by Mickey Bernstein, DDS
“I found you on the Internet.”
I hear this statement all the time. No, I am not in some seedy business. I am a proud Accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry - a cosmetic dentist. Today, more patients are finding me, and potentially you, through this great medium of information and referral.
When American consumers search for a new product or service, they most likely will use the Internet. According to a recent Nielson/NetRating survey, almost 70 percent of consumers reach for the Internet.
As patients become more informed, they ask better questions as they search to find dentists who are trained to provide the level of quality and the variety of services they desire.
What Web site are these patients most likely to find when they Google “cosmetic dentistry”? The AACD Web site. In fact, put in key words related to cosmetic dentistry (whitening, veneers, crowns, etc.) and the academy’s Web site will be listed on most search engines’ first page.
There are three main avenues to drive traffic to a particular site on the Internet. The first is paid advertising. The second is search engine optimization or tying a geographic term to a dental term like “cosmetic dentist” and “Memphis.” The third is a directory that serves as a conduit to members associated with that directory organization. The AACD Web site (www.aacd.com) contains just such a directory.
An adjunct to the primary methods of driving Internet traffic to a Web site is the addition of video technology. Sites containing video content are increasingly climbing the list of search engine results. The more video content incorporated in the site, the better the site’s position on search engine lists. An emerging trend is Web site content that is entirely in video format (doctors and team members explaining and demonstrating dental procedures).
Having arrived at the AACD site, patients will find a member directory listing dentists throughout the country - and the world - who have made the commitment to excellence by pursuing membership and Accreditation in the academy (Fig 1).
Members are listed geographically, by zip code and by level of accomplishment in the academy.
Thus, patients have an excellent guide to finding a dentist who best serves their individual needs. A listing on the site offers advantages in attracting patients to your practice. Because the AACD’s Accreditation and general membership training programs offer a complete and intensive curriculum of esthetic training in dentistry, designation as an Accredited member establishes an earned credibility in the public’s mind.
The AACD site also provides an array of information to the public, the media, and the profession. The public can find answers to common dental questions, information on selecting the right cosmetic dentist, and tips for maintaining a beautiful smile.
Patients also can learn more about the education and skills that Accredited dentists have demonstrated in order to earn the esteemed Accreditation credential. Scattered throughout the Web site is the clear message that the academy is dedicated to advancing the art and science of cosmetic dentistry by encouraging education and communication.
AACD Public Relations Director Eric Nelson reports that the academy’s Web site is visited by thousands of consumers each month. Moreover, the AACD public relations campaign has meant that www.aacd.com has appeared in magazines and newspapers, including USA Today, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Redbook, Fitness, Glamour, and O! The Oprah Magazine.
But the academy is not resting on these laurels. In the coming year, the AACD will take its message to television, directing even more viewers to its Web site for information and referral to local members, accredited dentists, and Fellows.
As patients review the listings, they will find links to each member’s individual Web site, along with an e-mail address to provide direct contact to the practice.
Individual Web sites provide an opportunity for patients to preview the skill and artistry of the cosmetic dentist they are considering. On the provider’s site, patients often can view before-and-after images, patient testimonials, and a list of services offered.
Many high-tech sites include video segments that tour the office and give an insight into the personality of the dentist and team. Some sites have the ability to complete registration forms and make exam and recall appointments.
Other sites provide information or links, for those patients who are traveling, to assist with hotel and dinner reservations. The online services you provide are limited only by your imagination.
Eighty percent of my new patients now come via the Internet. Many arrive after viewing the “Find a Cosmetic Dentist” section on the AACD site while seeking a credentialed dentist.
One of these patients is a retired 72-year-old man who had lost his wife a year earlier. He was lonely and felt his unattractive smile kept him from forming new relationships. We restored his smile, bite, and teeth to proper function and presented him with a professional portrait following his treatment (Fig 2). We were thrilled that he posted that photograph on a dating Web site. Several months later, he was married.
Brett, a singer for a heavy metal band, was seeking an accredited cosmetic dentist to close large gaps in his teeth prior to filming a music video. His manager first went to the academy’s site, knowing it was a reliable source for a qualified dentist in Brett’s hometown. He found our practice via the site. We proceeded to restore Brett’s mouth with 16 veneers. He then went to Los Angeles to film his video.
Shirley, who is a visitor from Liverpool, England, visited www.aacd.com to find a dentist during a short stay in the U.S. and located our practice. We were honored to help this young woman prepare for her upcoming wedding. We corrected the misalignment and spaces that were causing her distress.
While these are just three of my stories, there are thousands more like them. I hear many of these stories when I speak with fellow AACD members. One of my colleagues, Dr. Debra King of Atlanta, has experienced great success with her www.aacd.com-referred patients.
“It’s always nice to get informed and educated patients who have found us on the AACD Web site,” she said. “The site provides patients with information explaining our credentials and experience that they may not be able to find elsewhere.”
This does not just apply to dentists. Brad Jones, an AACD accredited ceramist, has received new clients as a result of the academy’s site.
“The benefits of the AACD Web site have been amazingly beneficial to me as an accredited lab technician,” he said. “Not only do dentists contact me through this directory, but I also get patients contacting me. Today’s patients are Internet-savvy. When they search the Web, they are instantly directed to the academy’s site. This site is specifically designed to give patients information on cosmetic dental procedures as well as guide them on whom to contact in their area. I can honestly say that, if I were a patient, the AACD directory is the first place I would go - not only to find a dentist but also to make sure the dentist’s lab is an active member.”Making yourself known to potential patients is a challenging venture in today’s competitive world. AACD membership and Accreditation offer an opportunity to be located by potential patients and recognized for academic and practical excellence in esthetics and cosmetic dentistry. We invite you to pursue membership and Accreditation. Your practice will benefit, not only from your efforts but also from your affiliation with a recognized standard of excellence in cosmetic dentistry.
After 31 years in general practice, Dr. Mickey Bernstein has limited his Germantown, Tenn., practice to esthetic dentistry. He is an Accredited member and president-elect of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. An alumnus of the L.D. Pankey Institute of Advanced Dental Education, he is also a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry. He markets his practice via germantownsmiles.com and memphissmiledesigns.com.