Mythbusting Dentistry

I often say that dentistry is the most resilient business model in the country. This is true because of the basic necessity of tooth care, and the unique economic model of a dental practice. If you don’t know what I mean by the last part, read my recent blog entitled “Escaping Gravity.”  But I’ve found that there are some huge misconceptions about the industry by those who practice it.

MYTH #1: You don’t have to become more affordable.  You absolutely do.  Have you not seen billboards for implants at $399 a tooth?  You need to become more efficient in your delivery of dentistry and the use of your facility, precisely because you need to become more affordable.  And the right technology and systems can make you faster, delivering better quality dentistry in less time, which means you can provide more affordable dentistry and still be as profitable as you are now, and maybe even more so.

MYTH #2  Everyone eventually will need a dentist.  Think about this: in 2013, 59.2% of Americans supported a family on less than $50,000 a year of household income. That’s households, not individuals. Where is the disposable income for dental care? If it’s not provided by their individual states or counties, it doesn’t exist.  So everyone may need an extraction, but not everyone is going to be getting dental implants.  What dental audience you aiming for, and are you affordable to that segment of society, and are there enough of them in your area?  This goes back to the first Myth, because I believe when dentistry becomes more affordable and more convenient, it will broaden the entire category of dentistry. (My next blog will be about that subject, so stay tuned.)

MYTH #3  All you need are great clinical skills to attract patients. Absolutely not true.  The average person has no way of assessing a dentist’s clinical skills, and a tiny percentage of the population has the desire and the capability to find a highly trained dentist.  If you think CE alone will fill your chairs, you will eventually starve.  This may have been true 30 years ago, but it has grown less and less true for decades, and will not be true at all in the near future.  A great patient experience attracts patients, and creates word of mouth.  Clinical skills are only a fraction of that.

MYTH #4  Dentists are entrepreneurs.  They’re not. They are small business owners, and there’s an enormous difference.  You didn’t invent the dental business model.  Or the group practice model. Which is good, because it means you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Just look at what already works and do it, and adapt as times change to the new technologies and systems that are improve what you do. That’s challenging enough, don’t you think?

MYTH #5  Selling Dentistry Cheapens the Profession. The simple truth is we all need to be sold on things that are important to us, things that we neglect to focus on the true value of, whether it’s saving for retirement, or buying life insurance, or proper diet and exercise.  Dentistry is probably the most undervalued service in the country.  Very few people accurately assess the value and importance of their oral health, so it’s our professional responsibility to persuade them to do what is best for them. Which is what selling is: effective communication with a purpose.  If that purpose is to the patient’s benefit–and they don’t understand or are in denial about that benefit–you are duty-bound to help them understand the value and importance your recommended treatment.

MYTH #6  Group Practices Are Evil and Will Destroy Dentistry.  The reality is that there are good group practices, highly ethical and dedicated to treating patients well and providing a supportive environment for dentists to simply be dental professionals and not businesspeople, and there are some that are less so.  I had a dental student ask me recently about this, suggesting that some groups have a reputation for over-diagnosing and just being about making money.  My response was that there are some individual dentists who behave exactly the same way.  Don’t paint every dentist or every group with the same brush.  The real truth is that group practices are here to stay, and often serve populations that individual dentists don’t want to treat or can’t afford to.

MYTH #7  New Technology is an Expensive Luxury.  The corollary of this is that you can keep doing dentistry the way you’ve always done it.  The truth is that new technology, properly integrated into a practice, will make you more efficient, and allow you to do higher quality dentistry, and more than pay for itself.  For example, the cost of CAD/CAM technology like CEREC should be totally offset by the savings on your lab bill.  And CBCT technology like Galileos makes it possible to do implants faster and with significantly higher accuracy. And that is just considering the basic advantages of these two technologies. And let’s talk about the standard of care that technology can elevate.  Is there any clinical advantage to putting on a temporary?  Is there any clinical advantage to doing implants with two-dimensional imagery?  I’m no dentist, but I do know that patients are very interested in knowing the advantages to them of these technologies.

I often hear dentists complain that they don’t adopt new technologies because it slows them down.  Well, are they really considering the patient when they use this as the deciding factor?  And the truth is, very often to get better at something by learning a new technique or technology, or changing a system in the office, it requires slowing down before you can get faster and better.  But it’s generally worth it.  (Check out this blog on that topic.)

I’m sure some or perhaps many of you will disagree with me on these various points.  I’m hoping to give you a broader perspective, and also inviting you to inform and enlighten me.  My personal goal is for dentistry to reach more people while making dentists more successful.  And that’s no myth!

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3 thoughts on “Mythbusting Dentistry

  1. Hi Fred, I recently came upon your site and I’ve enjoyed seeing all the great insight you are providing. This article, in particular, captured my interest. I’m a Creative Director at http://www.feedtheagency.com, a healthcare brand agency, and we help physicians and dentists discover and deliver their unique brand positioning. Keep up the great work and I look forward in learning more from you.

  2. Myth #5 is the one I agree with the most as well, you have to market, sales is a part of any dental practice. Word of mouth and great skills are excellent, but market yourself, get new patients in there, put yourself in front of potential patients to grow your practice. It’s part of business.

I welcome your comments--don't pull any punches!