Have you ever dreamed of owning your own business? Have you really thought about what it would take to operate a successful and profitable dental hygiene department? Most of us work in states that do not allow independent practice, but many of us are actually already operating our own small businesses within the dental practice. Veteran dental hygienists and recent graduates need to be keenly aware of their worth to the dental practice, and need to learn ways to secure their positions in the current economy. The best way to make your employer happy is to make him or her profitable. A profitable practice is created and maintained through effective marketing and sound business practices.
Dental practices usually implement external and internal marketing. Dentists hire marketing professionals to assist with external marketing. External marketing includes direct mail, Internet advertising, print advertising, and television and radio commercials. Dentists often prefer to concentrate on internal marketing, a less costly and often more effective form of marketing. Internal marketing is accomplished within the office by the entire dental team. The hygienist can be a key player in internal marketing. The business savvy dental hygienist understands marketing practices and his or her role in internal marketing. Your employer will appreciate your knowledge of internal marketing, and this can help you secure your job.
You are the product
It may sound a bit crazy, but you are the product. The next time you read an advertisement, think about what makes you remember the product. Marketing professionals use images and enticing words to describe their products. Marketers use strategic words to describe and promote professional services. The goal of the marketing professional is to create a desire in consumers to purchase a product or service.
Dental hygienists are in the unique position of being able to really get to know their patients. We often see the same patient every three months and know his or her likes and dislikes, medical and dental IQ, and sometimes life story. Hygienists are great assets to dental practices, and patient retention in the hygiene department is very dependent on a congenial and proficient dental hygienist. Health conscious patients (consumers) already understand the importance of maintaining regular hygiene appointments. Many patients are not health conscious and require education and motivation. Hygienists must market preventive services in a way that will make patients want to purchase them. Education with the use of great verbal communication skills and visual aids will accomplish these goals. Many product companies such as Johnson and Johnson (Arestin) and Tolmar (Atridox) offer valuable visual aids to assist hygienists when they explain necessary periodontal treatment.
The caries process and caries prevention are easy to explain with support material from NovaMin® Technologies Inc. NovaMin is a breakthrough technology in remineralization products and caries prevention. The NovaMin patented active ingredient (calcium sodium phosphosilicate) combines minerals that naturally occur in body chemistry. NovaMin continuously reacts with saliva and water to form new HCA (hydroxy carbonate apatite). The HCA layer produced from using NovaMin is durable and substantial and will occlude dentinal tubules, relieve sensitivity, whiten teeth, and reduce gingivitis. NovaMin is currently available in many products used daily in the office, such as Dentsply's NUPRO NUSolutions. NuSolutions offers prophy paste with NovaMin, and a 5,000 ppm fluoride plus NovaMin toothpaste. Sultan's Topex® ReNew and Omni's SootheRx also contain NovaMin. Sylc™ remineralizing prophy powder is 100% NovaMin, and is formulated to clean, remineralize, and desensitize in a one-step polishing procedure. NovaMin's signature brand, Oravive, includes a great tasting tooth revitalizing paste. More information is available at www.novamin.com.
Sealants offer preventive benefits to all ages. Bosworth's Aegis® pit and fissure sealant combines ACP (amorphous calcium phosphate) to help remineralize enamel while sealing pits and fissures. Companies such as Spry provide information on the benefits of using xylitol in caries prevention. Web sites such as www.DentistryIQ.com offer a wealth of product information and links to educational material that can be used to market your services. Improved communication with your patients translates to better acceptance of services. Pleased patients will refer new patients to your office. Remember, you are the product and the service and you need to market yourself!
We hear a lot today about branding. Branding is used to help the consumer remember a product, service, or even person. Branding is about getting patients to see you as the only one that can provide a solution to their problem. The best way to build your personal brand is to ask your loyal customers what it is about your practice that keeps them coming back. Once you understand what makes your practice stand out, you can communicate these strong points to your existing and prospective patients. Your brand resides within the minds and hearts of your customers and is the sum total of their experiences. Patients have various needs and preferences, and you can cater your routine to suit them. All patients want a personable, expedient, and painless experience. The hygienist that strives to deliver great experiences for patients will increase patient referrals and generate income for the practice. Your employer will appreciate your interest in his or her business.
The cutting-edge hygienist
An effective tool in internal marketing is to offer new services and products to existing and prospective clients. Dentistry is an exciting and constantly evolving field. Patients appreciate new technologies that can improve their dental health and smile. Hygienists that research and offer the latest services, technologies, and products will impress their patients and further increase referrals. Hygienists realize that the cornerstone of a great hygiene department is treating periodontal disease, preventing caries, and screening for oral cancer. An established protocol for periodontal services and locally applied antibiotics should be standard for all hygiene departments. An understanding of CAMBRA and minimally invasive dentistry is essential to treating and preventing caries. The RDH Web site, www.rdhmag.com, offers education on new products and services. Implementing some of these new ideas can help boost patient referrals.
A great way to boost production and help your patients improve their smiles is to offer Invisalign. The Invisalign-certified dentist can offer alternatives to traditional orthodontics. Invisalign uses customized, clear, thin, plastic trays called aligners, and a proven system to straighten teeth without wires and brackets. Your adult and teen patients will appreciate this valuable service, and straight teeth can lead to better periodontal health and improved patient motivation. Services such as sleep apnea devices and occlusal guards appeal to many patients, who will realize that we're trying to treat their overall health as well as their dental health.
Package it all neatly
Many dental practices provide business cards as referral tools. A referral brochure describes what makes your practice unique — the services and products that your practice offers is a very effective way to increase patient referrals. Another marketing technique is placing posters of products and services at patient eye level so they actually ask you what is available. These images open the door to your presentation, as well as eventual patient acceptance of the products and services your practice offers. A small book with short biographies and photographs of team members and the doctors can be used to familiarize patients with their providers. These tools help accomplish the goals of internal marketing.
The hygienist that has a grasp of marketing concepts and practices is an invaluable member to any dental practice. Package yourself and your services in a way that will keep your patients and employer satisfied and coming back for more. Satisfied patients and employers usually lead to a content, fulfilled hygienist. Remember, you are the product, you are the brand, and you are in charge!
About the Author
Keverly Sugden, RDH, BASDH, is an author, speaker and practicing dental hygienist. She is an adjunct faculty member. She has published articles on group practice management and MI dentistry. Keverly is a member of the American Dental Hygienists' Association and works with local legislators on access to care for children. She has written a training program for large group dental practices and has organized corporately sponsored continuing education courses for dental hygienists. Keverly can be contacted at [email protected].