Are You Doing Discount Dentistry?


Why It’s Important to Offer High-Quality Dentistry to Patients.

Is there any way I can get a discount on that treatment?” Most dentists have encountered this question at some point in their careers. It’s not uncommon for patients to ask for a reduced fee on proposed treatment, but the phrase “discount dentistry” still makes most dentists cringe. However, the question of what “discount dentistry” actually is goes beyond a fee-for-service conversation.

The concept of discount dentistry has two main components that must be fully understood in order to avoid the problems associated with it. The first component, and one most often overlooked by dentists, is the question of your skills as a practitioner. The second component is a conversation with patients about a fee for a service, and when or if a discount should be considered.

High-End Dentistry

Most everyone has gone to what they thought was a high-end restaurant only to have a disappointing experience. The food may have been subpar, the service slow and unresponsive, and the ambiance far below expectations. At the end of the meal, the patron got a bill, the size of which suggested that he or she should have had a transformative dining experience.

Patients may experience a similar situation if they go to a dental practice in which the practitioner has not dialed-in his or her skills and operations. If dental practitioners are not offering the best level of care with finely honed skills and the best quality materials, they are practicing discount dentistry. They may still be charging full price for the treatments, but they are nonetheless discount dentists.

It’s possible to be a discount dentist and not even know it. How? Because dentists may not even be aware that higher skill levels and materials are possible. This is an easy trap to fall into, and one that is not always easy to identify.

For me, the realization came when I attended the Full Arch Reconstruction course offered by the Dr. Dick Barnes Group. During that course, I learned that I had not been honing my skills as a dentist to the point where I could offer the absolute best possible outcomes to my patients. Sure I was a good—or arguably even a great—general dentist, but I discovered that I could be offering even more to my patients.

In many ways, I was still doing the basic stuff that I had learned in dental school. I avoided techniques and materials that I thought were complicated or demanding, even though they offered the potential for a better outcome. It was a discount experience for patients, and one that I subconsciously admitted to by offering a limited, one-year warranty on the work.

I have since learned to offer only the best techniques and materials for my patients. This is easier said than done, because it requires dentists to take their skills to a whole new level.

Initially, I looked at complicated dental procedures such as large case dentistry, implants, complex occlusion, etc., and they intimidated me. But instead of staying in my comfort zone, I sought out instruction in those areas, and then I did the hard thing—I started doing them on patients. And not just once in a while.

Whenever a patient presented in my office with a need that could be best met with advanced techniques, I presented that treatment as an option. I made sure that a lack of skills development did not limit the treatment options.

Materials Matter
I learned that in order to perform at a high level, dentists must use the highest quality materials. For example, you can’t build a Formula One racing car by going to the local Pick ‘n Pull and putting it together from scraps.

I also learned that the best material isn’t always the most expensive. Too often, high price is associated with high quality because it’s easier than taking the time to understand the materials and how best to use them. A key part of enhancing one’s skills is understanding the materials and how they can best be used in different situations.

Another major breakthrough for me was finding a dental laboratory that could help me progress as a dentist. Fortunately, I chose Arrowhead Dental Laboratory, a lab with sufficient skill and expertise to advise me as I began doing more complex cases. Especially in the early days, they helped me execute cases so that my learning process didn’t compromise patient care.

It has been a long journey, but today I can offer high-end dentistry with high quality materials. I warranty all my work for five years, no questions asked. Some people might say this is a risky offer because I could get stuck with a lot of remake costs. But the truth is that I actually get fewer remakes than when I offered a one-year warranty.

By investing in continuing education, I worked at becoming an expert in proper prepping and bonding techniques. I am now able to address causes rather than symptoms. And because I am using the best materials, I don’t have crowns failing or patients returning time and again to get issues fixed because they weren’t done right the first time. This investment has paid off and set my practice apart from other so-called “discount dentists.”

Avoiding the second part of the trap, in which dentists are constantly being asked by patients for discounts, is easy once the dentist is confident that he or she can offer patients the highest quality of care.

Because I have maximum confidence in the cases that I do, and because I offer a comprehensive warranty, a patient requesting a discount is a very easy thing to address. When a patient asks, “What kind of discount can you offer?” I simply respond with, “What part of the case would you like me to discount—the quality of the dentistry and the materials that we use for your case, or the quality of the service that we provide?” Most often, the response is, “I don’t want you to use a less-than-optimal approach or inferior materials. I want the best.”

Once patients realize that they want the best, it’s like a light bulb goes on and they start to understand what I am presenting in terms of value. It allows me to then speak to the fact that I use the best techniques and best materials, and that these will provide the best long-term solution.

The Answer
The discount-dentistry conundrum is rooted in a scarcity mentality: scarcity of the skills and understanding of materials on the practitioner side, and scarcity of perceived value on the patient side. When practitioners know that they offer the best level of care and can articulate that through the experience and ongoing support of the patient’s dental health, the expectation of a discount is easily handled.

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Dr. Britton has been practicing dentistry for 25 years, and for the past several years he has been integrating sleep dentistry treatments into his Arlington, TX, dental practice. Dr. Britton is a graduate of Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, TX, a member of the American Dental Association®, and a member of the Texas Dental Association. He has a fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry and is the chairman of the Peer Review for a local dental chapter. Dr. Britton has also completed a sleep residency with the American Academy of Cranial Facial Pain. Over the course of his career, Dr. Britton has completed countless hours of continuing education, including the curriculum at the Dawson Center for Advanced Dental Study in St. Petersburg, FL. He currently teaches the new Removables Simplified course, and the Airway Management & Dentistry course with the Dr. Dick Barnes Group seminars. Dr. Britton maintains a patient-centered, comprehensive practice in Arlington, TX.