Broadening the Dental Category

When VCR’s first came out, many people predicted it would be the demise of the cinema business.  It didn’t happen.  What did happen is that by 1988, video rentals and sales reached $4 billion annually, passing movie sales, which continued to grow.   (Oddly, when DVD’s came out, people predicted the same thing, yet in 2011, movie theater revenue was $10 billion.)  So what really occurred here is that the category broadened.  People assumed it was a zero sum game–people would either watch videos or go to the movies.  Instead, they did both.

Similar things have happened in dentistry. Cosmetics barely existed when I came into the dental field in 1986.  Now it is conservatively a $10 billion segment of dentistry.  When Invisalign came out, many thought it would erode the bracket side of orthodontics.  Instead, it broadened the category.  Literally millions of people, mostly adults, who would never have considered braces were excited about the idea of Invisalign, and as a result many more patients were treated, and the bracket business didn’t recede at all.  Most significantly, it broadened the category of orthodontics for the general dentist.

3D Cone beam imaging is now doing the same thing to implants.  Cases that were previously a near impossibility, or at the very least with a high risk of failure, are now done with pinpoint accuracy, much less surgery, faster healing times, and longer-lasting results.  And once again, the category is being broadened for the general dentist.

And yet, what I still see is a tendency by dentists to limit themselves to what they already know and do well.  It’s a natural tendency.  But thriving dentists are broadening their approach to the dental category.  They are adapting new technology, getting more training in new procedures, and offering a wider range of treatment to their patients.  As a result, their patients are accepting more comprehensive care, getting implants, trying Invisalign or Six Month Smiles, whitening their teeth every two years, eventually getting veneers (I finally did myself in January, and I love them!)   And most of all, having a lot of fun in their practice.

But most practices do not tell their patients all the options available to them.  This is a marketing misjudgment.  We often assume that when we tell people something once, they were actually listening.  People don’t listen until they care, and find it relevant to themselves.  The most basic tenet of marketing is to tell your customer (your patient) over and over what you do and why it’s good for them.  This means newsletters, in-office videos, email marketing to your patients, and most of all, your staff talking to patients about what is possible.  Waiting for people to ask assumes they know what to ask for.  They are looking to you for professional guidance.  Their goal will remain to do as little dental work as possible until you explain the benefits of new dentistry to them.

One my main goals is to broaden people’s appreciation of dentistry from simple teeth maintenance to a service that vastly enhances the quality of their life.  So I encourage you to take a look at your practice.  How can you broaden your approach to the dentistry you offer your patients?  (And don’ t they deserve it, after all?)  Think about new courses, new technologies, new services.  And then, most importantly, tell your patients about it.  The rewards await you!

I welcome all your comments!

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