Top 9 ways to make your patients want to whiten

Issue 7

Not sure how to talk to your patients about whitening? We tell you how to get patients to ask you about your whitening options, and what growing your whitening business can do for your practice.

Not sure how to talk to your patients about whitening? We tell you how to get patients to ask you about your whitening options, and what growing your whitening business can do for your practice.

Like many dentists, you likely offer whitening in your practice. You have a few signs up in the waiting room and maybe even a brochure or two that patients are welcome to read as they wait for their appointment time.

But simply offering whitening and putting out some literature to promote it isn’t enough. If you want to use whitening as a tool to help grow your practice, you need to know how to talk to your patients about whitening and how to get them excited about the results they can achieve.  

If you actively promote whitening in your practice, you can go from 2-3 cases a month to an average of one a day-and those patients who whiten are more likely to comply with home care recommendations, to keep appointments and to go forward with other cosmetic procedures than patients who don’t, said Gary Takacs, owner of the Takacs Learning Center.

That means more revenue for your practice and happier, healthier patients.

“To get that result it’s got to be a top of mind awareness in the practice instead of just another thing,” Takacs said. “So many offices do fillings, crowns, root canals and, oh, by the way they also do whitening. I think when whitening has that mentality around it, it’s hard to really achieve its potential. But if you make it top of mind and make it a core element of your practice, you’re more likely to have success.”

Actively promoting whitening in your practice benefits both you and your patients. Here’s how to make it work in your office.

1. Start with a shade guide. Many dentists simply don’t know how to bring up whitening with their patients, said Penny Limoli of Limoli and Associates. You don’t want to offend your patients by implying they need to whiten, so you rely on signage in the practice and those patients who come in actively seeking whitening.

To avoid a potentially awkward conversation, Limoli suggests getting out the shade guide at least once a year for every patient and at every new patient visit. This is a great, non-confrontational way to show patients where they are and where they can be.

“They see all the shades of the tooth-colored rainbow and very often say ‘whoa what do I need to do to be over here?’ It’s an easy way to see what their shade is and what the possibilities are,” Limoli said. “Tell patients you’d like to get a baseline shade and that way you can measure it every year, or more often if they’d like, and you can let them know if you’re seeing any changes. All of a sudden this gives them a reason to consider whitening.”

2. Make it affordable. Set your whitening fees so they’re still profitable for you, yet reasonable to patients. If you value price whitening you’re more likely to get patients excited to go forward with it, Takacs said, and again those patients are more likely to go forward with elective treatments in the future.

Remember patients can go to the nearest drug store and pick up a whitening kit, Limoli said, and likely aren’t willing to pay $400-$500 when they know a much cheaper option is available. Make sure patients understand the value of professional teeth whitening and what makes it better than those over-the-counter products, and then give them a price point they can feel good about.

3. Make it convenient. No matter how bad patients want to whiten, they’re busy people who have to find time in their schedule to make it happen. Make sure all your team members are cross trained to take impressions and to fabricate trays, Limoli said, so that when you have open chair time you can add whitening on to the end of a patient visit.

They’re already in the chair, so they get the value of taking advantage of a service they want at a time that works for them, and it brings in extra revenue to your practice.

4. Offer lifetime whitening. If you want to grow your whitening business, offering lifetime whitening to your patients is one way to do it.

Let patients know if they keep their regularly scheduled hygiene appointments, they’ll leave those appointments with a syringe of touch-up gel-two if they’re heavy coffee, tea or red wine drinkers.

“Many clients tell me they save 4 or 5 hygiene cancellations a week by reminding patients of this,” Takacs said. “Be sensible about it. If a patient calls three weeks ahead to reschedule that patient still qualifies. It’s those last minute calls. You want to motivate them in a positive way to keep their appointments.”

5. Market it outside of the practice. Engaging your patients while they’re at your practice is a great way to get them excited about whitening, but don’t forget about the many other marketing opportunities outside the practice.

Limoli suggests using your website and social media to let patients know about your whitening services. Ask whitening patients if you can take before and afters for your website and Facebook page, and ask if you can tag them in any social media posts.

This will not only show off what you can do to current patients, it will connect you to plenty of potential new patients who may be interested in what whitening can do for their smile.

Want more advice on how to talk to patients about whitening? Check out this video from Dr. Sam Halabo:

6. Designate a whitening champion. Your dental office is a busy place, and it’s easy for team members to get caught up in the day to day and forget about the benefits of growing your whitening business.

Appoint someone on your team to generate enthusiasm and remind everyone about the importance of whitening to your practice, Takacs said. The whitening champion should be the one ordering supplies, reporting stats at team meetings and teaching team members verbal skills they can use when talking with patients about whitening. This team member also should take ownership of social media and marketing efforts surrounding whitening.

Everyone on the team should be involved with growing the whitening business, but having a champion who truly is passionate about it will help make sure it stays top of mind.

7. Create a menu of services. Make it easy for your patients to decide which whitening options work best for them, whether it’s chairside or take-home.

Put together a menu of services that spell out the services you offer, what they get and how much it costs. Make it easy for them to digest and understand exactly what their options are. Consider offering touch ups on your menu, something Limoli said is a big missed market.

8. Be honest. Whitening can, and often does, cause sensitivity in patients. Tell them up front about what they can expect, Limoli said, especially if you’d like to keep that patient.

“If you expect it may be uncomfortable don’t down-play the discomfort because then the patient will be irritated with you,” Limoli said. “Remember it’s about repeat engagement with the patient.”

9. Set realistic expectations. Before a patient starts whitening, make sure she knows what shade she can expect to achieve. You don’t want angry patients because they expected a result that just wasn’t achievable so let them know up front how far they can realistically go.

Patients also need to understand that whitening is a process so they won’t be disappointed when they don’t see the results they want right away, Limoli said. Compliance also is important for optimal results, and patients should know if they’re not following through at home they’re not going to achieve their whitening goals.

Consider bringing patients in for a re-check, Limoli said. In this quick 10-minute appointment you can check shade and find out if the patient is having any problems with sensitivity. It’s also a good idea to send whitening patients home with a before picture, Limoli said. They can look back on that picture and see exactly how far they’ve come throughout the process.

You have to make the effort to reap the rewards

Whitening is a great tool for practice growth, but only if you take the time to make it an important part of your practice’s everyday routine. It creates patients who are more invested in their smile, patients who are more likely to keep that smile healthy and patients who may even opt for elective cosmetic services down the road.

By making a few small changes and a commitment to promoting whitening, your practice can reap the benefits of a successful whitening program while your patients enjoy their whiter, brighter smiles.

“It requires little or no doctor time and it’s a great revenue addition even if you don’t charge that much,” Limoli said. “And what could be better marketing than a lot of your patients running around with white teeth?”

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