Q&A with Dr. Edward Alvarez: How to Market Cosmetic Services, Part II

September 11, 2017
DMD Staff

Social media’s amplification of visual aesthetics bodes well for dentists. With so many young people looking to perfect or simply improve their smiles, opportunities to attract new patients abound — but so does the competition. Whitening is a service offered at almost any dental practice, so how can you make your practice stand out? Dr. Edward Alvarez, DDS, specializes in all things cosmetic dentistry. Keep reading for his advice on marketing your whitening services.

Some patients may not be good candidates for bleaching due to clinical or psychological reasons.

Social media’s amplification of visual aesthetics bodes well for dentists. With so many young people looking to perfect or simply improve their smiles, opportunities to attract new patients abound — but so does the competition.

Services like whitening are offered at almost any dental practice, so how can you make your practice stand out? Dr. Edward Alvarez, DDS, specializes in all things cosmetic dentistry. Keep reading for his marketing best practices.

DMD: When you're talking directly to patients, there's a very fine line between marketing your services and offending the patient. How can dentists go about avoiding those kinds of blunders?

Dr. Alvarez: I think the thing that they have to do, and what I tend to do with an initial patient visit or consultation, is the old adage that we have two ears and one mouth. If we listen to what patients say, they'll tell you what they want, and you have to use their own words to describe what they want. I think a lot of time people say, "I want a nicer smile." Let's dig further. What is it you don't like about your smile? Is it that it's not bright enough? And usually, patients will tell you themselves. I have yet to meet one patient that tells me, "No, I think my teeth are bright enough. I don't want them whiter." I think a lot of it is leading a patient to tell you what they really want. You clearly don't want to offend somebody, so never say, "You really need your teeth whitened." I'll say, "If you're looking have dental work done, maybe this is the time to think about bleaching." I don't present it as, "This is something you need to do," but as, "This is something for you to consider at this point because this is a good crossroads." Let them choose to do it as opposed to telling them they need to do it.

DMD: How do you know who is and who isn't a good candidate for whitening services?

Dr. Alvarez: Clinically, you have to look at patients who have a lot of existing dental work. If they're not looking to change all their crowns, existing crowns or restoration, then that's somebody I can still propose it and say, "If you wanted to change all your dental work, this is what you can do." But I by no means force them — you also risk alienating the patient because all of a sudden, that very easily can be taken as "This guy just wants to change all my dental work right now, and I have to do it if I want to get whiter teeth." That's a patient that I don't approach in that sense. Again, I say, "This is your choice right now if you want to do all that." If somebody's just changing or getting two veneers and one crown done, and they have nothing else, that's a perfect patient to say, "You should consider bleaching at this point because once we do this crown, or once we do this veneer, you're stuck with that color. Unless you're happy with where you are right now, it's something that you should really consider. Otherwise, you're going to have to do this all over again." And I think that's where people see it as a value, where they can spend the money once and they don't have to think about doing it later.

One of the dangers we have anytime we talk about cosmetic dentistry or surgery is people who have Body Dysmorphic Disorder, people who are obsessed. You will get those patients who come in and their teeth are already whiter than your bleaching shade, and they say, "My teeth are dark. I want to go brighter." If I see somebody like that, I really try to dissuade them from doing it because that's probably somebody who isn't going to be satisfied.

DMD: Let's talk about packages a little bit. Do you offer them, and are they beneficial?

Dr. Alvarez: I do order some packages. Like I mentioned, if someone is going to aligner therapy, I'll usually offer them free whitening. I like using Opalescence Go, the disposable bleaching kits — they work really well. I'll offer them that for no charge or I'll offer in-office laser whitening at half off. I give people four options in terms of whitening: Number one is the disposable bleaching trays. Option two is custom trays. Option three is an LED in-office blue light, and option four is the true laser whitening with the EPIC laser from Biolase, which works great. I will structure my fees according to which option they want. If someone is doing veneers or on the fence about doing veneers, I might entice them by offering bleaching at half-off, or I'll give them a whitening kit at no charge. Patients tend to be very happy with that because it will help me market the veneer and it will help that patient make that choice. The other thing that I'll do is that from time to time, if you're a new patient and want to come to the practice, we'll give you a bleaching kit or something like that. That's typically what I do in terms of packaging.

DMD: When it comes to your patients, how is whitening more than just a cosmetic service? Does it help them emotionally?

Dr. Alvarez: Absolutely. Whitening is one of the fastest ways to change your smile. In society now, there are a lot of different things we saw after the economy collapsed in 2008, a lot of people went back out into the workforce. People in their 50s had to compete with younger people. Whitening made them a) appear younger and b) it made them feel better about themselves. So we saw a greater impact than we initially thought in terms of whitening. I've had patients who whitened their teeth and all of a sudden, someone who never smiled in pictures is smiling. Somebody who would say hello and never crack a smile because they were ashamed of the color is now able to grin. It opens up a lot of doors for them. Even if you can't afford a smile makeover, whitening is a tremendous benefit psychologically for any patient, and for me, it's the same thing. It's great to see somebody smile.

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