In the early 1990s, Dr. Dick Barnes wrote the following article. At the time, he had been lecturing for three decades, and a new pickup truck cost about $30,000. Many things have changed since then, but some things remain constant—such as the importance of presenting high-quality dentistry to your patients and having them understand its value. We think this article is worth a second look.
Dr. Michael Ariana had a problem. Like any self-respecting cosmetic dentist, he was deeply dissatisfied when, upon finishing a case, he would raise the mirror to a patient and ask, “What do you think?” only to hear, “They’re okay.” He told me, “We know that when a patient says, ‘They’re okay,’ they’re anything but.”
The problem, as I explained to Dr. Ariana, was that he was locked into performing restorations at the most affordable fees to his patients. He knew higher-quality treatments were possible, but he was concerned that the fees for his best work would be prohibitive, and that even suggesting such a large number would scare off his patients.
Dr. Ariana’s predicament is not unique. As a lecturer about dentistry for more than 30 years, I’ve heard that same complaint from talented dental cosmetic professionals from all around the world. Patients are no longer satisfied with “okay” caps—not even a “good-looking” set of caps. Today’s patients want beautiful teeth; they expect us to present them with the solution that represents the best quality and value—not just the cheapest.
Today’s patients want beautiful teeth; they expect us to present them with the solution that represents the best quality and value—not just the cheapest.
As dentists, we have to stop assuming that our patients’ only concern is finding a low fee. Receiving quality dental care is their primary concern in the same way that providing quality dental care is a dentist’s primary motivation. The burden is upon us to clearly illustrate the benefits and lifelong value offered by high-quality treatments.
Patients want to be offered our best dentistry, even if they decide against it. There is, however, a right way and a wrong way to present comprehensive restorations. Simply stating, “You need caps,” isn’t effective. Nor is waving a brochure in front of their faces, giving them too many options to choose from, and not enough guidance. We should instead develop a productive relationship with our patients around five basic principles: creating rapport, presenting value, putting the investment in perspective, executing proficient preparation, and choosing the right dental lab.
Creating Rapport with Patients
Hardware isn’t the only thing our patients expect us to provide. They want our skill and technique, but also something less tangible. When patients agree to treatment, they do so because they trust us; they like our practice, our team members—everything. From the moment a patient walks through the door, it’s the dentist’s obligation to forge a positive relationship with them.
When patients agree to treatment, they do so because they trust us; they like our practice, our team members—everything.
Dr. Randi Magelssen told me that small actions make a difference. Dr. Magelssen said, “Each day, I take a few minutes to kick back and speak with new patients, and I am amazed to see how it builds rapport—and in turn improves my business.” If a dentist presents comprehensive dentistry and a patient rejects it to shop around for a lower fee, then that dentist has failed to secure their trust.
Presenting Value to Patients
Patients expect quality, regardless of the amount they pay. They will forget they paid less if they are not fully satisfied. I’ve found that white wax-ups, slide presentations, and computer-enhanced photographs give patients a clear idea of their own teeth transformed into a beautiful, healthy, and inviting smile. When patients share our vision for treatment, the fee becomes a secondary issue. They welcome the more expensive treatment because they know they will be happier with the results.
When patients share our vision for treatment, the fee becomes a secondary issue.
Putting the Investment in Perspective
Of course, some patients may still offer objections to the fees. Don’t feel guilty about that. A dentist’s best work isn’t inexpensive. Comprehensive reconstructive dentistry isn’t inexpensive. Dr. Ariana told me that his new focus is explaining to patients that his fee gives them the best cosmetic dentistry he can provide, regardless of the lab bill. Dr. Ariana said, “I show them [his patients] what the best techniques and technology can do for their teeth today. Often, that’s all it takes. They’re happy to have it, and they can work it into their budgets.”
Although comprehensive restorations can run as high as $30,000, we shouldn’t blink. People pay $30,000 for a pickup truck that will break down in a few years! Our fees are for transforming the teeth they’ll have for the rest of their lives.
Executing Proficient Preparation
Once we establish our patients’ expectations for superior treatment, we must follow through by preparing teeth to accommodate the finest restorations. Coordinating with a top-notch lab can help. A good lab, staffed with trained professionals, will provide the specific information we need to prepare teeth correctly. The best labs will also support each case with a model that serves as a visual guide for the preparation and with a duplicate matrix that we can use to ensure adequate reduction.
Only superior labs can provide the high-quality dental cosmetics that will satisfy today’s patients.
Choosing a Lab That Gives Results
Only superior labs can provide the high-quality dental cosmetics that will satisfy today’s patients. These labs use the finest porcelain techniques, and, more importantly, they apply those porcelains using an intricate, multi-layered process that creates beautiful, natural-looking teeth. Superior labs employ the best-trained professionals and support our practices with the kind of individual attention that dentists need and appreciate—the same kind of personal attention that we give to our patients. I know cheap labs can’t do that. Only cheap dentists should choose cheap labs.
Some dentists still believe that patients want only the least expensive treatments—the bargains. I have found that the opposite is true; patients prefer the finest quality. When we successfully communicate the benefits and value of higher-fee treatments, patients are happier and more willing to accept treatment.
As Dr. Ariana and others are beginning to realize, quality treatments make all the difference. Now when he asks patients, “What do you think?” the response is immediate and gratifying. They say, “Wow! They’re beautiful!” Present high-quality cosmetic dentistry to your patients, and they will love their teeth. They will love their new look, and you will love knowing that your best work gives them the best quality of life.