removed and replaced by a different dentist. After the crown was removed, my new dentist discovered that the tooth had started to decay due to leakage. In the past, I had referred a number of patients to my previous dentist, but after my experience, he not only lost me as a patient but all of my referrals as well.
Because 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your patients — regardless of their socioeconomic status — satisfying each one of them is not only good for business, but essential.
In addition, the patient's need for more information should not be confused with a resistance to accept the necessary treatment. Explaining what needs to be done for the patient's benefit — which includes sending the work to a quality laboratory — will justify the additional expense and reduce chair time and potential aggravation and income loss later on.
When patients walk into a dentist's office with the knowledge that the treatment they need is expensive, they will attempt to negotiate a cheaper price. This is no different than any other business, with one exception — if consumers find they do not like the choice they have made at a retail business, they can return it within three days. In contrast, dental patients need to understand that, unlike a retail business, once their choice is made and the services completed, changing their minds is not an option. Therefore, it is better to help patients choose what is best, not necessarily what is cheapest.
Another comparison can be made to the automobile industry. After a car buyer takes ownership of a Kia Rio, the owner cannot expect it to perform or last like a BMW. And in dentistry, there is no resale value! However, if the dentist explains the results that can be achieved by combining the latest technological advances with the services of a quality laboratory, it will profoundly benefit patients in the long term and the dentist will have extra chair time available to treat more patients.
Some patients simply cannot make a decision on their own, and others, as shown in the cartoon, don't fully understand what the dentist is saying to them. Clear, easily understood communication is the most effective sales tool. For example, a photo album with before-and-after pictures displaying the results achieved by your office can easily influence the patient's decision to say "yes."
Today, selling cosmetic dentistry is easier than ever before. In the past, people believed that whiter and straighter teeth created the appearance of false teeth. That belief has changed. Now, patients are bleaching and straightening their teeth to look younger and more attractive.
Like never before, the Baby Boomers, eighty million strong, the wealthiest generation in the history of America and at the peak of their earning power, will pay to look good and feel good. A bright smile is a part of the package they have come to expect without worrying about looking "too good."
A part of your business strategy
Patients who are happy with the quality of service will not hesitate to recommend their dentist to relatives and friends. Dentists who establish a good reputation and trust with their clientele will always have a steady flow of patients who want good service and are willing to pay for it.
Arvid Saunaitis, C.D.T., is the president of Kromex Dental Laboratory Inc. in Chicago, Ill., and author and presenter of Forum for Prosthetic Dentistry Seminars. For 25 years, he has been researching and conducting experiments to determine why certain procedures fail, and has developed techniques that eliminate remakes. The first full-day seminar for doctors and technicians examines a combination case including prosthetics that allow tried-and-true aesthetic clasps to be durable and for attachments to have proper clearances. For more information on upcoming seminars, call (773) 436-9440.