Is Cosmetic Dentistry Dying?

“Family Dentistry” More Profitable Than “Cosmetic Dentistry”

Is cosmetic dentistry dying, or is it just in hibernation for the recession? There is no doubt that consumer interest in cosmetic dentistry, as judged by searches on Google, has seen a steady decline. (Red arrow below.) The interesting thing is that the decline goes all the way back to 2004, the first year that statistics were kept. This decline progressed even in the face of a steady increase in news media references to cosmetic dentistry. (Green arrow below.)

cosmetic dentistry trends

What this tells us is that even while the dental industry was beating the drum, consumers weren’t being swayed by the hype. The question is: has the dental industry exhausted the consumer demand for cosmetic treatments?

Let’s look at “Tooth Whitening,” another segment of the industry that has seen a tremendous growth in the last few years. Again, we see a significant drop in consumer interest.

tooth whitening web searches

Now let’s contrast this with the results for “Dentistry” in general. Interest in dentistry is slightly up over the last four years.

dentistry search trends

Now for the big one! Interest in the term “Dentist” (as found in search terms like “Dentist Chicago” or “Dentist Miami”) has been steadily going up for the last four years. This has been understandably tempered with a slight drop in the last six months starting with the collapse of the financial markets. Overall, this tells us that consumers are looking towards the internet to learn more about dentistry and to find a dentist in their area.

dentist web trends

What it says about cosmetic treatments is more troubling. We are seeing a long-term drop in consumer interest that transcends the current economic recession. Further, we are seeing this drop in cosmetic interest in the face of a dental industry that has geared up tremendously over the same period with increased doctor training, better materials, equipments and massive marketing. It is not a pretty picture.

Cosmetic Dentistry: How Much Should You Rely on It?

“Family Dentist” vs. “Cosmetic Dentist” – The Bottom Line

Over the last month we have conclusively demonstrated that consumer demand for cosmetic dentistry is in a long-term decline, and it’s shrinking even more rapidly in the face of our prolonged recession. What should you do with this information?

If you are clearly established in your community as a cosmetic dentist, and at least 20% of your production is cosmetic-based, there is no doubt that you should continue to actively market and promote your cosmetic service. However, I would be skeptical of making any large-scale investments in cosmetic dental institutes or equipment in 2009.

If you are not clearly established, regardless of the local competition, 2009 is not the year to forge your marketing position as “The Local Cosmetic Dentist to the Stars.” In a recessionary market, fundamental family dentistry is where you want to put your marketing dollars!

Death by Signage

The first thing to do is decide what kind of image you want in your community. Over the years, cosmetic gurus and their institutes have brainwashed thousands of dentists into changing their practice signage to read “John Doe, D.D.S. Cosmetic Dentistry.”

Declaring “Cosmetic Dentistry” as your sole marketing focus kills off about 20-30% of your annual production potential. The average American looks at your sign and says, “I’ve got a spouse and two kids. I don’t need a fancy Cosmetic Dentist; I need a Family Dentist.”

Over the last 20 years, I’ve changed dozens of dental signs from “Cosmetic Dental God” to “29th Street Dental Care.” Guess what? It’s added 25% annual production from new patients who declared, “Why, Dr. Doe, I didn’t know you treated regular families!” (Click here for more info on designing a dental sign.)

Even worse is when you declare that you are a practitioner of “Aesthetic Dentistry” or insist on spelling it “Esthetic Dentistry.” I’ll give you two-to-one odds that 90% of the people in North America could not give you a reasonable explanation of what an “Aesthetic Dentist” is or does. I once spent an hour convincing a client that he really didn’t want to build a 20′ x 5′ sign saying “Seattle Dental Arts.” What does that even mean to consumers? “Dental Arts” is tooth painting in the mind of the consumer, and it’s death by signage to your practice.

What Does the Research Say?

By this point I’ve alienated a good number of you with this rant. However, unlike most dental marketing pontificators, I like to take some time to do some real research. Below is a graph from Google on what people (i.e., dental consumers) are searching for in relation to Dentistry or Dentist. I limited the results to those with a minimum of 100 queries and deleted specific geographic phrases.

Dental search terms online

What does this tell us? The phrases “Aesthetic Dentistry” and “Esthetic Dentistry” were searched either uniquely or as part of a larger search (i.e., Chicago Aesthetic Dentistry) a total of 6,300 times. Compare this to the other top 16 phrases with a count of of 337,430. This is a ratio of 68 to 1 against “Aesthetic Dentistry.” Another way to look at it is that “Aesthetic Dentistry” accounts for less than 2% of all the searchers related to “Dentist / Dentistry,” making it the equivalent of throwing yourself under the marketing bus.

Next week we will analyze these numbers in more depth and learn why you want to be a family dentist in 2009!

Death by Aesthetic Dentistry

How You Label Your Dental Practice Makes a Huge Difference

Last week we drove a stake through the heart of “Aesthetic” or “Esthetic” as marketing terms to describe your style of dentistry. For the New Year, I’ll be a little kinder to the term “Restorative Dentistry.”

cosmetic dental marketing terms

Restorative Dentistry” ranks number five on our list of top results for descriptive marketing phrases with more than one hundred responses per month. But let’s stop and think about this result for a moment. That’s about 108 searches a month per state! Of all the people searching for a dentist in your state, only 108 referenced “Restorative Dentistry” in their search request. This is not a marketing term on which to stake your practice’s or family’s financial future in the tough months ahead.

Now, some of you are thinking “Cosmetic Dentistry” is still a great marketing term, given there are 135,000 queries, versus only 90,400 for “General Dentistry.” So let’s segment just the “Dentistry” results. I’ll even include the 1,900 people who used the misspelling of “Cosmetic Denistry,” and “Family Cosmetic Dentistry” on the cosmetic side of the equation.

cosmetic dentistry SEO

Let’s compare “Cosmetic” to “Family.”

family dentistry and general dentists

The results favor “Family / General Dentistry,” but not by much. The remaining issue is this: are you going to refer to yourself as a “Family-Friendly” dental practice or a “General” practice? Well, unless your state laws require you to use the term “General Dentistry,” I would strongly suggest using “Family” or “Family-Friendly Dentistry” to cast your marketing net as wide as possible. Further, how many of you want to be one of those “General Dentists” doing “General Dentistry?”

What does this mean for your 2009 marketing? The answer is simple: context.

If you are using signage, you should make reference to “Family Dentistry.” If you have enough space on your sign, use both terms (“Family & Cosmetic Dentistry”), but lead with the more economically friendly “Family” terminology in these recessionary times. (Click here for more details on dental sign design.)

The same holds true for Yellow Pages phone book display and newspaper ads. Lead with “Family Dentistry,” and follow up with “Cosmetic,” “Implants” or “Sedation.”

In terms of dental website marketing for local practices, there are still more than enough people searching for “Cosmetic Dentistry” in conjunction with “Your City Name,” so it makes financial sense to have a specific geo-targeted site for cosmetics.

Because of the way the search engines list results, it is still cost-effective to have multiple dental websites that are each targeted at a different segment of the dental market: Family, Cosmetics, Implants, Sedation, Ortho, etc. Complete Internet campaigns including a local website, directory listing and custom monthly patient email newsletter start at just $280 a month and drop to as low as $160 each for multiple websites.

It’s not hard to justify expanding your Internet marketing when just one additional new patient will generally pay for a full year of marketing. The reality is that you will probably average – worst case – one additional new patient a month. It makes for a great dental marketing ROI in a recessionary market.

Have a Great New Year!
Jim

Your Dentist Is Probably Also a Pediatric Dentist (video)

Pediatric dentists offer family dentistryBeing a pediatric dentist isn't so different from being a general dentist. In this survey, we found that 86% of dentists say their practices offer pediatric dentistry. Only 14% said they do not treat children under age 14.

“We treat kids, but most of our dental marketing is geared toward adults 35-65," said one dentist. "We don't turn kids away, but we don't encourage them either."

"Family dentistry is more fun!" declared a pediatric dentist. "Dentistry for children leads to orthodontics which leads to wisdom teeth which leads into restorative and cosmetic dentistry."

Read more about pediatric dentists: Does your dental practice encourage pediatric patients?

Being a Dentist is the Best Job in the US

Being a Dentist is the Best Job in the USBeing a dentist is the best job to have in 2013, according to U.S. News.

Last week, U.S. News released their list of the 100 Best Jobs for 2013.

The criteria for the occupations that made the list are jobs that offer great employment opportunities, a good salary, a manageable work-life balance, and job security.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that employment of dentists is expected to grow by 21% from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Dentists will continue to see an increase in public demand for their services as studies continue to link oral health to overall health.

Part of this growth is expected to come from the aging baby-boom generation who are predicted to need more complicated dental work as they continue to age. The number of dentists is not expected to keep pace with this increased demand for boomer dental services.

Rural dentists continue to decline throughout the U.S. The ADA’s Dental Health Policy Analysis Series reports that almost 90% of all dentists are located in metropolitan areas; less than 1% are located in rural areas. About 8% of U.S. counties have no active dentist practicing within the county.

Data from the ADA reveals that total predoctoral enrollment was at its highest level during the late 1970s through the early 1980s, with peak enrollment of 22,842 in the 1980-81 academic year. In the last ten years, first-year predoctoral enrollment has only risen an average of 1.7% annually while the demand for dental services has risen dramatically since the 1980s.

Further increasing the demand for more dentists is the projection that beginning in 2014, as the baby-boomer dentists start to retire, the number of practicing dentists will decline dramatically while the U.S. population continues to increase.

Ignored in the U.S. News 100 Best Job list is the fact that dental students are graduating from dental school with increasingly burdensome amounts of educational debt.

The American Dental Education Association reports that in 2007 the average for all dental school graduates with debt averaged $172,627, those graduating from a public school averaged $148,777, while those graduating from private/state-related schools averaged $206,956. New dentists are entering the workforce carrying student debt loads not previously seen by entry level dentists at any time in the history of dental care.

Dentists, what are your thoughts about dentistry as a career?

Do you think being a dentist is the best job in the U.S.?

To read more on this story see: The 100 Best Jobs

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