September 23, 2012
Do implants play an important role in the growth of your general practice? Do you have an action plan to reach your objectives? How many of your patients are completely or partially edentulous? These are the first questions to ask yourself when determining whether or not you have the business support systems in place to grow your practice with dental implants.
Using a three step approach, you can develop your business support systems and help your patients receive the type of dentistry that they really want. Studies suggest that tooth loss affects not only physical health, but psychological well being .Is it the Right Thing to Do? Many doctors feel that they have an ethical obligation to offer their patients every treatment option, regardless of their opinion of the patient’s willingness to accept treatment or ability to afford it. They also feel that they have a credibility issue if they don’t offer implants and their patient learns about them from another source
Dentistry is a relationship business built on trust. Your patients trust you and depend on you to offer the best possible treatment options and to maintain the patient doctor relationship in your office
Never prejudge your patients – give them the ability to make informed choices. The target market for dental implants is the over 50 demographic. The patients who have the highest need for dental implants are the aging baby boomers. What is most important to know about this demographic group is that they maintain 77% of the wealth within our economy and they are willing to spend their disposable income on lifestyle needs, wants and desires. They represent the target group that is health conscious and lifestyle oriented. They demonstrate a great desire to live out their golden years in comfort and good health.
Everyone on your team must believe in the value of the services that you offer. Many dental teams are blocked by the obstacles of prejudgments and insurance driven practice and not focused on the opportunities that exist in implant dentistry. Make a positive assumption that your patient has come to you for your help. They expect you to provide them with a diagnosis and a treatment plan and they expect you to recommend what is best for their needs. Implant dentistry is preferred by patients over and above dentures and bridges.
In 1999 the Institute for Dental Implant Awareness, a non-profit consumer education organization (www.dentalimplants.com) commissioned a survey. It was conducted in four major metropolitan areas of the country, in shopping malls. The results were significant. Most people (64%) were not aware of the major consequence of tooth loss – bone resorption. Among those consumers who knew about dental implants, only 45% knew about the relationship between tooth loss and bone loss.
Importantly, 75% of the respondents who had chosen traditional dentistry (bridges, partials and dentures) to replace missing teeth reported that they would have opted for implant treatment if they had understood the bone loss implications associated with tooth loss. And finally, 69% of the respondents said that they would be upset and if they had chosen traditional dentistry and later discovered that their dental professionals had not discussed the implant solution.
This survey makes it very clear that we have an ethical obligation to offer our patients every treatment option, regardless of our opinion of the patient’s willingness to accept treatment or ability to afford it. We also have a credibility issue if we don’t offer implants and our patient learns about them from another source.
Each patient’s “ideal” level of health has some individual variability based on their perception of need. As dentists, you know that bone loss changes the facial contour, affects eating and digestion, causes additional strain on the joints, and so on, but your patients don’t know the risks and consequences of bone loss caused by missing teeth. Your patients expect their dental professional to tell them and that is why they came to your office to receive your best possible diagnosis and treatment. Your patients cannot see or feel bone loss from missing teeth until it affects them on an emotional level such as lifestyle factors and esthetics.
Consider the benefits of implant dentistry for your patients. Denture wearers usually have problems eating certain foods, such as fresh vegetables and fruits, which can compromise their nutrition. Additionally, since it is difficult to chew properly with dentures, digestion is often compromised. (Source: IDIA). When teeth are missing, the surrounding bone begins to shrink. This unhealthy bone loss can make the jawbone recede. Dental implants can help prevent deterioration of the jawbone caused by loss of teeth, so the patient’s face retains its shape.
Think about the psychosocial factors with respect to communication and appearance. With dental implants, the patient will never have to cover their mouth when laughing, smiling or speaking. They can eat their favorite foods without pain or fear of embarrassment-and taste every bite. They will look and feel better and live more confidently
Empower Your Team
You cannot do this alone. Every team member can be very instrumental in the growth of the practice when they learn to communicate the benefits of implants so effectively that case acceptance increases. As dental implant treatment becomes a bigger part of your practice, the roles of your team members will grow and change. Inspire your team to want to be part of this journey and empower your staff by sharing your vision. Help them to believe in the cause and then give them the tools they need to get the job done such as:
Provide communications keys to help your team speak with confidence about dental implants. Provide them with the “why” factor and they will provide the ‘WOW” factor for your patients. Your dental team represents the goodwill ambassadors for your practice and they make your patients feel good about choosing implant dentistry. You can see the patients’ clinical needs and only the patient can tell you whether he or she wants to act on those needs. It is the role of your dental team to support your treatment recommendations and help the patient with the decision making process. Patients need information to analyze and rationalize before reaching a decision to act.
Empower Your Patients
Creating patient awareness and providng them with information are keys to success. Your patients need to understand that implant dentistry is not just replacing teeth. Bone loss is the real issue and implant dentistry can stop bone loss. Patients cannot see or feel bone loss until it affects them on an emotional level. Their facial contour changes, their ability to eat comfortably is comprmised and speech may be impaired. Tooth loss can lead to a domino effect causing shifting teeth, periodontal problems, further bone loss and poor eating habits, just to name a few. The more teeth that are lost the greater the bone loss and potential impact on the patient’s physical and psychological well-being.
Offer implant information sessions. Invite your patients to attend an educational session in your office to learn about dental implants at no obligation. Offer some light refreshments and an opportunity to learn about the benefits of dental implants. Invite one of the representatives from an implant supplier to lead the discussion and you may wish to involve your laboratory technician. This session is a very effective way to provide information to your patients in a relaxed format. Be prepared with frequently asked questions and great answers.
Here is how you do it:
1. Begin by running two reports from your practice management software. The first report should identify how many extractions that you have performed at your practice, excluding wisdom teeth. The second report should identify how many denture procedures that you have provided.
2. Ask yourself if all of your patients who have had an extraction or denture procedure been presented with implants as an option? Send those patients a letter that introduces implants and invite them to contact your office or attend an implant information session.
Implant dentistry should be your standard of care for all of your patients who have missing teeth. Empower your team by providing them with the time, tools and training necessary to support your business systems. Empower your patients through education. Help them to make an informed decision and help them to move forward with the standard of care that you provide. Dentistry is a relationship business. Your patients trust you and expect you to make the best possible recommendations for their health, comfort and aesthetics. The notion is that if you educate your patients they will make the right decision. It takes more than education, it takes a commitment to action.
If you wish to receive complimentary coding assistance sheets and great answers to frequently asked questions, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Implant Information”
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