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dentistry and the extreme makeover

Sept. 1, 2003
ABC's "Extreme Makeovers" has been a huge hit with the American public. It features a team of doctors, fitness trainers, hair stylists, and fashion consultants...

by Tom Hedge, DDS

In part two of this three-part series, Dr. Hedge relates how he adapted the concepts from this popular TV show to promote the life-enhancing effects of cosmetic dentistry.

ABC's "Extreme Makeovers" has been a huge hit with the American public. It features a team of doctors, fitness trainers, hair stylists, and fashion consultants who take ordinary people and totally change their appearance. One of the doctors on each team is a dentist.

Television and movie media have traditionally made light of the profession of dentistry. Bill Cosby, Tim Conway, and Harvey Korman are infamous for their portrayals of dentists in comedy routines. The film "Marathon Man" has an unforgettable scene where a Nazi dentist tortures Dustin Hoffman by drilling to the nerve on a virgin tooth with no anesthesia. Corbin Bensen did a movie called "The Dentist" that portrayed him as an evil, sadistic, murdering dentist. "Little Shop of Horrors" featured a musical scene (that was hilarious) with Steve Martin as another sadistic dentist. The list of these portrayals is long.

With "Extreme Makeover," the role of the dentist is, refreshingly, that of a hero. Bill Dorfman did a wonderful job of highlighting the role of the dentist as a major player in improving personal appearance. Almost everyone recognizes that the dental part of the makeover was, perhaps, the most significant.

Figure 1
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There is a unique window of opportunity to highlight dentistry in the media. Dentistry has made major inroads in changing public perception. The association of pain and dental work is quickly becoming a myth. The push toward "spa dentistry" also has helped the cause, while the advent of restorations that mimic teeth exactly created a desire for elective dentistry.

Plastic surgery and dentistry complement each other. It is imperative that cosmetic dentists establish a relationship with a plastic surgeon. The cross referral relationship is important, but there is more to it than that. Recently, a dentist emailed a story to me about a patient who had a "gummy" smile. She had periodontal crown lengthening surgery and followed it with a lip augmentation. The lip augmentation brought the lip down, making the crown lengthening irrelevant in her smile line. This demonstrates the need for dentists to know what their patient's desires and to be familiar with other disciplines.

In May, I sent a letter to all of the plastic surgeons in Cincinnati that outlined my interest in learning what they could offer to my patients. Five out of 20 responded, and I met with each one. I recommend meeting plastic surgeons at their offices. It gives you an opportunity to see their albums of "before and after" cases and to see first hand where you will send your patients. One of the doctors was setting up an "Extreme Makeover" with our local ABC affiliate and needed a dentist to help out with his patient. Ironically, another local dentist was on the phone inquiring about working with him as we met. Timing is everything!

The plastic surgeon had already established a relationship with the guy in town to do her hair and make up. I did whitening on her lower teeth and 10 veneers on the upper. The next day, he did a face-lift, upper and lower eyelid lift, a brow lift, chin implant, and neck liposuction.

My office manager and I observed the entire procedure and I photographed all the stages. What a learning experience! We dentists have it easy and earn good fees for what we do. The results are shown in figure 1 and figure 2.

Three weeks later I seated her case. The local ABC affiliate sent a cameraman out to film some of the procedure. A teaser appeared the next day on their morning show with a clip from my office the day before.

The plastic surgeon and I have been running a full-page ad together in Cincinnati Magazine since we started on this project. The first ad has a human figure under a shroud with pillars on either side. It looks like a statue. The next month, we ran the ad with the shroud still covering her head and torso, but her arm was holding the shroud revealing the lower half of her body in a red dress and black high heels. The caption reads, "You won't believe your eyes." The third ad has our patient in the same position with the shroud around her feet.

The television revealing occurred on a Monday morning at 6:50 a.m. The local show runs until 7:00 a.m. when the national show takes over. This was the best time and our publicist lobbied hard for this.

Our patient, the plastic surgeon, and I all appeared for the interview. I maximized the exposure by emailing all of our patients over the weekend. We utilize CAESY and Smilereminder to manage and send electronic messages to our patients.

Click here to enlarge image

Next month, we will talk about the results of this project. Are the new relationships with specialists beneficial? Did we get new patients? Has it affected our image in the community? Stay tuned.

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