A New Image

Deck: Could dental practices be doing more in the way of offering patients cosmetic dental services?

By Laura Thill

Cosmetic dentistry is a great opportunity for group dental practices and their members. But, they are up against some big challenges, says Andrew Goldsmith, DDS, DICOI, FIALD, chief dental officer and vice president, vendor relations, Smile Source®. Dentists historically have not been well trained to deliver cosmetic dentistry. Nor do they know how to market these services to patients. But, group practices have the resources to do so, he adds. Offering cosmetic dentistry could help them develop a new perception of the value they provide patients.

Worth the investment
Should there be a greater focus on cosmetic dentistry on the part of group dental practices? “Yes,” says Goldsmith. But, easier said than done. “Cosmetic dentistry should be a specialty, particularly since dental students don’t receive the necessary training to ensure the best possible cosmetic outcomes.” Dental students have enough to focus on as it is, he adds.

Nor are group dental practices and their dentists doing all they can to market cosmetic services to their patients, he continues. “There is a generalization in the industry that only wealthy patients can afford cosmetic dentistry,” he says. “But, really, anyone can have access to it.” Just as consumers take out loans for cars and televisions, there are financing options for paying for cosmetic dental services, he says.

“When you see a car ad, the ad focuses on how the car will make you feel,” Goldsmith says. It’s not until the very end of the commercial that they mention the cost, he says. “And, they break down the cost into monthly payments to make it tangible for real people. Dentists don’t do this. [Rather than saying], I can give you a makeover for $20,000, they should break down the cost into monthly payments.”

There is a payoff both from a business and a clinical standpoint when dental practices invest their resources in cosmetic dental services, says Goldsmith. For instance, one of the biggest advantages of offering cosmetic dental services is that payment is on a fee-for-service basis, he says. “Dentists do not work with insurance companies when they provide cosmetic services,” he says. “And, if done right, the return on investment can be significantly higher than traditional services. Dentists may receive $400 per crown when providing traditional dental services compared with $1,500 per crown for a cosmetic procedure.”

In addition, this is a great opportunity for group practices looking to bill themselves as a one-stop service. “This is an opportunity for dental groups to show patients they are taking dentistry beyond the traditional services,” says Goldsmith.

“Dentists tend to be very focused on [clinical] problems and solutions,” he says. “Cosmetic dental [issues] are not necessarily always a problem. This is a consumer-centric approach to dentistry that involves focusing on wants and desires.” It can be a difficult leap for many dentists to make, he adds. Still, it’s important to focus on what patients want, he says. “And, seeing their patients feel great can be one of the most rewarding aspects of practicing dentistry for many dentists.”

“Group dental practices are still trying to define themselves,” says Goldsmith. “I think, [for now], cosmetic dentistry is a missed opportunity. It’s about providing great service to patients and gaining the market share. Furthermore, group dental practices have the infrastructure to capture this market share much more easily than individual practices can.”

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