Help your patients get a date

July 12, 2012

Maybe they’re still trying to find the nerve to ask their crush out, or maybe their Valentine’s Day date is already set. Either way, your patients want to look their best come Feb. 14. Luckily for them, you can help.

Maybe they’re still trying to find the nerve to ask their crush out, or maybe their Valentine’s Day date is already set. Either way, your patients want to look their best come Feb. 14. Luckily for them, you can help.

A brighter smile and fresher breath can be a real confidence booster, regardless of the occasion. But your patients may not be thinking beyond what they’re going to wear for their big date. Here’s how you and your team members can talk with your patients about the cosmetic services that will enhance their smile and give them the confidence they need to make this Valentine’s Day one to remember.

Ask the question

No matter what time of year it is, it’s a good idea to simply ask your patients if they’re happy with the color of their teeth, said Dr. Hugh Flax, President Elect of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. If they say no, ask them what they’re unhappy with and then start talking about color.

But remember it’s not about pressuring them into whitening their teeth for Valentine’s Day or any special occasion they have coming up. It’s about finding out what your patients are looking for in their smile and doing what you can to help get them there. Asking the right questions is the best way to get the conversation started and get your patients thinking about their cosmetic options.

“You learn more about your patients by asking questions rather than telling them what they need,” Dr. Flax said. “It’s just human nature. People don’t want to be told what they need, but they want to have what they want. It’s just like everything in life. When people feel like it was their idea, they’re much more engaged in the conversation.”

Get out the shade guide

Many of your patients probably have at least thought about whitening their teeth, or maybe they’ve even done it in the past and haven’t thought much about it since. Regardless of their whitening experience, they might not be aware of just how much brighter their smile can be. That’s where the shade guide comes in.

You don’t need to grab the shade guide for every hygiene visit, but it doesn’t hurt to take a tooth shade on every patient about once a year, said Penny Reed Limoli, owner of the Reed Limoli Group. Let your patients hold the shade guide and the mirror. Give them a chance to really see where they are and where they could go. They might not realize just how dark their teeth have gotten, and seeing it may be the motivation they need to talk about their whitening options.

And even if it doesn’t prompt them to inquire about whitening then and there, it might lead to a discussion down the road, Limoli said.

“It’s not only for an immediate response, but it just plants those seeds in their mind,” Limoli said. “And it’s very inexpensive to do. Those shade guides are low tech but they’re very effective. I would have one in every room, not just the hygiene room.”

Show them

Every time a patient comes in for a hygiene visit, get out your intraoral camera, Limoli said. That way, patients can actually see what’s going on in their mouth, which makes them more likely to ask you how they can fix any problems they see. Most dentists don’t use this tool nearly enough, but it’s a great way to get a conversation about cosmetics started.

“Patients don’t routinely see what’s going on,” Limoli said. “If we can help them identify an issue, that’s helpful.”

Digital imaging is another great way to get patients interested in cosmetic services, Limoli said. If you show them what they would look like with a new smile, they’re more likely to think about getting it done. The smile design itself isn’t something you can get done for them before Valentine’s Day, but if you offer free imaging as part of a Valentine’s Day promotion, they may decide to get it done for that wedding or class reunion coming up later this year.

It's not just teeth

Bad breath is one of the last things your patients want to worry about during their romantic evening, Limoli said. Don’t be afraid to ask your patients if they’re happy with their breath or if they’ve ever had any concerns about it. Have products on hand designed to test and help treat bad breath problems.

Remember bad breath may be a sign of gum disease or other health issues, such as stomach problems, that may need to be referred to their family physician. But even if it’s not a sign of a bigger problem, it’s not going to do your patients any favors if they don't have fresh breath when they’re out on a date.

“What’s funny is people don’t think twice about getting a new outfit or getting their hair or nails done, but if their breath is bad it’s not really helping in the Valentine’s Day success department,” Limoli said.

Promote it

Internal marketing is a great start, but external marketing also is important. This is a great time to offer reduced price whitening, a whitening/fresh breath combination package, or a gift certificate to a local restaurant for patients who whiten between certain dates, Limoli said. Use your e-newsletter to get patients involved and excited about the prospect of whitening or looking into other services. Have them send in stories about how they met their spouse or about a bad date experience. Then have a drawing for some sort of gift certificate or maybe a reduced-price (or even free) service.

Give them the confidence

A little whitening and fresh breath can go a long way in making your patients feel confident and happy about their smiles. Snap-On Smile, temporaries and even some cosmetic contouring are other quick services that can help get your patients ready for their big night.

"Many times a smile can be rejuvenated with bonding and contouring to conservatively enhance the shapes of the teeth," Dr. Flax said. "Conservative laser technology can improve the frame and shapes around the gums as well. Also, if appropriate in your state, lip and perioral augmentation can boost the outline around a smile"

No matter what procedure they choose, your patients are going to feel more attractive with an improved smile, Dr. Flax said. And if your patients are already getting other services done, whitening can be what Dr. Flax described as the “icing on the cake.”

“When you reflect more light and white from your mouth, it’s more attractive,” Dr. Flax said. “And that’s been bolstered by the media’s emphasis on whiter teeth and improvements in people’s appearance.”

Beyond Feb. 14th

Valentine’s Day isn’t the only day of the year your patients want to look their best. With summer not that far off, many of your patients are thinking about weddings they’re in, vacations they’re taking or reunions they’re attending, and those are all occasions that might call for some cosmetics. Talking with them about their cosmetic wants now may prompt them to think about going for it in the future. It all starts with you and your team members asking the right questions.

“Ask your patients what is most important to them about their smile and their overall oral health,” Limoli said. “Help them say ‘I’ve always wished I could be more proud of my smile.’”