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Viewpoint: Chasing Beauty

April 1, 2011
by Joe Bulger, DDS


What is smile beauty? As a cosmetic dentist, I see a beautiful smile as a collection of pleasing features, without any significant flaws that draw attention. Talk about a bland, emotionless response from a left-brain dentist.

To explore the beauty of a smile, we need to get out of our heads and into the hearts of those drawn towards physical beauty. An attractive smile is more than a collection of attributes. Beauty can evoke a powerful emotional experience. The flicker of a dazzling smile can set hearts aquiver. As cosmetic dentists, we see patients shed tears of joy upon transforming a smile that has long been a source of embarrassment. Shy wallflowers soon discover their vivacious life-of-the-party alter ego.

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Who’s Chasing Whom?
As dentists, we can paint a picture in a patient’s mind and reveal opportunities to make a smile more attractive. I’m always excited by cosmetic potential, because I know I can make a difference for someone.

So what? My excitement isn’t what counts here. I don’t own the smile. I try to curb my initial enthusiasm because it can be misinterpreted by someone not expecting to hear a smile critique. Best to establish context and ask permission before sharing one’s aesthetic vision. Treading lightly also helps ensure a patient’s positive self-image is maintained. Exposing the hidden flaws of a smile can knock the wind out of someone’s self-esteem.

If Bob Smith comes to see me for dental care and his gnarly smile doesn’t bother him in the least, who am I to convince him otherwise? Should I agitate Bob to make him feel dissatisfied with his smile just so I can push my cosmetic dentistry solutions? Not my style. I don’t want to be chasing after Bob to impose grand plans of cosmetic dentistry. I’ll offer an aesthetic vision for Bob, and if he’s interested, he’ll be the one chasing after the opportunity for a better smile. In marketing, it’s the difference between a push and pull dynamic. Who’s chasing whom can make a world of difference.

An Ideal Cosmetic Candidate
What would it take for Bob to be an ideal candidate for cosmetic dentistry? Here are 4 qualifiers I look for with potential cosmetic patients:

1. Need in mouth. The deeper the need, the bigger the upside. If Bob’s smile was near perfect, how much could be gained by pursuing the cosmetic path? On the other hand, if his smile was a significant liability (ugly as sin), there could be considerable upside potential for him.

2. Knowledge in brain. Ideally, Bob will know something about his cosmetic options. Otherwise he would need more hand-holding just to guide him out oftotal darkness. The internet has become a tremendous asset for cosmetic dentistry by opening up consumer access to know­ledge.

3. Desire in the heart. This is a BIG one. We’re emotional creatures and beauty is an emotional decision. If Bob’s raring to go, then his enthusiasm will lead the way. When cosmetic enhancement is HIS idea, all you have to do is guide him in the right direction. If Bob doesn’t place much value on having a beautiful smile, why would he bother pursuing any cosmetic improvements?

4. Money in hand. This is the final qualifier. If Bob can’t afford proposed treatment then maybe plans can be scaled back or delayed. Small improvements can often do wonders. Perhaps treatment can be implemented gradually to stay within his budget.

The ideal cosmetic candidate meets all 4 of these criteria. Be wary of chasing after the deepest needs. It’s tempting to pursue a big case when you know you can make a life-changing improvement.

Here’s the thing.: results are best when patients do the chasing. You don’t want to be pressuring someone into something they’re not ready for or can’t afford. If Bob isn’t interested in cosmetics, you can still explore simple options and leave it with him. If he warms up to the potential of a better smile, that’s great. If he doesn’t, that’s still OK. Beauty might not be Bob’s thing.

People are motivated by two things regarding beauty – discontent with their current state and excitement over better possibilities. If Bob feels neither, then he’s probably not ready to go down that path. Of course, being the emotional creatures we are, that can all change tomorrow.OH

Dr. Joe Bulger maintains a cosmetic-oriented private practice in Toronto, Canada..

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