Editor’s intro: Read about Dr. Levin’s strategies to help identify potential patients and excite, energize, and motivate them to choose implant treatment.
Dr. Roger P. Levin answers some questions that can help to expand an implant practice
Question: How can I identify more potential implant patients for my practice?
Answer: There probably aren’t many people who haven’t heard about dental implants or have a basic understanding of their benefits. This is vastly different than in 1985 when implants were relatively new, and a great deal of time was spent trying to prove to specialists and general dentists that dental implants were a viable service that would be successful. There was a great deal of debate as to the best type of implant, implant coating, and other biological factors. And while there still may be some deliberation over what type of implant is most successful, dental implants are now widely accepted.
Given that, your focus should now be on reaching the “invisible implant patient.” This is the patient who, despite already knowing that dental implants are successful and can enhance the quality of life, never presents for a consult and may not even visit a dentist regularly. These patients may be from a lower, middle, or even upper socioeconomic background. And as insurance patients, they haven’t been exposed to implants through their coverage and fear that the implants are too expensive or painful.
When thinking about your approach to this type of patient, it may help to consider this analogy. In the 1940s, orthodontic care was only for the rich, as an orthodontic case at that time rivaled the cost of a new car. When dental insurance began to cover orthodontics, it became more and more mainstream and is now considered a rite of passage for anyone desiring a great smile regardless of their income bracket.
Third molars in oral surgery are another good example of how a new dental service became a go-to dental treatment. Third molars were deemed to be unhealthy and prone to significant infection; however, they caused a much more complex and painful extraction for adult patients. As insurance coverage broadened to cover an increasing number of patients, the number of third molar cases expanded as well. Third molar removal is now considered a biological health necessity.
There is a slightly increasing amount of insurance coverage for dental implants; however, it is nowhere near the coverage of orthodontic care or third molar removal. This is why there are still so many invisible implant patients. So how do we begin to access the invisible implant patient in an interdisciplinary care environment?
- Give all edentulous patients an implant consultation. The cost of implants or knowledge of the patient’s background should not be considered a factor. Every edentulous patient should be encouraged to undergo an implant consul- This would include treatment design, cost, length, options, recovery, pain management, and fees. Having a consultation anytime a patient is missing teeth should be thought of as normal and automatic protocol whether the patient is currently interested in implants or not. Only with knowledge and education can a patient who is not currently interested in dental implants become more informed and decide to accept implant treatment today or possibly in the future.
- Explain the benefits of implants over other procedures. Invisible implant patients don’t know enough to ask about implants and are often not presented with an implant option. These patients should know that dental implants are long-lasting and give patients a quality of life that they cannot get from any other dental treatment for missing teeth. Partial dentures are known to weaken the adjacent natural teeth that provide support for the dentures, and dentures overall do not look or feel natural, are prone to causing gum disease from trapped food, and must be consistently removed and cleaned.
- Promote convenience. People will pay to have their lives made easier. If you think your patients can’t afford implants, simply ask yourself how many people you know who do not have cable, Internet, cell phone service, and a flat screen television. There are almost Most people find the money to pay for whatever they really want. They may prefer taking a cruise over getting implants, but you won’t know until you present it to them. When discussing implant treatment with patients, it’s best to focus on how implants will improve their quality of life through the convenience they offer. Explain that dental implants last for many years, stay in their mouth, are taken care of like natural teeth, and that most of the time they probably won’t notice they have them. That’s a level of convenience that many people are willing to pay for.
- Offer various payment options. Offer a 5% discount for paying in full by cash or check prior to treatment. Accept payment by credit cards, a short-term monthly payment plan, or patient financing. Companies like CareCredit® have different financing options, and one of our favorites is the 6-month interest-free option. The practice will give up approximately 6% of its fee (only 1% more than the discount we suggested that they pay upfront anyway), and patients get 6 months to pay if it’s a case in the United States. Six months seems to be a fantastic time frame that patients like and it usually fits their budget. However, there are some patients who may need much longer-term payment plans and will choose loan options for payment. Whatever the option, patient financing can completely change their view of accepting dental implants.
- Educate all patients about dental implants whether they need them or not. Provide a complimentary first implant exam for any patient to learn more about dental implants. Many patients have aging parents or friends who complain about missing teeth. Patients who are educated about dental implants will educate others who may benefit from implant treatment.
- Provide consistent, long-term marketing to patients who have had implant consultations. Many invisible implant patients desire dental implants, but they put it off for some time in the However, they may never get around to it unless they receive some type of reminder. Practices should contact patients periodically by email or text to remind them about the benefits of implants.
- Infuse energy and enthusiasm in case presentation. As dental implants become more common, the case presentations tend to become more robotic. Having a treatment coordinator who can enthusiastically explain the benefits of dental implants can go a long way toward motivating the invisible implant patient to accept treatment.
All new dental services must go through a stage of gaining legitimacy both within the profession and with early adopter patients. As that service becomes more mainstream, it will take deliberate marketing strategies to excite, energize, and motivate potential patients. Use the strategies outlined here to reach and motivate the invisible implant patients and grow your implant production.
After you identify potential patients, offering them information in the right way can help improve their care. Read what Dr. Steven Enea says in “Dental implant education — what you and your patients deserve”.