Cosmetic Dentistry, 2016 / 17
It's has been 30 years since dentists started bonding thin wafers of porcelain to the fronts of teeth. Who knew it would change our industry forever? Today, every general dentist is a cosmetic dentist. It is surely one of the most rewarding aspects of our profession. The bond created between patient and doctor, after performing this life-changing procedure on a patient, is one that can last forever.
There has been extensive education and research behind cosmetic dentistry, which has catapulted the industry forward. From the early bonding agents, and techniques taught in preparation and cementation, through the era of Pressed Ceramics and more invasive preparation in the 90's, DBA's etc all came full circle to "minimally invasive" dentistry. Also the way we communicate with patients, labs, and other dentists has changed drastically. When I first started practicing, smile design was done in front of the patient with polaroids, until polaroid stopped making the film! Digital SLR's, computer imaging to elaborate photo manipulation shot in raw format using programs like Photoshop. This too I believe is coming full circle. We're using quick iPhone photos and capturing the images we need to work efficiently.
So, today, what is needed to be successful in cosmetic dentistry? Understand that I come from a practice that was maybe one of the most producing in the world, and have thousands upon thousands of cases done over a 35 year span starting in 1982. Having been around some of the greatest educators of our time, traveling and learning and teaching with them, and putting all of this together I boil it down to 3 simple words: Skill, Personality, Experience.
First let's start with skill. No one is born with skill, you acquire skill through hard work. This is where the 10,000 hours comes in. I want to break "SKILL" down a little into smaller more digestible bites.
- The first is treatment planning. Treatment planning sets up the entire outcome of the case. The aesthetic, functional, longevity, ease of completion, and everything.
Every dentist will give a slightly different treatment plan, and it is THIS, in my mind, which separates one good dentist from a great one. Let's face it, after a certain point the dentistry is easy, its good treatment planning which is really key. You should create your own tailored work flow in your office space that suits you. The key factors are acceptance, longevity and patient satisfaction.
- The second "SKILL" factor is being a true designer. Can you look at someone and see how you want to change their smile which will impact overall facial harmony? That is the question for every patient you treat with cosmetic dentistry. And you really should be seeing the end before you have started, including tooth design, smile design, color, occlusion, everything.
- The third "SKILL" factor is understanding the complexities of the actual treatment. "How to do it" so to speak. There is a lot involved...preparation/preparation design, temporization, impression techniques, communication to the outcome, interdisciplinary knowledge, bonding, occlusion, maintenance, etc etc. Each case has it's own unique complexities. Only the experience of doing them over and over will give true insight as to how to improve each time.
Today, Digital Technology has been able to help train the dentist's eye, setting up a workflow and effectively communicating with patients. The "SKILL" you learn has to be made your own to suit how you want to practice.
Personality is the second key to being successful. Simply, the ability to treat your patients like people rather than patients.
In order to be effective, you have to understand what the patient wants, inform them of all of the possibilities, but give them what they want, as a person. Then quietly put your dentist cap on and make it work.
Too often I see dentists treating their patients like numbers. This is a very personal industry, we stick our hands in people's mouths with sharp instruments. It's amazing anyone lets us. If they are going to give us the trust, then lets give them the respect of listening and treating them like human beings. They don't need to know the dental background of everything we do, but they do deserve as little pain and discomfort as possible knowing the result is a good, lasting one.
"EXPERIENCE" is the final key to success. Meaning, what type of experience are you offering to your patients? What does your office look like? Sound like? Smell like? Is it clean, up to date, and comfortable?? And you and your staff?...what's the dress, attitude, does everyone have an idea of how the new patient experience works? Does your office have a new patient experience? You need one...one of luxury and efficiency.
In short, you need to create an experience from the first time patients call your office all the way through to their last post-op...it has to be a celebration of something life changing happening along the way. Create that and they can't help but tell everyone about the experience they had.
To summarize, there are a lot of technically talented dentists practicing. But don't be fooled into thinking that is the only criteria...that is the OBVIOUS ONE. Think outside of the box, treat patients like people, be creative, be artistic, but most of all, be yourself and create YOUR practice.
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