The presentation of proposed dental treatment has been hampered by the absence of visual communication technologies. New high tech dentistry-related tools permit efficient production of case presentations for cosmetic dentistry and restorative dentistry. Bensalembucksdental.com describes how to create computer-based case presentations using Microsoft PowerPoint (Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA) and visual treatment proposals using Microsoft Word for Windows.

State-of-the-art cosmetic dentistry enables patients to enhance their natural beauty. The techniques and materials being used are significantly improved compared with those available a few years ago. Yet, with all the advances in dental technology, little has been achieved in the cosmetic dentistry marketing arena. Certainly, magnifying teeth on a television set by using an intraoral camera improves communication. Showing teeth alone does not begin to tap the billions of dollars patients are waiting to spend to enhance their smiles.

Marketing cosmetic dentistry involves building awareness, stimulating demand, and then closing the sale. Once a patient is in the chair, most cosmetic dentists obtain treatment acceptance. The purpose of this article is to illustrate how computer technology, combined with savvy marketing skills, reduces the time required to obtain patient acceptance, increases patient referrals, and generates new patients from technology-based external marketing.

Consider that certain norms in our society discourage people from talking about their dentists and teeth. The norm in our society is to offer condolences to anyone who is going to the dentist and perhaps make comments about how much one dislikes going to the dentist. A patient who raves about her wonderful, fulfilling and comfortable dental appointments is often met with guffaws and disbelief. Until society adopts new attitudes that are more consistent with modern dental care, people will tend to downplay positive dental experiences.

Technology tools, such as the computer-based patient case presentation, visual treatment proposal, and digital before-and-after photos, make patients enthusiastic, effective communicators about their own cosmetic dentistry. Patient enthusiasm is contagious and generates referrals.

The computer-based patient case presentation is similar to a custom slide show that is created with the computer and viewed on the computer monitor. Real-time production eliminates taking conventional film-based images, waiting for developing, and scheduling a separate visit for a consultation. Using the computer permits you to develop word slides that support the presentation.

Microsoft PowerPoint (Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA), the software used to create this presentation, is a full-featured, easy-to-use software program that is available through major computer outlets. Any full-featured presentation program can be used for the computer-based patient case presentation. The software allows you to create slide shows in a matter of minutes. I recommend that you create several standard slide show templates about various topics, such as veneers, bonding, or tooth whitening. Once created, a template can be personalized with a specific patient’s information in less than 5 minutes.

Segments from the new patient exam will be used to illustrate a computer-based patient case presentation. When the patient first arrives at the office, she or he is seated in the consultation room to view a brief presentation about what will happen during the visit. This prepares the patient for the exam, reduces anxiety, invites questions by educating the patient about dentistry, and sometimes reduces the time required by anticipating common questions and answering them during the presentation.

The presentation is customized by having the patient’s name appear in the lower right corner of every slide. The patient uses two arrow keys on a wireless remote control, much like a television remote, to move the slides forward or backward on the computer monitor.

Figure I shows the consultation room with a smile displayed on a 31 -inch monitor. The models on top of the monitor show the relative size of the computer image. The monitor is part of a Gateway 2000 Destination (Gateway 2000, North Sioux City, SD) computer system that is equipped with a wireless keyboard and remote mouse. A Destination system, complete with a fast Pentium (Intel, Santa Clara, CA) processor and CD-ROM costs $3500 to $4500, depending on the speed of the processor.

The large screen, irrespective of the images displayed, makes an impressive statement about how the practice uses technology. Patients are impressed and riveted to the images on the screen. Living in a video generation makes patients highly responsive to video-based stimuli.

Figure 2 shows a word slide created with Microsoft PowerPoint, a graphics presentation software package. The slide is shown as part of a 20-slide introduction to the new patient examination that prepares the patient for what occurs during the examination and allows the patient to formulate questions. This preparation reduces anxiety and familiarizes the patient with a presentation format that will be used to discuss the patient’s treatment needs.

One advantage of computerized case presentations is that they can be modified and customized instantaneously to reflect precisely what the patient requires. Images of the patient, illustrations taken from other multimedia case presentation tools, as well as images of cases similar to the patient’s case, can be incorporated in a matter of seconds.

Presentations can be printed on a color printer or black and white laser printer for the patient to take away from the office. Rather than give a meager color photo or a single-page treatment proposal, the patient departs with 10 to 20 pages of easy-to-understand, highly personalized information about his or her mouth, complete with images! A 20-page proposal, home care instructions, or explanation of treatment needs costs less than $1.50 in supplies costs. Most patients spend considerably more time reviewing documents in this format because they are personalized. An added benefit is that many patients share the document (every page has the doctor’s name to it) with other potential patents, which stimulates new patient referrals. Figures 3 and 4 illustrate examples of the take-home presentation.

The talk is cheap. Combine an intraoral camera with a Laser Printer and a $200 video capture device to create a knockout visual treatment proposal that makes patients say yes to treatment. Figures 5, 6, and 7 are samples of the computer-based presentation. Imagine building a new house. The architect gives you an itemized price list of materials and describes the roofline, how the daylight will stream through the windows, dimensions, elevations, and shapes of the rooms. The landscaper deftly articulates a litany of Latin plant species s she or he points to where the plantings will be located and how they complement the placement of the house. Would you feel comfortable that you are making the right decisions without seeing drawings or illustrations of the finished house and landscape? Would you spend an additional $1000 on trees if the landscaper showed you pictures of how they improved the house’s appearances? Each time you give a patient an itemized treatment proposal, she or he might react to procedure codes, descriptions, and fees just as you would to the architect’s materials list. Now, irrespective of your dental software or intraoral camera vendors, you can produce a simple, inexpensive, persuasive visual treatment proposal. One picture in the proposal could be the key to acceptance of the cosmetic treatment a patient desperately needs.

A visual treatment proposal incorporates intraoral and extraoral video pictures [2]. Sometimes it ‘includes pictures or illustrations captured from multimedia patients education products like Casey (Advanced Learning Technologies, Albany, OR), or Show-it (New Image, Carlsbad, CA). Compare the text-based reports and information you now give patients and referring doctors to the possibilities of integrating full-color video images into documents. The output can be produced on an inexpensive color printer ($800 to $1500) for $1.00 to $2.00 per page at the low end of the spectrum. Hewlett-Packard (Hewlett-Packard, Santa Clara, CA) recently introduced the HP-5M color laser printer, which produces incredible output on plain paper at a cost of $0.20 to $0.30 per page. The printer is priced from $5700 to $7500 depending on the features you select.

A visual treatment proposal takes 5 minutes to create and costs less than $1.00 to print on a laser printer. Use visual treatment proposals selectively. Because of the time involved, you won’t want a visual treatment proposal for everybody. You will need the following items to produce your own visual treatment proposal:

Once you have the right techniques and equipment, you may spend a couple of hours creating your first visual treatment proposals. You should be able to create a proposal in less than 5 minutes after 20 proposals.

The visual treatment proposal strengthens patients’ comprehension. Patients are often surprised, amazed, and sometimes appalled when they first see the true condition of their mouth with the aid of the intraoral video. Educated patients accept treatment. For less than $1.00 the visual treatment proposal, enhanced with your words and sketches, allows patients to accept treatment by studying and sharing visual information in the comfort of their own homes. Furthermore, it makes patients feel special and gives you the satisfaction that everyone in the practice has done an excellent job communicating with patients.

You will need a device that converts images displayed on a television monitor (analog video) into computer images (digital). This is called a digitizer and consists of a circuit board that goes inside your computer or an external electronic unit. You will also need special software that controls the digitizing process. Software is usually included with the package. The digitizer may be a component of your camera system (AcuCam PC, [New Image, Carlsbad, CA], and so forth). f not, you can purchase an image digitizer like Snappy, which costs $200. Almost all computer stores and mail-order computer companies stock Snappy. Keep in mind that the image digitizers included with intraoral camera systems have more features and better resolution than Snappy. A better solution than Snappy is a video capture card. This circuit board goes inside the computer, digitizes, images, and also displays the intraoral image on the computer screen, which now replaces the television monitor most intraoral cameras use (Snappy only displays a small black-and-white image on the computer screen until you “snap” the full color, image).

If you want to differentiate your practice so that patients recognize you as a leader in your profession, high-technology multimedia presentations are the most effective solution to maintaining and developing a thriving practice in the face of growing interference from insurance and governmental regulators. High-technology communication also creates strong barriers to entry by other practitioners because they have to match your level of marketing to be effective. Most practices take 2 to 3 years to fully implement high-technology marketing presentations into the practice. Once you jump on the learning curve and stay on it, nobody will be able to catch you.

Julia
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