Discretionary dentistry: A growing trend for private practice

Now more than ever, patients are demanding discretionary dental treatments. Where just a few decades ago dentistry was seen primarily as an avenue to better oral health, it is now seen as a way to improve quality of life.

Dentistry’s shift from a needs-based service to a wants-based service can be attributed to several factors. One is the advancement of science. Whether teeth whitening, porcelain veneers or implants, many common treatments were simply not as attainable as they are today.

Another shift has occurred in the cultural attitudes of the public: People now place more value on non-health services that dentistry can provide. Strategic counselors at The Dentists Service Company see firsthand how this significant cultural shift has also resulted in an increased demand for discretionary services. “Dentists have the ability to do so many things they couldn’t do 30 years ago, 10 years ago or even five years ago,” said Michael Perry, DDS, TDSC strategic counselor. “They have the ability to change people’s quality of life in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I started in dentistry.”

Consumers are more educated and there is more emphasis on personal appearance. In addition, the baby boomers who would benefit most from many discretionary services have the financial resources to obtain them. As they get older, they want the higher quality of life that modern dentistry can provide.

From a business perspective, it often makes sense to offer or expand discretionary services, but the most successful practices know that this is a complex decision. Oftentimes, a dentist may simply want to increase practice performance but doesn’t know where to start.

Aside from ensuring the appropriate continuing education and clinical skills, there are a number of other factors to consider, including patient demand and demographics, capacity, production goals and improvement of business systems. Dentists often don’t know where to start, let alone how to organize and lead this kind of practice transition.

Additionally, strong communication skills are critical to the successful implementation or expansion of discretionary services within a dental practice. Both dentists and staff should be trained on how to communicate the value of these services with patients and how they would fit within an overall treatment plan. Because discretionary services often have a higher out-of-pocket cost for patients, it is important to be able to create value and set financial expectations for each area of the treatment plan.

Discretionary services have the potential to be a differentiator for the practice, but this also means that dentists must be open to shifting the way they market themselves. It is important to analyze what the competition in the area is offering and also ensure that there is demand among the existing or potential customer base. This front-end research is an essential component to ensuring marketing spend is efficient and effective.

The discretionary treatment trend is already providing more value to patients and the profession. Dentists have an opportunity to obtain and utilize more advanced training and realize the professional satisfaction and personal fulfillment of changing a patient’s life for the better.

The demand for discretionary services is a positive trend for dentists, not only because it contributes to a practice’s sustainability and growth, but also because it gives dentists the opportunity to help patients improve their quality of life.

The Dentists Service Company specializes in group purchasing and practice management services, helping dentists practice on their own terms through supply savings and dedicated marketing, human resources and practice advising expertise. Learn more at tdsc.com.

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