When it comes to teeth, not much changes, but the dental industry is seeing a lot of development recently in the areas of patient expectations and cost management. Here’s a brief overview to help dental practices keep up with the times and keep their patients smiling.
Cosmetic Dentistry, or Dental Bling
In 2015, cosmetic dentistry was a $16 billion industry, and it’s still growing thanks to the two most influential demographics the U.S. has ever seen: baby boomers and millennials. According to Adrian LaTrace, leader in the design and manufacture of specialty dental and medical operatory equipment, “Boomers want to maintain a youthful appearance opting for veneers, implants, and contouring while Millennials are opting for traditional whitening, orthodontia, or even more exotic procedures to include enhancing their smiles with ‘dental bling’—crystal and gold jewelry that is applied to teeth.” Really. Google “dental bling”. It’s a thing.
Focus on Experience
Modern-day consumers (yes, we’re talking about millennials again) expect more from the businesses they frequent. The dentist is no exception, and dentistry has more of an uphill battle in the experience arena than almost any other business. Because only 66% of Americans have dental insurance, for many, going to the dentist is a luxury instead of a necessity. Even those with insurance dread their appointments. A 2009 survey showed that 80% of Americans fear the dentist. To overcome that fear, many practices lean into the fear and assuage it with names like “Gentle Dental”.
Others play into the cosmetic dentistry trend. Practices like “Bling Dental” play up the shiny side of tooth maintenance. (But if you look closely, you’ll see they still do cleanings, fillings, root canals, and other scary things.)
How can you rejuvenate the experience of your practice to draw in patients?
- Refresh your brand and give it a personality and style of its own. Preferably not too “medical”. See “Bling Dental” above.
- Redecorate your interior to match your brand, and look, well, not like a dental practice.
- Maintain an active, personable social media presence.
- Do a Facebook promotion with a free cleaning as a prize. To be entered, FB users must like your page, then like and share the promotional post.
Listen to this episode of The Millennial Dentist podcast, in which two millennial dentists rejuvenate dentistry, AirBnB style.
A dental practice has traditionally been a one-man band, but several factors are influencing change. The rising costs of education and student loan debt, decreases in income, and increased influence from PPOs have inspired more graduating dentists to buddy up and split costs.
Appeal to The Un-Insured
Aside from fear of the dentist, the cost of the dentist keeps patients without dental coverage away. What can your practice do to appeal to these potential patients?
- Offer a “discount rate” for the uninsured?
- Buy two cleanings, get one free?
- Offer a “membership” program with a low, monthly cost that includes basic services throughout the year?
More patients is better than fewer patients, so get creative and show your community you care about their health more than you care about your profits.
All the things we’ve discussed so far are things of the present, until now. As in many other industries, 3D printing technology promises to cause disruption for the better in the dental industry’s future. Adrain LaTrace says, “Companies like Stratasys and EnvisionTEC are advancing the science to fabricate crowns, bridges, retainers, orthodontic appliances, and other dental devices. Although materials like ceramics or zirconium are still widely used for replacement teeth, advances in printable polymers will make 3D printed teeth more desirable.” How cool is that?