Changing someone’s smile, changing someone’s life, improving someone’s self esteem –it probably isn’t too far fetched to say most dentists want to be associated with these types of cases. Helping other people and making a real difference in someone’s life is what many of us aim for each and every day. Before and after smile makeover photos are everywhere, and any dentist would be proud to have their name next to a photo of a great case or to have a happy patient who mentions his/her name every time someone compliments their smile.
Many dental school hopefuls, dental students, and new dentists imagine that cosmetic dentistry is what they ultimately want to do. Extracting teeth, doing interproximal composites, and molar root canals are great, but anterior crowns and veneers are where cosmetic dentistry and the excitement is, right? So how do you set yourself up to do these types of cases consistently?
It’s not easy, especially for new dentists, to provide quality cosmetic dentistry, but it can be done. Here are some trends I’ve noticed and some pitfalls to avoid when it comes to cosmetic dentistry.
It’s a Competitive Market
When it comes to advertising online for patients looking for cosmetic dental services, this is some of the most expensive advertising to get into. Patients who are “ready to go” with cosmetic dentistry are online savvy and do their research. They’re looking for quality reviews, quality results and experience. While a new dentist may have the skills, excellent photos of results and solid reviews, that young face on their website might scare off people who want experience. So what’s the best thing to do?
Grow Your Own
Patients who are “ready to go” are expensive to attract and typically aren’t great cases to start with anyway. The best cosmetic dentistry patients for new dentists are regular patients who become “ready” after a mutual relationship of trust and respect is built, combined with a the patient’s desire to improve his/her smile, of course. If you survey all of the best advice out there from cosmetic gurus and practice advisors, you’ll come across the question “Is there anything you would change about your smile?” over and over again. It’s a great question to incorporate into a new patient examination and it’s the most effective way to plant the seed in a patient’s mind that you offer cosmetic dentistry services. Now that they’re thinking about it, this sets you up for the future. The future might be within the next 6 months, or it might be several years from now. The key is that when the patient is ready, they are your patient.
Think Comprehensively. Get Educated. Get a Team.
How many have seen cosmetic dentistry that really missed the mark? I see before and after photos all the time where a patient was treated with anterior veneers or crowns and would have benefited from orthodontic treatment first. How many of you have seen cosmetic cases where crowns were placed and absolutely no attention was paid to the architecture of the gingiva? It’s too late for cosmetic crown lengthening after the restorations are placed!
Don’t be so excited about providing cosmetic dentistry for a patient that you jump straight to restorations without giving the orthodontist and the periodontist a chance to be a part of the case. Create a referral team that you can work with and let your patients know that you are a cosmetic dentistry team.
Who Do You Want to Be?
Your new patient did some research online and wants you to do veneers to make their teeth look bigger and whiter. They don’t want braces and they don’t want any kind of surgery. They probably didn’t Google “altered passive eruption” or “anterior open bite”, and the case is clearly more complex than just a few veneers. You’ve attempted some education to no avail, and now you have a patient who wants you to provide a simple “cosmetic dentistry” solution to a complicated problem that will ultimately fail if not treated comprehensively. This may happen. You run the risk of losing the patient if you don’t just give them what they want. So what do you do? Are the compromises worth it just to do a “cosmetic case?” These are the questions that many of us sometimes face that make dentistry challenging.
Cosmetic dental cases are best built on a foundation of trust and respect for the knowledge and expertise of the treating doctor and his/her team. Coercive patients and those who desire a quick fix should be red flags to the new dentist; those are cases/patients very much worth losing. Let them become someone else’s trouble.
Cosmetic dentistry is one of the most rewarding areas of dentistry, but there are no shortcuts to success when it comes to acquiring patients and achieving great results. If new dentists exercise patience and discipline, cosmetic dentistry will become the rewarding part of their practice that they want it to be.
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