Are esthetic dentists ripping off the public?

Recently, one of my clinical directors told me that a doctor from Sacramento did not come to my lecture when I was in his town because "he did not want to rip off his patients." Although the doctor had never heard me speak before, he was convinced that all we are about is making more money at the expense of the patient.

William G. Dickerson, DDS, FAACD

Recently, one of my clinical directors told me that a doctor from Sacramento did not come to my lecture when I was in his town because "he did not want to rip off his patients." Although the doctor had never heard me speak before, he was convinced that all we are about is making more money at the expense of the patient.

First, let me say that there is nothing wrong with making money, but this doctor is clueless when it comes to what our mission is all about. I also understand that this is a defensive attitude that many dentists have when they don`t feel that they are worth the fees that our Las Vegas Institute graduates charge. It`s a lot easier to criticize the successful dentist than look in the mirror and admit that the other dentist probably is better than you are.

A win-win philosophy

The truth is that our philosophy of dentistry is a win/win philosophy. Since you can`t provide excellence unless you charge for it, there is no way you can supply your patients with excellent treatment at insurance-company reimbursement rates. Yet, most dentists attempt to make a decent living by volume, room-hopping dentistry.

It`s funny how treating one patient at a time, providing each with the best available treatment possible, and offering every patient a guarantee of satisfaction with your services is considered ripping off the patient. I believe it`s the HMO or insurance-driven philosophy that really is ripping off the public. Compromising care, volume patient treatment, and using inferior labs because the fee the insurer pays doesn`t justify sending a case to a superior lab are all examples of not providing patients with proper care and ripping them off. In fact, when a patient doesn`t have money, he or she can`t afford to waste it on inferior treatment!

Not for everyone

Is this type of dentistry for everyone? Of course not, but as I also have told most of you before, you can`t be everyone`s dentist. Are the Lexus or the Mercedes dealers ripping off their clients? Are the Lexus customers feeling ripped off? The truth is that for the past five years, Lexus has been the highest rated automobile company in customer-satisfaction surveys. Even though Lexus customers are charged a lot more than most other automobile customers, are they upset? Absolutely not! In fact, there are a lot more Pontiac customers that are upset and feel ripped off compared to Lexus customers, even though the Pontiac customers were charged a lot less. I know because I am one of them!

I know that I probably always will be a Lexus customer because of the company?s terrific service and the quality of the product. When deciding how you want to practice, just remember that the bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low cost is forgotten.

So what do you say to someone in our profession who makes a statement about ripping off patients like the doctor made who didn?t attend my seminar? Advise that person that your patients are happy. In fact, tell him or her that you guarantee your patients that they will be happy with the result. Let that individual know that you have lost a patient or two because of your fee level, but you have never lost a patient because the person was dissatisfied with your work.

Tell the doctor criticizing you that you would rather have a few quality-conscious patients that are ecstatic with their treatment and make as much money or more than you used to make when you had volumes of patients who were not particularly happy. Remember that you are providing your patients with the best treatment possible; in fact, it is what you would choose for your own mouth, and you can sleep better at night knowing that.

Is your dentistry worth what your patients pay for it? Absolutely! They wouldn?t be willing to pay for it if your treatment wasn?t worth it. So don?t feel guilty because you are not ripping off your patients. You are providing a wonderful service and product. As in any business, the best always is more expensive. Be proud and don?t stop the process to become an even better dentist. The learning never stops.

Dr. Dickerson lectures internationally on esthetic dentistry and marketing a cosmetic practice. He is a visiting clinical professor at Baylor College of Dentistry, as well as director of the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. Dr. Dickerson maintains a cosmetic-oriented restorative practice in Las Vegas, Nev.

More in Cosmetic Dentistry and Whitening