Steven Pigliacelli, CDT, MDT

You go to a realtor’s office located on a busy, cluttered street in a bad neighborhood, and the exterior is a mess.

You order a dish at a restaurant and it looks like your kid made it in an Easy-Bake Oven.

You go to a clothing store for expensive formal wear. The clerk is wearing greasy jeans, sneakers, and a stained t-shirt. He has no sense of style or class.

As a lab owner, I’ve frequently heard dentists complain about the slowness of their practices. Many of them are talented restorative dentists. They use the finest of materials. So what’s missing? Unfortunately, some of these folks have not paid attention to their appearance or their own dental needs. Take a look at your own smile in the mirror. Based on that smile alone, would you think that you’re an expert in cosmetic and restorative dentistry? I mean no offense, but I want you to realize that your patients are judging your abilities this way. You may have sample models, brochures, and before-and-after photos of your work, but did you ever consider that your own mouth is the ultimate sample model?

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How about your office? Was it built to perfection with the most modern instruments, desks, couches, and furniture . . . 25 years ago? If your office looks like the set of the Brady Bunch, it’s time to reupholster. When new patients are sitting in your relaxing reception area with pristine chairs and modern comforts, you’re building their confidence in you before you’ve even introduced yourself.

Those high expectations are carried through the visit as you and your hygienist use digital radiographs, intraoral cameras, and digital charting. Yes, the digital workflow is efficient, and the diagnostic capabilities are unparalleled, but the impression these technologies leave on patients is priceless. The term “patient wow factor” may be overused in our industry, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less real or any less important. If you’ve been the first person to use an intraoral scanner on a patient and have witnessed the reaction, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

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The relationship between patient and dentist - and for that matter, dentist and technician - is based on trust. When visiting a lab that looks like the men’s room at a stadium during a football game, where the desks, walls, and floors are covered in dust and pumice, how much confidence do you have that the work will be done with care? It’s important to my partners and me that the lab is clean, both for avoiding contamination of restorations and for making a professional presentation to customers and patients. You would judge my lab like you would judge a real estate broker, a clothing store, and a restaurant by their appearances. When was the last time you sat in your own reception area and looked around?

Let’s face it: you are selling dentistry. To clarify, selling in dentistry is not the pushing of unneeded treatment in unethical ways. I’m talking about the proper education of patients and effective presentations of their needs. But we must keep in mind that our appearance and the appearance of our practices are also making a presentation to our patients, for better or for worse.

You and your office might not be looking your best for a number of reasons. Perhaps business hasn’t been great lately, so you don’t want to invest in a new office and instrumentation. I understand, but that’s fairly short-sighted. When you originally bought your office, you had to invest to get it to where you are now. Maybe now is the time to reinvest in yourself in order to reenergize yourself.

Steven Pigliacelli, CDT, MDT, is an instructor in postgraduate prosthodontics at New York University. He manages Marotta Dental Studio and directs the general practice residency and prosthetic resident rotation, an intensive educational program that focuses on the value of the technician-dentist relationship. He lectures and performs hands-on demonstrations at study clubs and seminars.

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