What Century Are You From?

A dentist recently told me about a new patient he had in his office who was going on and on about her previous dentist, and how much she loved him and how she had gone to him since she was a teenager.  The dentist finally asked, “So what happened to him?  Did he die, retire, what?”  “No,” the woman said, “he just hadn’t bought any new technology in like ten years, so I left.”

Do you realize what it takes to get someone to leave a dentist they love?  They hate finding a  new dentist.  (That’s why I have a business.)  But this is how people are starting to look at technology.  They expect it to change all the time, and if they’re seeing the same equipment in your office, with nothing new, nothing upgraded, in a decade or two, they will start to believe that they are getting second rate dentistry.

If your practice feels like it’s from the 1990’s, people are going to notice.  And slowly, imperceptibly, your practice will shrink.

I understand that upgrading technology is expensive, but you have to factor in its marketing value.  When you can show a patient that you have digital radiography, and tell them that it reduces the radiation by 80%, that’s a consumer benefit.  And if you haven’t considered CEREC or other CAD/CAM technology, do you not believe that patients would rather have one appointment instead of two?  Do you think they are perfectly fine getting another round of shots and drilling along with having to show up again?  CEREC is an enormous benefit to the patient, especially in this time-crunched society we live in.  And you could try to make excuses that the quality isn’t there, but the margins on the latest version or CEREC rival the finest labs out there.  That may have not been true five years ago, but technology changes.  It improves.  Constantly.  So you need to improve constantly too.

You also want to incorporate things like e-mailing and texting, and using iPads in your office, and using social, media, because it gives your practice technological cachet.  Even if the technology is not used on the clinical side, it makes the impression that you are a modern dental office.

There was a time when a dentist could create a facility and use it for forty years and sell the whole place at a good value when he retired.  That’s no longer true.  If you don’t continually upgrade your practice, and instead let both the equipment and your patient base age, then you’ll have nothing to sell.  The generation under 35 years old, which is the basis for a long term practice, changes technology long before it’s obsolete.  They buy new cell phones not because the old one doesn’t work anymore, but because the new one has a better camera.  They buy an iPad3 the day it comes out, even though they have an iPad2. And they see CAT scans, MRI’s and all sorts of new equipment whenever they see an MD.  And yet you have the same drill, the same chair, the same furniture in your reception area, the same beige x-ray arm swinging at them that they remember from their childhood.  And they aren’t interested.

Remember, this younger, tech-craving generation is the future of your practice.  This is where your future production will come from.  So from a marketing standpoint, this is the order of change I recommend:

Digital radiography (and intra-oral cameras to go with it)

CEREC or other CAD/CAM

3DCT Cone beam scanning (with a soft-tissue laser for implant placement)

This last one is critical if you’re doing implants to any degree.  Personal injury lawyers have figured out that cone beam exists, and if you mess up on an implant case and get sued and haven’t done 3D scanning, you could lose big time.  The settlements and judgements on these cases have been staggering, sometimes ranging between $500-750,000.  That’s unheard of in dentistry, but now it’s happening.  Beyond the great marketing value of the imagery, it’s essential protection.  And it makes implant placement remarkably more accurate.  And the devices now talk to your CEREC.  Digital dentistry at it’s best.

Use this technology and tell your patients why you have it why it benefits them, and you’ll find it pays for itself in no time.

I welcome all your comments!

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