As dental practices start reopening and navigating a new way of treating patients, we are starting to learn more about the far-reaching effects that the last few months have had on the dental industry.
There is, of course, the obvious loss of business due to forced closures or treatment restrictions, as well as the extra costs associated with personal protective equipment (PPE) and other preventive measures.
But more subtly, the lockdown has brought about a change in attitudes that may have a long-lasting impact on people’s willingness to visit the dentist, especially for elective procedures involving whitening or orthodontics.
Fortunately, armed with a little knowledge, your practice can be equipped to win those patients over.
Home Dentistry Increasing During Lockdown
Being in lockdown has left many people with a lot of time on their hands and, in many cases, a desire to use this time to better themselves. While some have learned a new instrument or language, others have turned their attention to their teeth—specifically to whitening and straightening treatments that can be done at home.
Interest in home teeth whitening surged in April, taking some kit manufacturers by surprise. Why the sudden interest in a brighter smile when there’s nobody around to see it? While there may have been some transfer from patients who get regular in-office whitening, it’s more likely due to the desire to maintain a good appearance over video calls, whether social or work-related.
Teledentistry companies providing clear aligners have also benefited from the period of confinement. One leading brand speculated that people have taken this opportunity to begin their treatment without having to worry about the possible inconvenience or embarrassment they might experience at work, especially as they become accustomed to wearing aligners.
Loss Versus Opportunity
So what does this mean for practices offering these treatments in-office? While you may have to accept that you have missed out on some business from patients wanting straighter, whiter teeth, the rising interest in these treatments may also present you with some new opportunities.
No doubt there are people out there who have just tried a home whitening kit for the first time and are now considering professional whitening for better results. Or what about the patients who have heard about at-home aligners from a friend or an advertisement, but would prefer to get a professional opinion before continuing?
Know Your Competitors
Knowledge is power. In this case, being forearmed with a little information about your competitors may be the best way to make the most of any opportunities that come your way.
Let’s take remote orthodontics as an example. At-home aligners are appealing because of their price and aesthetics, but don’t make the mistake of assuming all brands are the same. Take a look at the variation in some key factors from mainstream brands:
- Price: $1,100 to $2,400
- Average duration: Three to 12 months
- Check in on progress: Every 10 to 90 days
- Who plans and monitors treatment: Dental technicians, general dentists, or orthodontists
If patients mention that they are interested in this kind of treatment, first find out which brands they are considering and what the appeal is for them. Knowing a few details about that particular brand, you can make a more convincing case for your product.
You may not be able to compete on price at the lower end of the scale, but at the higher end, it may not be such a jump to upgrade to in-office treatment. And if the brand they are considering doesn’t work with orthodontists, point out the risks of putting your teeth in the hands of someone who hasn’t specialized in this field.
More generally, at-home aligners are only suitable for certain types of tooth movement and are not designed to treat severe malocclusion. Each patient’s case is assessed after they send in their impressions or go for a scan, but you may be able to save them the hassle. It’s worth pointing out that aligners that concentrate on cosmetic straightening of the front six to eight teeth may cause bite complications with the other teeth if not properly supervised.
When it comes to whitening, some people are happy with a $20 kit that makes their teeth one or two shades whiter over the course of a couple of weeks. Others fork out hundreds of dollars on “professional” home whitening kits. It’s the latter who should be your target market for in-office whitening.
Again, if a patient mentions using a home whitening kit, a little knowledge of the biggest brands can come in handy. Speak about how your services compare in terms of results, convenience, and treatment speed.
Common problems with home whitening kits include uneven coverage, gum irritation, and tooth sensitivity. The first two can arise from the one-size-fits-all trays supplied with many cheaper kits, which is something that professional whitening solves. Patients with sensitive teeth may not be aware of the options for desensitizing during whitening treatment, so this is something you can discuss with them.
Many people have become more aware of and interested in home dental treatments since being confined to their homes. Rather than writing this off as lost business, dental professionals can instead take it as an opportunity to upsell to patients with a new interest in these treatments.
Understanding the benefits and limitations of at-home products puts you in a better position to promote the specific advantages of the in-office solutions you have to offer. Take some time to research the main brands in the market, and feel more confident next time you are discussing treatment options with a patient.
Ms. Napitu specializes in writing informative content about dentistry. For more than three years, she has been a key contributor to Dentaly.org, which provides comprehensive dental information to the general public in five different languages. She can be reached at email@example.com or on LinkedIn.
Dentaly.org paid Ms. Napitu to write this article.