The Jameson Files

Oct. 1, 2000
This month, Dr. John Jameson interviews Dr. Wil-liam Dorfman, the inventor and founder of Discus Dental, on the progression of tooth-whitening programs for the dental practice. For the past 15 years, he has maintained a successful esthetic dental practice in the Beverly Hills, Calif., area.

This month: Tooth-whitening programs with Dr. William Dorfman

Dr. John Jameson

This month, Dr. John Jameson interviews Dr. Wil-liam Dorfman, the inventor and founder of Discus Dental, on the progression of tooth-whitening programs for the dental practice. For the past 15 years, he has maintained a successful esthetic dental practice in the Beverly Hills, Calif., area.

Dr. Jameson: What are some "golden nuggets" that you can share with the readers about implementing new tooth-whitening technology into their practices and treatment mixes?

Dr. Dorfman: One of the most important things is educating the patient. Most patients don`t know enough about what we do to be good consumers. We should begin to educate the patient the moment he or she walks through the door. One of the things we have had great success with is placing ancillary marketing pieces, such as brochures and counter cards, in the reception area. They can see these pieces as soon as they sit down.

When the patient goes into the hygiene area, there should be more literature to support what he or she has seen in the reception area. One of the things that we came up with is what we call "proactive care." It`s a lot like a prophy pack except that, when the hygienist opens up this pack, the first thing that she sees is a tooth-shade guide. This acts as a prompt for her to talk to the patient about the color of his or her teeth. She can say, "You can see that your teeth are around Shade 10 on this guide. Would you like to have them whiter?" The hygienist often forgets to mention these things, so we`ve developed an easy reminder.

In my office, if the patient says that he or she would like whiter teeth, the hygienist will say, "Why don`t we take an impression right now? We can make up the whitening trays while you`re here and you can walk out with a kit today." This is "speed selling;" all of this has taken less than five minutes.

Then we`ll take the impression, have another assistant pour the model, make the trays, and have them ready for the patient to take home. They may pay $50 for a prophy, along with $300 for the whitening.

We also have the hygienist use a tongue scraper on the patient and talk to them about fresh breath and the importance of scraping the tongue. Many times the patient will walk out with a BreathRx™ starter kit. That`s another $50. What began as a $50 procedure is now a $400 procedure that took no doctor time or additional chair time. Plus the patient walks out with a healthy, clean mouth.

Dr. Jameson: That really would be seen as "value-added," considering the reason that the patient came into the office, wouldn`t it?

Dr. Dorfman: In retail, it would be called "upsell-ing." You just upsold the patient. He or she came in to buy a prophy and you just sold that person whitening and fresh breath, which are two great things for the patient. It`s a win-win-win for everyone involved.

Dr. Jameson: A lot of dentists become confused when they see all of the advertisements for bleaching and tooth-whitening systems that are on the market today. Now we`re seeing power-bleaching systems come into the treatment mix. What have you observed with these new systems compared to the take-home variety we`ve had for several years?

Dr. Dorfman: Obviously, we (Discus Dental) have a vested interest in this. We`ve performed several studies on bleaching with power, bleaching with laser, and everything else. To date, in my hands, I have not seen a stand-alone system that does the job. There are some that jumpstart the patient - like a laser - but you have to follow it up with a take-home kit. I have not seen a patient come into the office and walk out in 45 minutes with white teeth that won`t need any follow-up treatment.

If you work with an in-office system, my recommendation is to follow it up with a take-home system. I probably do more bleaching than any other dentist that you`ll ever meet. We have a very busy practice and we often recruit people to try out different gels. We may have 100 people go through the office in a week or two just to try out a new gel.

We`ve tried everything and I just don`t see a need for in-office whitening. The patient`s teeth will be just as white with or without it. With the time, energy, and money that it takes to do an in-office procedure, I would rather tell the patient that it will take an extra day or two to see the results with the take-home tray.

Dr. Jameson: What kind of profitability increases have you seen in practices that aggressively integrate tooth-whitening into the treatment mix?

Dr. Dorfman: I had a doctor call me a few months ago who had an idea he just had to tell me. He told me that he had increased his tooth-whitening production from a few hundred dollars per month to more than $20,000 per month. He calls his plan "3210." He has everyone in his office wearing buttons that read, "3210. Ask me what this means." He asks each patient on his or her health history if there was an affordable way for his or her teeth to be whiter, would he or she do it?

Money is the biggest obstacle to getting people to say "yes" to tooth-whitening. That`s the main reason people are hesitant about tooth-whitening, unless they have had a restoration and the whiter teeth would cause a color difference with it.

If a patient indicates they would like whiter teeth on the health history form, this doctor makes it affordable by charging the patient $1 a day for 300 days. Anyone can afford $1 per day. That`s where the "3210" comes from: $32.10 per month. He asks for the patient`s credit card, and the practice charges $32.10 per month until it hits $300. This is the simple way he has turned a few hundred dollars per month into more than $20,000 per month.

Dr. Jameson: With increased patient demand, what do you see in the future for tooth-whitening systems?

Dr. Dorfman: We`re going to see systems getting faster and better. Right now, we have take-home systems that take almost two weeks to work. They will get faster. There are things that we`re working on right now that will offer some viable, in-office techniques that will be easier and faster.

The biggest change has to occur at the level of the office staff. They must become better educators. This will enable the patients to understand tooth-whitening, and encourage them to follow through with it.

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