Free Bleaching = Practice Growth
There is no denying that dental whitening is popular among consumers. Virtually all adults believe that a great smile makes people more attractive to the opposite sex, more likely to appear successful and intelligent, and more likely to feel better about themselves. 1 When asked what they would most like to improve about their smile, the most common response by far from those surveyed by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry was ?whiter and brighter teeth.?2 In 2003, an article in the New York Times reported that Americans spent $297 million on home-use whitening products.3 By 2007, Americans had increased their spending to more than $1.4 billion on over-the-counter (OTC) whitening products. But while consumers have embraced OTC whitening, many also report that they are suffering ill effects caused by misusing or overusing these products in an effort to achieve the results they desire.4 Over-thecounter whitening systems do not have the immediately effective results provided by the breadth of options available to dental professionals, and may, in some cases, have adverse effects (like uneven banded whitening across the teeth) that need to be corrected by a dentist experienced in dental whitening.
Free Bleaching = Practice Growth
Other popular cosmetic dental treatments, including bonding, enamel shaping, and veneers, can be used to correct dramatic dental defects that cannot be satisfactorily addressed with whitening alone. But dentist supervised teeth whitening remains one of the safest, least invasive, and most effective options for creating the bright and sparkling smiles that will enhance the lifestyles of your patients?and can bring new sources of revenue into your practice.
Free Bleaching for Life
As a practice-builder, teeth whitening should be a no-brainer. Virtually every patient is a good candidate for some form of whitening technique. Whitening the teeth of your staff is a good initial way of showing how great a whiter smile can be?and a way of advertising the service to patients. Many new practices offer some complimentary whitening to attract patients, and established practices have used offers of free whitening to bring new patients through the door. One dentist, Dr. Jaimee Morgan of Salt Lake City, has expanded on this idea to offer free whitening to all her patients for as long as they are her patients. In effect, patients who visit Dr. Morgan for twice-a-year cleanings are eligible to receive free bleaching for life. Dr. Morgan recently opened a new practice, in the process closing 3 satellite practices and moving everything to the new location. ?Although there had been satellite offices, this really was a new practice in a new area, so not all the existing patients came to the new office. Our first thought was that we would offer free whitening to bring in new people who might not know us. But it seemed like kind of a slam to our loyal patients that only the new people would be getting the free whitening. Offering it to everyone has brought us about 50% of our current patients?and has really helped in keeping our existing patients happy.?
Better than Advertising
Before offering the free bleaching, Dr. Morgan said that the practice advertised in all the usual ways: through a display ad in the phone book and by placing a lot of local advertising in newspapers and direct-mail shopper guides. She even advertised at the movies. ?You know those ads, where you?re waiting for the movie and they throw the ad on the screen? We did one of those. It was very costly.? Yet with the exception of the yellow pages, none of this advertising had much noticeable effect. Offering the free bleaching has been a boon. ?It?s worked out well for us because it provides us with fantastic word of mouth. Our patients help to bring in new patients. Your patients? smiles look better, which makes your dentistry look better, and people want to know, hey, where do you go for that pretty smile? And for what we pay out in bleaching materials we get a great return?it?s better than any other form of advertising that we do.?
For the free bleaching program, Dr. Morgan offers an inoffice power bleaching session or 12 syringes of a 10% carbamide peroxide solution for take-home bleaching for each patient who wishes to participate. She says, ?We want to make the program adaptable to what each individual wants, whether they want the power bleach or the take-home product. It?s just as easy either way for us and if it makes them happy, well, that?s better for us and for them.? For patients who want to maintain their white smiles, Dr. Morgan offers a bleaching maintenance program, for which she charges a fee. ?We didn?t want to get into nickel and diming our patients by selling the product out of the office, but we did want to provide them with the product if they wanted it, so this seemed like a good compromise. We also provide the adaptable bleaching trays, and if they want a custom tray we are also happy to sell them those as well.?
Bleaching and Beyond
Dr. Morgan says she?s found that patients who have whiter smiles look for other ways to improve the way their teeth look. ?Whitening tends to prompt the patient to think more cosmetically about their teeth. They?ll say, ?wow, they?re so white, they look great! Now, let?s go and fix that little chip in that tooth or fill that space, or let?s get them straightened.?? Bleaching opens the door to may practice growth opportunities. It can help you retain the patients you already have and create word-of-mouth to attract new patients. And the positive results of bleaching can encourage patients to ask for other esthetic and restorative treatments to continue improving their smiles.
1. Patzer GL. Reality of physical attractiveness. J Esthet Dent. 1994;6;35-58.
2. American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Smile Survey, Chicago, 2004.
3. Ives N. The media business: advertising; the giants of tooth whitening see spinoff products expanding a fast-growing market. New York Times. April 29, 2003.
4. Mapes D. Seriously, people, your teeth are white enough! MSNBC.com, Jan. 17, 2007. Available at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15309784/ wid/11915773?GT1= 8676. Accessed June 30, 2009.