But how do cosmetic dentists overcome dentistry's deeply ingrained negative reputation as something to be feared and avoided at all costs (i.e.,"I need this like I need a root canal") ? How do cosmetic dentists position themselves as an integral part of the cosmetic makeover industry, able to transform not only patients' smiles, but their self-confidence and quality of life? How do cosmetic dentists, in short, make people want to come to them?
Shifting patients' perceptions begins by taking a hard, honest look at ourselves, our support staff and our offices — and the image each portrays. To evaluate the message being sent to patients, consider the following:
What happens when patients check in at the front desk? Are patients merely given a standard medical and dental history form? If so, consider taking it a step further. Offer patients a "smile analysis" form with questions about how happy they are with various aspects of their smile and what they would like to change. This gives cosmetic dentists a good idea about where the patient's thought process is with regard to cosmetic dentistry, while at the same time positioning the practitioner, in the eyes of the patient, as a cosmetic dentist rather than a general dentist.
Get patients excited about their own potential by showing them what was achieved for others. Install a television monitor in each treatment room showing dramatic "before" and "after" photos of patients whose smiles you have made over. Leave photo albums in the exam rooms for patients to flip through while they wait.
Digital imaging is another effective way to personalize patients' experience and excite them about their own potential. With digital photography, patients can "try on" various smiles based on their individual appearance, face shape, etc. Involving them in the process and showing them what they will look like with their new, improved smile will simultaneously convey expertise and emotionally engage them.
Staff members are often the main conduit to current patients and prospective patients. Be sure that the staff is knowledgeable about the cosmetic procedures that the practice offers, and that they are comfortable discussing these procedures with patients. Involve them in regular training sessions and continuing education to ensure they are as up to date as you are.
Shifting from a general dentistry practice to one specializing in cosmetic dentistry will take time, commitment and — yes — money. A cosmetic dentist cannot be truly successful without a willingness to dedicate the time and money necessary to keep up on new technology, purchase the latest equipment and take courses on new procedures. Practitioners must have the knowledge and the technology to perform the services being sold.