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Dental care is still worth spending money on

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  Posted by: The Probe      9th August 2020

Whenever patients are surveyed about the reasons why they avoid going to the dentist, “cost” is always up there, alongside a fear of pain and dental phobia. The cost of dental treatment has long been a concern, with individuals using it as a rationale for why even routine care is out of their reach. In 2019, after the charges for NHS dental services were increased by 5 per cent, research was commissioned which revealed that nearly a third of Brits were sacrificing dental visits because of rising costs (for context, in 2017, similar research found that money was behind just 17 per cent of non-attendance).[i]

Also in 2019, the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that 1.7 million wrongly issued fines for claiming free treatment had been overturned in England since 2014.[ii] You can find articles dating back several years claiming how NHS patients have long felt confused by dental charges, which put them off attending. [iii]

Of course, these headlines are from last year, before the world turned upside down. If cost was a barrier then, surely dental care has slipped down the list of financial priorities for even more people, including private patients.

The value of oral health

The long-term value of oral health is more than a fair return on the cost, or “expense”, of dental maintenance and treatment. That is how a clinician sees things, anyway. But with many patients facing all kinds of challenges and the expectation of an economic downturn, how do we get this message across?

Good oral health, like good general health, is a desirable commodity. You will have patients who have always valued it and will be happy to continue investing in it. They understand that regular routine maintenance appointments can intercept a problem early and prevent the need for invasive (and expensive) treatment further down the line. So, by spending money now, they are saving money later.  

The test for practices is to optimise value so that, even if their circumstances have changed, patients do not perceive dental care as an expense that can be delayed or avoided altogether. Even before 2020, if you were recommending root canal therapy as the best course of action, you may have been faced with the statement, “I might just leave it for now,” by someone who was trying to minimise their spending. If the pain from pulpitis isn’t chronic, they might decide they are able to manage it at home. The internet is both a friend and foe to dentists and, if even a “regular” is now trying to keep dental costs down, they can go online to find a justification for not going ahead. Endodontic therapy has an unfair reputation in the non-dental media; it is painful, your face will swell up, you’ll probably need retreatment at even more expense! The reality is that when performed by a specialist, root canal treatment is overwhelmingly likely to give a stable result, as well as being the most efficient way to save a tooth, get a patient out of pain and restore them to good health. This represents great value.

Communicate your worth

Going forward, dental practices must be able to communicate the worth of every treatment, from routine check-ups to complex procedures. The benefits of attendance must be made clear – maybe it is now time to think about marketing your services differently, in a value-driven way, by focusing on the positive advantages of investing in oral health at your practice. With packed waiting rooms and back-to-back appointments being a thing of the past, in the short term at least, take the opportunity to spend more time with each patient and build a relationship based on trust and communication. Listen to their worries and fears, answer them with empathy and compassion, yet be clear about what you recommend, based on your experience and expertise. If they feel there is a connection, this will increase patient loyalty as they will feel cared for and – yes – valued.

Value means value for money, too. Dental plans will ease the burden, but clinicians should use high-value tools and materials so treatment can be efficient and costs kept down, with no compromise to results. For endodontic specialists, the HyFlex™ EDM file system, from COLTENE, has been developed so only one or two files are needed for canal preparation. This makes them a great-value option for your practice and these benefits can be passed on to your patients.

All dental care providers are facing unprecedented times and now is the time to engage with patients so that they understand the real “cost” of delaying or avoiding treatment. Add value to every appointment by letting them know that they are in the hands of a skilled and caring dental team, who only uses the highest quality tools and materials, and who is invested in keeping them in good oral health for life.

To find out more about COLTENE, visit www.coltene.com

email info.uk@coltene.com or call 01444 235486.

 

Author: Nicolas Coomber COLTENE  National Account & Marketing Manager

 

[i] Increasing costs provoke fall in dental visits. Oral Health Foundation, 16 August 2020. Link: https://www.dentalhealth.org/news/increasing-costs-provoke-fall-in-dental-visits (accessed May 2020).

[ii] NHS fines for 1.7 million people overturned, watchdog finds. BBC, 14 May 2020. Link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30852261(accessed May 2020).

[iii] Dentists not clear about costs, says Which? BBC, 19 January 2015. Link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30852261 (accessed May 2020).


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