Oral Health Group

Creating the Desire to Buy

September 1, 2006
by Martin B. Goldstein, DDS

Dentistry is fast becoming a discretionary or elective purchase due to several market factors, including the limited role of insurance and the increasing demand for cosmetic and restorative treatment. Ultimately, patients spend their discretionary income on the product they “want” the most. For some, that might be a smile rehab. For others, it might be a big screen television. Practices can effectively compete for elective spending dollars by creating a “desire to buy” within the patient. I have found the most effective way to create a desire to buy is by using what I call the “package” of co-diagnosis, presentation, and financing.

Co-diagnose the problem


Let me illustrate how the package works by using a real case I recently completed. We start with diagnosis. To effectively compete as a “non-essential” purchase you have to first convince the patient that the dentistry is, in fact, essential to them. Jennifer came to my practice for a consultation a few months prior to her wedding. She was interested in not only getting healthy but possibly enhancing her smile for the “big day.” Americans live in a very visual society. Before they spend, they have to see. That’s where I use technology to provide patients with a “picture” of what’s going on in their mouth. I’m a big proponent of digital photography. I take photos not only of the patients’ front teeth, but of their entire dentition and as they go through their chewing excursions. I usually take eight shots using my Canon digital SLR camera and immediately upload them into a program called Image FX (by SciCan). Using a chair-side PC and the images, I was able to point out to Jennifer the treatment needed. It became a co-diagnostic process because she was able to see her dentition and the decay in her mouth and could clearly visualize the problem. I didn’t have to convince her there was a problem, even though she might not be experiencing pain. She could clearly see it.

Present the possibilities

After we co-diagnose the needed treatment with the patient, it’s time to plant the seeds of what dentistry can do to enhance the patient’s smile. With Baby Boomers going to great lengths and expense to maintain a youthful appearance, using technology to provide them with a visual representation of what dentistry can do to take years off their face is a huge win. While they may ultimately choose only the treatment that is covered by their insurance, it’s still our job as professionals to illustrate to them what is possible.

With Jennifer, I used the images taken for diagnosis and created a smile rehab simulation. Using my software program, I created a professional presentation that detailed the treatment needed to get Jennifer healthy and finally used the smile simulation to demonstrate what cosmetic dentistry could do for not only her appearance but her overall oral health. As we all know, form and function are intimately related. When properly executed, cosmetic rehabs lead to healthier posterior function and happier TMJs. Nuff said! This type of presentation is choreographed. We present our recommended treatment plan to get that patient healthy. We end the presentation by using the smile simulation.

In Jennifer’s case, the difference in her appearance was pretty significant, as you can see from the before and after shots. Jennifer loved the new look. But, again, it’s all about discretionary income and timing. Jennifer was able to get healthy using her insurance benefits, but the cost of the smile rehab just wasn’t feasible right before her wedding. All of her discretionary income was already committed, and fitting in even a few hundred dollars more a month made her uncomfortable. So she left with the images in hand, knowing what was possible.

Offer financial solutions

You would think I lost part of the case. Jennifer got healthy, but she didn’t move forward with the cosmetic portion of my recommendation. Here, case acceptance was partially attained because I was able to co-diagnose with Jennifer her treatment needs, creating a desire to buy to avoid further damage and cost. But case acceptance is fully optimized when you show patients the possibilities of dentistry and then help remove obstacles that may stop them from moving forward with treatment such as budget concerns. That’s where we get to the third part of the package: financing. Recently Jennifer returned to my office with the photo smile simulation in her hand. It had been two years since our initial consultation and she had gone through some significant life changes and including, unfortunately, the dissolution of her marriage. She came back with the “desire to buy something for herself.” The only thing holding her back was the same issue she had two years prior-cost. But now her discretionary income was no longer committed to wedding expenses. Dentistry was now being considered along with new clothes and a vacation plan. I instantly pre-approved Jennifer for financing, so when we discussed the fees I knew I could offer her a payment solution. I simply asked Jennifer if we could help her get her smile rehab with smaller monthly payments that would work with her budget and lifestyle. I have found that it’s not the total cost of the treatment that concerns patients; it’s actually being able to fit payments comfortably into their monthly budget.

People are comfortable with payment plans. CareCredit has changed the way I diagnose and present treatment. Knowing I have a way for patients to pay, I seldom limit the dentistry thinking they may reject treatment because of cost. Insurance limitations have become less of a concern than in the past enabling me to show all the possibilities and plant the seeds needed to create a desire to receive treatment. I provide dentistry to a small community of 25,000 and I see Jennifer often. Her mother is now a patient of mine also. Jennifer told me that people are always commenting on how beautiful her smile is. She has gained confidence and self-esteem. And I have gained the satisfaction of knowing that in Jennifer’s case I not only improved a smile, but I impacted a life. Dentistry is a complete package of health and appearance. Using the package of co-diagnosis, presentation and financing, you can effectively compete for your patient’s discretionary dollars, create the desire to buy and optimize the possibilities for case acceptance.

Dr. Martin B. Goldstein is considered to be an expert in the use of digital photography as it relates to dentistry. He is also co-founder of Comfort Zone Cosmetics, a “hands on” seminar series conducted in Newton, Massachusetts, designed to teach other dentists the latest in cosmetic dental techniques.

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