Cosmetic Dentistry in a Down Economy
Roger P. Levin, DDS
You’ve read the news. You’ve seen what’s happened to your stock portfolio and your IRA. You know what’s happening out there. The economy is weak, consumer confidence is down, and it’s not going to change radically any time soon.
This has obviously affected dentistry. Many dentists are finding their production down 5% to 10%. With this unfortunate reality, tens of thousands of dentists are asking a difficult question—what should I do about cosmetic dentistry? Should I accept the idea that cosmetic dentistry simply won’t be in demand and concentrate on single-tooth treatment for awhile? My answer to this question is a resounding, “No!”
Don’t settle for declines in production. Don’t believe it is unavoidable. There are ways to not only protect your cosmetic practice during unstable economic times but also grow it as well. To avoid the effects of a shaky economy, dentists must identify their vulnerabilities and opportunities and take steps to weather the economic storm.
Reverse the Decline, Grow Your Cosmetic Practice
Despite the economic downturn and its potential to wreak havoc with practice productivity, dentists who take the right steps to protect their practices can continue to grow. I firmly believe that implementing the right management and marketing systems and methods are critical to your future and can effectively minimize or eliminate the effects of a down economy. I see it happen every day with Levin Group clients.
The following action steps can help you not only survive but also thrive in today’s economy:
1. Increase production per patient through cosmetic services. To lessen the impact of fewer appointments and fewer new patients, you should expand your service mix and present more treatment options to your current patients. This is an opportune time to increase the amount of dentistry provided for each active patient. Dentists and their hygiene departments have a tremendous opportunity to deliver both better patient care and higher practice production.
Practices should provide a more comprehensive examination using checklists to evaluate all potential services. Doctors should also focus on enhancing their communication skills so that patients accept more treatment. Simply diagnosing does not necessarily increase the amount of dentistry provided unless the case presentation skills of the doctor and team are persuasive and effective.
2. Make your case presentations superior, not simply adequate. Your system for case presentation is everything. Weak case presentation puts everything you want to accomplish in jeopardy. On the other hand, a strong case presentation is your best strategy for reaching your goals.
It is critical that you dispel any notion that cosmetic treatment is simply an extravagance for those with money to burn. In today’s society, an attractive smile is generally understood to build confidence. For that reason, most people see a beautiful smile as very beneficial for job interviews and career advancement. Tap into this notion and reinforce it.
Be enthusiastic. Be inspirational. Look for what pushes a patient’s buttons. And always avoid long, drawn-out clinical discussions if they aren’t necessary! When you finish your case presentation, your patient should feel motivated and excited. Achieve that and you have accomplished what Levin Group calls Greenlight Case Presentation. What does this mean? It means that you are getting the go-ahead from your patients for treatment they believe they need and desire. You will have cleared a major hurdle in your quest to grow your cosmetic services.
3. Provide several financial options to all patients. Even the most motivated and excited patient can turn down elective treatment if there are no flexible financial arrangements offered by your practice. Cosmetic fees are a bigger stumbling block than ever before (and they were big before). In today’s economic climate, patients especially need some type of financing to afford cosmetic procedures. Fortunately, there are excellent outside financing options available for dental patients such as third-party financing.
No practice should ever play banker. You can divert valuable time and resources to collection efforts or you can be more efficient financially. It’s your choice. I believe it is better to let someone else handle the financing so you can concentrate on patient care.
Levin Group teaches clients not only to have patient financing available, but also to offer it to every patient. We live in a casual age. The guy walking into your practice wearing an ordinary shirt and jeans could be an unemployed worker from a nearby manufacturing plant or he could be the head of his own highly successful company but doesn’t like wearing business suits—you never know. You can never be certain who can and cannot afford care, and patients will rarely tell you. If they do not know financing is available, many patients will hesitate to accept treatment.
4. Change your schedule. I strongly urge you to re-examine your schedule. With the right scheduling system in place, practices are far better positioned for growth. For example, Levin Group teaches Power Cell Scheduling, a system that emphasizes placing high-production cases in the morning. Too many practices clog up their schedule with minor appointments throughout the entire day. Doing so often leads dentists to believe that they have reached their maximum capacity.
Be advised that almost every practice has a significant growth potential. Sound impossible? It’s not. The problem isn’t a lack of time in the schedule, but the way the scheduling is being managed. The sooner you can start a larger cosmetic case, the more likely the patient will follow through. When allowed to wait 4, 5, or 6 weeks, patients often lose their motivation to follow through with treatment. The best way to avoid this situation is to start the patient’s treatment as soon as possible while motivation is high and other life factors have not interfered.
How quickly the country pulls out of a recession shouldn’t dictate how or when you strive to grow your cosmetic services. You have to grow them. Why? Because failure is not an option.
What you do to build your cosmetic practice benefits you in the boom times, the slow periods, and everything in-between. With the right systems and protocols in place, you are not only protecting your practice, you are positioning it for growth no matter what happens in the economy.
Cosmetic dentistry is not an endangered species. Not by a long shot!
Inside Dentistry readers are entitled to receive a 20% courtesy discount on the Levin Group’s Total Practice Success Seminar held for all general dentists on July 24-25, 2009, in Las Vegas. To register and receive your discount, call 888-973-0000 and mention “Inside Dentistry” or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with “Inside Dentistry TPS” in the subject line. For more information on Levin Group seminars and programs, go to: www.levingroupgp.com.
About the Author
Roger P. Levin, DDS
Chief Executive Officer
Owings Mills, Maryland