Implants should be a standard

Columns , Current Issue
Editor’s intro: Dr. Roger P. Levin discusses recommending implants as a standard offering in a dental practice as a win-win for both the clinician and the patient.

Dental implants are now a major part of dentistry and should be thought of as a standard. I won’t go so far as to suggest that they are standard-of-care (the definition of which is a bit of a gray area sometimes), but from a practice management standpoint, I will suggest that dental implants should be a standard offering to any patients who are missing teeth. Taking it a step even further, I would suggest that dental implants are a key component of increasing practice production — the essential factor in the success of any dental practice.

As a quick review, osseointegrated implants had their birth in the early 1980s. By the 1990s, implant placement was becoming routine for oral surgeons, periodontists, and a very small segment of general dentists. Over time, dental implants have continually demonstrated high success rates, which motivated an increasing number of general dentists to refer patients for implant placement and to learn implant restorative dentistry. Today, dental implants for many practices are routine, and many dentists automatically recommend dental implants for missing teeth. The truth is that dental implants improve the quality of life for almost any patient and should now be thought of not only as a “standard” but also, in most cases, as the “ideal” treatment.

So why aren’t more patients receiving implants? The primary reason is the cost and lack of insurance coverage. Many more dental implants would be placed if they were less expensive to the patient. This dynamic needs to be offset by excellent case presentation that motivates patients to seek a surgical consult or accept dental implant treatment. Improved case presentation is the key to increasing the number of implants placed and restored and could allow the field of dental implants to grow exponentially.

Here are three recommendations to increase dental implant case acceptance.

1. Make a commitment for both dentists and hygienists to recommend dental implants to every edentulous patient. The practice should begin to think of dental implants as a “standard” that is automatically offered to patients and, in most cases, it should be recommended as the “ideal” treatment. Don’t think about cost as much as what is best for the patient. Very few patients would agree to have a less expensive hip replacement in order to save money.

Dental implants should become an automatic part of the practice culture. Everyone in the office (including the front desk) should understand them and be positive about the high quality they provide and the quality-of-life enhancement the patient will receive.

2. Identify three key benefits of dental implants, unique to each patient, and then repeat those benefits at least three times in the presentation. Adults learn in threes. Too many practices overemphasize the technical factors of implants rather than the benefits. You might choose to focus on comfort, convenience, retention, longevity, eating, smiling, the more natural feel, etc. Patients need to understand the benefits in order to make a decision, especially when they consider implants to be a complex or unfamiliar procedure.

3. Be sure that every patient knows, prior to hearing any fees, that there are several financial options including patient financing. As I’ve stated time and again in numerous seminars, “In the end it always comes down to money.” This is normal and to be expected. If the practice simply announces a very high fee for implant dentistry, that’s the last thing many patients hear. If you begin the fee discussion by letting patients know that there are several financial options available that will help them to afford treatment, they will be more open to accepting your recommendations. Dental implants are a growth field but have the potential to grow exponentially faster. The key is to begin to think of dental implants as a standard and often the ideal treatment. As this confidence grows within the culture of a practice, you can then implement excellent techniques, such as those described above, to increase dental implant case acceptance. In the world of win-win, the patient wins, and the practice wins.

Dr. Roger P. Levin

When recommending implants as a standard offering, Dr. Eddie Scher and Sarah Payne discuss other ways to guide patients to a safer and successful experience. See the article here.