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The benefits of modern dentistry

April 1, 2008
The public's increased awareness of the benefits of modern dentistry has never been higher...
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by David Hornbrook, DDS, FAACD

The public's increased awareness of the benefits of modern dentistry has never been higher, and the desire for "want" dentistry often replaces "need" dentistry as to why a patient seeks dental treatment. This increased awareness, coupled with the overall desire of the public to look and feel better and younger, has created an entirely new arena in dentistry that wasn"t explored very often before the new millennium.

The media's attention on dentistry's entry, along with plastic surgery's, into providing positive changes in people's appearance has been prolific, with articles in national beauty magazines on bleaching, bonding, veneers, and orthodontics. This increased media awareness has had a profound effect on the number of patients who seldom visited the dentist because they associated it with unpleasantness and pain. Dentistry has now established itself near the forefront of delivering self-image enhancing services, along with providing and maintaining excellent oral health.

Here are some ways you can implement the benefits of modern dentistry into your practice:

1) Become familiar with available options, especially brand names that the public may read or hear about in the media. Educate your dental team as to what's available, and the advantages of modern dentistry over traditional and historical dentistry. Familiarity with techniques and procedures that the public may be exposed to by television, magazines, and other nondental sources is mandatory to earn patients' confidence, as well as provide the opportunity to increase your services. Dental manufacturers now market directly to consumers, so it is vital to be a step ahead by researching these products and services. Be familiar with how they are marketed and thoroughly understand their indications, contraindications, applications, and compromises. The important issue with products and services is not whether dental practices offer them or even believe they meet their claims, but rather that doctors and their teams can discuss them intelligently and answer patients' questions regarding their efficacy. Saying "I don't use it or do that because it doesn't work" after the patient has seen the product advertised or discussed on a reality show may actually decrease credibility for a clinician instead of enhance it.

My reputation as a "cosmetic dentist" has brought both existing and potential patients into my office to ask about LUMINEERS, after they've read about them in a popular magazine. I think "prepless" or "minimal preparation" veneers is a very viable alternative in many cases, but I do not offer LUMINEERS in my practice. I have, however, educated my entire team about what a LUMINEER is and how it is different and similar to what we offer. This is important, especially with the first contact (whether it is in person or on the telephone), because we can intelligently respond to our patients' inquiries.

2)Become educated so you can deliver the care your patients deserve. Our patients are going to ask for procedures that are still not discussed or taught adequately in dental schools, so continually updating your expertise — especially in the realm of esthetic dentistry — is mandatory to meet your patients' needs. Familiarity with adhesive techniques will yield less postoperative sensitivity and provide higher long-term prognosis and success. A "tooth-colored" filling may look better to your patient, but if it is uncomfortable or presents with a much shorter lifespan than its metal alternative, it becomes more of a liability than a benefit to your practice and reputation. Understanding how preparation design affects strength and predictability with ceramics, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the newer ceramics, will provide long-lasting results. Conserving healthy tooth structure by offering a ceramic or resin onlay rather than a traditional full-coverage crown can be a huge benefit to your practice, as your patients talk to friends and family about how your dentistry is different than what they had before.

As a provider in multiday, live-patient courses for the last 10 years, I obviously have a bias toward this type of education. But the posteducation results I have seen from clinicians who have treated patients under the mentorship of a clinician with years of experience and knowledge has no substitute. As a previous evaluator for accreditation and fellowship in the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the differences in smile design, manipulation of the materials, laboratory communication skills, understanding of occlusal factors, and correct material choices between those who have attended these courses and those who have not is astonishing.

3) Use quality materials and laboratories to obtain results that are equal or superior to your patient's expectations. In my opinion, there is no excuse for not using the very best materials available when treating patients. This includes finding a ceramist who truly understands how to mimic nature and also occlusion principles to help ensure long-term predictability. In today's environment, patients discuss their dental treatment and smile makeovers openly with others, so a choice of inferior materials or laboratory support will become very evident, not only to your patients but to others contemplating treatment.

If you are going to take the time to market your services and become educated about how to provide these services, you must back it up with the final product. If you need to raise fees to use a specific material or ceramist, then explain this to the patient. I often show patients photos of smile makeovers that have come into my office that are not as esthetically pleasing as I think they could have been so they can see the difference in results. This often becomes a motivator for choosing me for the treatment, even though my fees may be higher than other offices they have consulted.

4) Practice what you preach by taking advantage of new techniques and materials to enhance your own and your team's smiles to create value and educate your patients. Nothing brings more credibility than when the "provider" has benefited from the same technique, materials, and recommendations he or she recommends. This is true in all areas of life including personal trainers, auto detailers, landscapers, painters, plastic surgeons, and hair stylists. The benefits of quality, esthetic dental treatment should be experienced by the dentist as well as the patients. Too many clinicians have neglected their own oral health, while they condemn their patients for not accepting their recommendations. The esthetic dentist must be committed to the benefits of image-enhancing dentistry and seek treatment to improve deficiencies in his or her own smile. Dentists practicing state-of-the-art adhesive dentistry must commit to having defective restorations replaced with bonded, esthetic restorations.

5) Become enthusiastic about how dentistry has changed in the last decade and how patients are the direct benefactors. In most cases, esthetic dentistry, whether a smile makeover or having a resin restoration placed instead of an amalgam, is a discretionary decision. The competition for these discretionary dollars is home electronics, vacations, and other luxuries. If this is the competition, then how we discuss treatment alternatives or advantages must be done the same way as our competitors — enthusiastically! Having performed thousands of smile makeovers, I know the boost in self-confidence and self-esteem a makeover can provide for patients. I have witnessed patients reunite with a loved one, get a better job, make an important sale, and gain confidence with others just because a new smile helped them feel better about themselves. Enthusiasm equals credibility!

Having a role in helping another person improve self-image and self-worth is an honor limited to very few professions. Esthetic dentistry has moved our profession away from the stigma of simply relieving and/or causing pain to one associated with beauty and enhancement. Dentistry is now a profession people turn to when they want to improve the quality of their lives.

Successfully implementing the benefits of modern dentistry into your practice requires confidence that you can deliver the results predictably. It is this confidence, above all else, that will change the perception of your patients, your team, and ultimately yourself.

David Hornbrook, DDS, FAACD, instructs dentists nationwide on the latest advancements in cosmetic dentistry. He is considered a pioneer in patient treatment education. A 1986 UCLA graduate, peers have ranked Dr. Hornbook as one of the nation's top three cosmetic dentists. As one of the world's less than 300 accredited members of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, he holds positions on editorial boards of more than 10 professional journals. He practices in San Diego, Calif. As executive director of The Hornbrook Group, he brings his leading-edge program across the country to hundreds of clinicians. Contact him at [email protected].