Reach Millennial Parents to Maximize Pediatric Dental Treatment

August 1, 2017
Ed Rabinowitz

The smart, young dentist is not focusing on cosmetic rehabilitative dentistry. Instead, this dentist, according to Roger Sanger, DDS, MS, is focused on the next population shift: pediatrics. By understanding that population through its millennial parents, there are opportunities to be had.

Tooth decay stands as the most widespread early childhood disease today.

There’s a population shift taking place, and that shift could benefit dental practices significantly.

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At present, the largest demographic in the U.S. is the baby boomer generation. The highest birth rate ever in the U.S. was during the heart of that boom: 4.3 million births in 1957.

But according to Roger Sanger, DDS, MS, DOCS Education’s lead instructor for pediatric sedation dentistry, and the founding director for the Institute for Pediatric Dentistry in Houston, that’s about to change.

Sanger says there are approximately four million births occurring annually — not far off from the record-setting pace of 1957.

“Probably by 2020, the pediatric population, which is zero to age 18, will become the largest population in the United States,” Sanger says. “Right now it’s around 74 million, and it’s probably going to shoot to 80 million.”

And with that shift comes opportunities.

ADDRESSING AN EPIDEMIC

Sanger says that with 80 percent of births coming from millennial parents, and those parents tending to be more permissive where sugar consumption is concerned, the caries rate is soaring globally.

“It’s thought to be the most common childhood disease in the world right now,” he added.

Add to the mix a shortage of dentists in many states, and that today, while the Medicaid population has increased, a large segment of the pediatric population has some type of dental benefit, and Sanger believes there’s significant opportunity for dentists.

“Some of the older practitioners are ensconced in what we call spa practices, where they cater to cosmetics and implants,” Sanger says. “If you do a Google search, everybody today is a cosmetic rehabilitation dentist. Those practices do well. But the younger population of dentists can’t get into that market anymore. If you’re a younger practitioner, the next population segment, being pediatrics, will be a very profitable one.”

REACHING THE PARENTS

Sanger says that for dentists looking to take advantage of the growing pediatric population, it’s important to understand the way their parents — who are predominantly Millennials — make health-related decisions.

“They’re organic,” he says. “If it’s organic, they buy it. If it’s branded, they buy it. If it’s toxic or metal, they don’t buy it. And so, there are three or four companies out there busier than hell manufacturing non-metal zirconia crowns.”

That requires special skills, Sanger says. Knowing how to do non-metal zirconia crowns is a game-changer. But so is understanding how to be more positive, because parents want their children to have more positive experiences. He equates it to purchasing new tires at Costco.

“Costco doesn’t say, ‘You need to have better driving habits,’” Sanger explains. “Dentists tend to say, ‘Gosh, you caused all these cavities in your kids. You have to have them brush better.’ Parents don’t want to hear that. That’s why we’re telling these young dentists that they need to look at the millennial buyer and understand how they buy things.”

CLOSING THE PEDIATRIC SALE

Sanger says there are four main reasons people shy away from dental care today. It’s not convenient, it’s uncomfortable, the cost is high, and a need has not been established. The latter, he points out, is the main reason.

“If you get them to call your office and come in, you've gotten the first step, and that’s that they perceive that they have a need,” he says. “Your job is to figure out what that need is. And most of the time we know that it’s not financial.”

In Sanger’s practice, if a parent doesn’t want to address his or her child’s need at the moment, the focus shifts to getting them to agree that a need is present. Then, if they want to wait six months or a year to address the need, it’s important to help them understand that the need is only going to get greater.

“Dental disease doesn’t go away,” Sanger says. “We can’t treat it with a pill.”

But again, it’s all about focus, and not making the parent feel that they or their child are wrong. Too many dentists, Sanger explains, make the parents feel wrong by saying if the procedure isn’t done right away, their child is going to be in pain.

“The millennial parent will just walk away and go somewhere else,” he says. “Better to say, ‘We would be glad to have you come back and see us on a regular basis.’”

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