It was with much interest that I read the very important editorial, “Have we lost our way?” by Carlo Zanon (who is a very conscientious denturist and a cool dude) in the Fall 2003 edition of Denturism Canada, as well as the responses in the last issue and this one. It certainly provoked a lot of interest and some thoughtful reactions. Actually, it seems to me that it’s all a sign that your profession is part of an evolution taking place in the dental arena.
Dinosaurs are extinct
Evolution is necessary and inevitable for survival. In any profession, technology and cultures are moving into new realms daily. Our company is in a unique position to see some interesting trends because we have intensively consulted more than 250 dental offices and 80 denturist practices across Canada over the past 15 years. Dentists and denturists are both heading in new, exciting directions with the invention of newer materials and techniques.
With the technological advances being made lately, many dentists are moving away from making dentures. There is a heightened interest and focus on aesthetic, cosmetic and other advanced dental solutions. Therefore, a rapidly increasing number of dentists are referring all denture work to the denture specialists – you.
A less known factor in this denture migration is that dentists are receiving less and less training in the making of dentures, due to their increased need to focus on the many new dental advancements. The newer graduates, in fact, have often not made more than a single denture prior to graduating and being licensed as a dentist.
Another interesting trend is that many of our denturist clients are being approached by dentists and dental specialists for collaboration on implant supported dentures. These occurrences were virtually unheard of 10 years ago. Times are changing.
The Baby Boomer segment of the population, with their increased spending capabilities, are coming of age en-masse in terms of dentures. This will continue to create a higher demand for dentures. Boomers generally have higher expectations in terms of levels of service and quality. As a Boomer myself, I am no longer satisfied with the cheaper approach or the “standard” quality that my parents may have settled for. I want the best, and I look until I find it. Marketing has had to change as well in order for others like myself to perceive who offers the quality I am seeking.
The above factors all add up to a pretty rosy future for the denturist profession.
In the majority of the provinces in Canada, licensed denturists have the right to call themselves ‘denture specialists’. With this title comes the obligation and responsibility to provide the highest possible quality of service and denture that such a name portrays.
We all agree that what is best for the patient must be a primary concern for any practitioner. The questions are: Am I meeting the patient’s requirements and expectations? Am I knowledgeable enough to judge what is the best for my patient and produce the result? Do I feel that I am worthy of my fees? These all seem to be primary considerations which will influence what your fees should be.
Your patients and referring dentists will let you know whether you are measuring up or not. Either they will refer others, or they won’t. If you aren’t getting enough referrals from your patients or dentists (assuming that you have offered your services to them), then take a look at the quality of care that you are providing as well as the quality of your product and the appearance of your practice. Normally, you will find shortcomings in one or all of the above.
Our most progressive clients generally have excellent relationships with dentists in their area as well as with dental specialists who are involved in implant work. They also tend to devote a significant amount of time and money to continuing education, have immaculate, upscale looking practices, provide top quality care and service, make a very good quality denture, and charge appropriate fees.
Fees for a new role
Along with the evolutionary role change, service and care to the patient needs to rise to the occasion. As a result, your expenses may see an increase in terms of:
(1) Continuing Education: There is a responsibility to keep abreast of the technological advances being made in the field and provide your patients with ideal solutions and options.
(2) Staffing: The majority of denturists in the past did their own lab work and often considered themselves as mainly a lab technician. Many didn’t even have a receptionist (and some still don’t) . Today, a large percentage have found themselves hiring both a receptionist and a lab technician (or more) in order to become the clinician they always wanted to be, thus providing better quality care and faster service, all to the benefit of the patient.
(3) Equipment: With the technological advances comes the requirement for newer, more expensive equipment, as well as on-going replacement costs for existing equipment.
(4) Materials: The cost of teeth and other materials have also escalated along with the national rate of inflation. A lot of patients are no longer satisfied with “acceptable looking” dentures, but rather prefer the ultimate in naturalness and aesthetics, along with the best possible fit.
(5) Premises: Baby Boomers have more disposable income and expect higher standards in terms of the look of your practice and they will not refer other people to you if they found your office lacking an upscale aspect. Many denturists are creating aesthetically pleasing practices that are keeping up with the times.
Fees for your services will need to reflect all of the above criteria.
Eye on the future
Ultimately, Carlo was very right when he said in his editorial, “Let’s not forget the person we are looking to satisfy — our patient.” They too are evolving in their needs and the real game is to keep current and give them the highest quality possible.
Don’t be a dinosaur — embrace evolution!
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