Introducing cosmetic dentistry

Feb. 1, 2006
Many of your cosmetic cases can come directly from your existing patient family.

Many of your cosmetic cases can come directly from your existing patient family. I almost always ask my audiences, “Who would like to change something about their smile?” Usually 30 to 50 percent (sometimes more) of the audience indicates they would, indeed, like to change something about their smile. These dental professionals are no different than your existing patient family. More than likely, 30 to 50 percent of your existing patients would like to change something about their smile. The key is to ask! No one is going to open any doors for you. You must open your own doors.

There are many ways to do this “door opening,” but one proven way is through the effective use of a “smile evaluation” form. A smile evaluation helps people to start thinking about their own smile in ways they hadn’t thought of before. This evaluation allows you and the patient to address questions about color, size, shape, length, materials, missing teeth, etc. You can find out what they like, what they don’t like, and what they would like to change, if anything.

Many people haven’t thought about how a change in their smile would impact them. Introducing this possibility could increase their awareness of what a positive change a new smile would make in their facial expression.

Keep in mind that most people don’t know about the many options available with cosmetic dentistry. You have an opportunity to provide this introduction. Your evaluation can stimulate conversation in a comfortable manner. Many patients are grateful for a safe place to express their concerns about their smile.

Consider the following:

Send this evaluation form with your “welcome packet” prior to a patient’s initial appointment, or have a patient fill this out during the initial interview.

Use the smile evaluation form with all hygiene patients. As people are flowing through the hygiene area, let them know that you are continually making an effort to find new and better ways to serve your patients and that’s why they are being asked to take a few minutes to complete this form.

Do the same thing with your restorative patients as they come in for treatment. No matter where they are with their treatment, it is always appropriate to invite them to tell you more about what they want, how they feel, and services that might be of interest to them.

Special Note: Place the form on a nice clipboard and provide a nice pen. Have your own pens with your name and logo on them. Let patients take the pens home. This is a great marketing tool, convenient for the patient, and no lost pen for you!

Include the “smile evaluation” in your patient newsletter or in a special mailing. Include the evaluation form in an article about a specific cosmetic option, such as veneers. The goal is to stimulate interest and invite questions. Consider making a special offer to people who fill out the evaluation form - perhaps a compli-mentary cosmetic evaluation. A person who fills out the form and calls to schedule this complimentary evaluation is definitely interested!

The essential element

Now, here is the part of the equation that is as important as having people fill out the evaluation in the first place: read it, ask questions, and then listen.

Don’t even begin this project unless 1) you really want to do more cosmetic cases and 2) you are willing to pay attention to the responses.

Once a patient has completed the evaluation, ask him or her to reflect on areas he or she would like to improve. For example, if you ask, “Would you like your teeth to be whiter?” and the person answers, “yes,” acknowledge this one area of desired improvement even if the patient likes everything else about his or her smile.

“Mrs. Jones, from your evaluation, it looks like you are happy with your smile except you would like for your teeth to be whiter. Tell me about that.”

Then, let the patient talk about this. Ask questions and listen. Don’t jump right into a discussion about tooth whitening before you have let the patient tell you what he or she wants. Most of the time, patients will direct you. Respond to their comments by asking questions and then, without passing judgment, listen.

Most people would like to change something about their smile. They will acknowledge this if they are asked. The smile evaluation is a comfortable way to do just that.

Dr. Cathy Jameson is president and CEO of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental practice-management consulting, lecturing, seminar, and product provider. An accomplished speaker, writer, and workshop leader, she may be contacted at (877) 369-5558, via e-mail at [email protected], or by visiting her Web site at

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