By: Elvis Dahl
Before I started working in the dental laboratory industry, I had no idea how restorations got made or who made them. It’s hard to imagine that something I am incredibly passionate about today did not even register on my radar back then.
I have always gone to the dentist on a regular basis and had a nice and friendly relationship with the front desk .Visiting the hygienist, who I spent hours with, was like seeing an old friend every six months. She could tell me anything negative about my teeth and I would explain in detail everything I have noticed about my oral health. I hate to admit it now, but before working at a dental laboratory, seeing the doctor was like Darth Vader himself coming to oversee the progress. I was nervous and worried that he would find something wrong. It was difficult for me to work up the courage to talk to him about options. He alone would hold my dental future.
Now when I talk to doctors and their team professionally on a regular basis, I find it important to reflect back to my former self remembering that the average patient has no idea that someone other than the dentist creates the dental restoration. It never fails that the conversation will turn to larger, more complex cases like the All-on-4® procedure or the Conus Concept®. Both are absolutely wonderful restorations that can change a patient’s life and a nice way for the dentist to profit and expand their client base. That is why it is such a popular topic and why I always emphasize the importance of teaming oneself with a knowledgeable dental laboratory or dental technician and a good oral surgeon to help on your first few patients.
So now I put a good percentage of my energy helping dental offices learn how to find and accept these kinds of cases. There are many times where I would ask a doctor if they are doing or are considering doing a full mouth restoration. The common reply is “Isn’t that like $25,000?!” and then they make a face like I just ran into their car while the staff all look at me with their jaws on the floor. If that is the attitude the doctor or staff is portraying when talking to a patient when discussing options, I can see why so many people are going to a “big box” dental implant practice for help. During the conversation, I emphasize the three most important things when growing a large case patient base.
Educate yourself. Educate your staff. Educate your patient.
You must remember that before money is even discussed, the patient must be “compatible” for the type of restoration that is offered. It can be very discouraging for a patient to be offered a fixed hybrid type restoration only to find out that they don’t have enough vertical dimension or clearance when it comes time for the final prosthesis. There are many study groups and seminars that will discuss the growing need of restoring edentulous patients with implants and how to determine if the patient is ideal. Every implant company is happy to guide and instruct you on every aspect of the procedure (as long as you use their system!). A good and experienced dental laboratory will have a dedicated technician that will be chairside not only during the conversion, but for every step along the way, the first few times you do it.
It is also important to understand your cost up front before you present the option to the patient.
- What is the dental laboratory bill?
- How much is the surgery?
- What is the cost of keeping the restoration clean with new replaced parts?
Most dental laboratories and oral surgeons have worked up a “flat, one price” fee to simplify and help with patient case acceptance. Having confidence in yourself with knowledge and a respectable dental laboratory will allow you to prove to a patient the benefits of any restoration.
Educate your staff.
If I was to call your office today and ask if you do “Teeth in a day” what would they tell me? How about “Snap on smiles”? “Fixed Dentures”? “Screwed in Bridge?” When a denture wearing patient is in for a cleaning, does
your hygienist know to listen to the patient to see if they might be interested in fixed options?
EVERYONE on staff needs to be able to turn every call or walk-in into a lifelong patient. Just because a patient calls for something you don’t do, doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Your staff needs to know what to listen for so a potential large case doesn’t walk next door or down the street. Our dental laboratory and most implant companies will send someone over to help educate your staff on the key things to look for when evaluating potential large case patients. I recommend everyone participating in the discussion. You never know who the patient will feel most comfortable talking to.
Educate your patient.
What you are selling is a life changing, non-necessary restoration – and a very expensive one at that. I am surprised time and time again with the type of patient that has come up with the $25,000 (average cost in my area) to restore just one arch. You have to remember that the patient could be paying for a new car, a great vacation, or even college for a family member. It impacts everyone in the family and they should be involved in the discussion.
Tell the family that you are bringing the patient back to 90% of their chewing function, allowing them to enjoy life like when they were younger, and allowing them to choose from the whole menu and not just pick the “denture friendly” items. Remind them they will be able to talk and yell again for joy without the fear of a denture falling out. One of the biggest fears of a patient with failing dentition is ending up like a grandparent with a denture. Show them they now have an option. This is huge. This is life changing for a lot of people of all ages. In the end, it is important that they understand that the restoration is expensive, it takes time (no such thing as “teeth in a day”), and they will have to maintain and clean it for the rest of their lives.
There are many groups out there that push the team approach. A relationship between the doctor, oral surgeon, implant company, and the dental laboratory and dental technician. But to really increase case acceptance make your team bigger by adding in the office staff, the patient, and their family. It’s all about education and listening to the patient’s expectations.
Elvis Dahl is the Director of Operations for Somer Dental Laboratories, a laboratory that has seen dental technology advance many different ways in the last 35+ years. Focusing on customer service, Elvis sees the importance in a dental lab forming partnerships with dentist and working together to grow both businesses and to help patients. He loves meeting new clients to learn about doctors’ needs and educate them about the new and exciting ways that a dental laboratory can help their practice.
Elvis has a degree in Information Technology, is a NADL University graduate, a member of the NADL & CAL-LAB, SPEARS study club, and is currently a candidate to be on the 2018 Board of Directors for the NADL.