Cosmetic dentistry has never been more in demand. According to a recent report by Grand View Research, the global cosmetic dentistry market is forecast to be worth a staggering US$27.4 billion (AUD$35.4 billion) by 2028 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 5 per cent.
In Australia, high disposable incomes combined with social media-driven demand for the perfect smile are two factors contributing to this impressive growth.
At the same time, rapidly evolving digital dentistry technology, techniques and materials are forcing the costs associated with cosmetic dentistry down — and bringing advanced cosmetic dentistry techniques into general dentistry practices.
This presents an enormous business opportunity for general dental practices to tap into cosmetic dentistry’s stellar revenue potential.
The question of how to become a cosmetic dentist is not as complex as you may think. Thanks to new digital technologies and techniques, cosmetic treatments that were once referred out to specialised cosmetic practitioners, can now be offered by general dental practices as part of a patient’s routine oral care.
From veneers to simple tooth whitening treatments, the friendly neighbourhood dental practice can now become a high-tech cosmetic clinic with a new range of treatments on the menu. And there’s relatively little investment required.
The key is to partner with a good cosmetic dental lab. At Avant, we’ve already invested in the digital technology that will underpin your cosmetic treatments, and can set up simple workflows that will transform your general dental practice into a cutting-edge cosmetic clinic.
“There’s much more awareness of cosmetic dentistry today than in previous years,” he says. “Cosmetic products like Invisalign have brought in a lot of patients. Tooth whitening has also become very mainstream.”
Dr Dey explains that Invisalign and over-the-counter tooth whitening kits are only the tip of the iceberg. He says there is opportunity for dentists to take cosmetic dentistry much further.
“Invisalign and teeth whitening kits have been great for getting people thinking about cosmetic dentistry. But the results you can achieve with products like that are limited. I find that many of my patients have tried those, and come to me to talk about further cosmetic treatments such as veneers.”
And Dr Dey believes this growing demand for cosmetic treatments will continue to increase in years to come.
“Social media is playing an important role,” he says. “People are looking at their teeth more in the selfies they post, and seeing the results of cosmetic dentistry on social media influencers they follow.”
Dr Dey has also found that the COVID-19 pandemic has played a similar role.
“Many people have been doing a lot of video conferencing during the pandemic,” he says. “That means there are huge parts of the population who are now seeing themselves on video for hours every day. They are noticing their teeth more, and are thinking about cosmetic treatments.”
Dr Evan Stacey, lead dental surgeon at Profilo Dental Care in Newcastle, says that this increasing demand for cosmetic dentistry is an enormous opportunity for general dental practices.
“The general dentist is really in the best position to market cosmetic dentistry,” he says. “Cosmetic dentistry is usually multidisciplinary. Patients may want to straighten their teeth with Invisalign. But depending on the state of their dentition, they may need crowns or veneers to get the result they’re looking for.”
That’s where the general dental practitioner can really add value. Dr Stacey says the dentist’s mission should centre around finding — and treating — the root cause behind the patient’s cosmetic issue.
“As a general dentist, you have all the background on the patient, so you’re well placed to find the root cause and ensure the cosmetic work doesn’t break down over time. For example, the patient might have worn teeth due to an alignment or jaw function issue, so you need to fix that before you do the cosmetic work.
“It’s about communicating with the patient that their teeth are like this because of this reason, and whatever cosmetic work they invest in is just going to be damaged down the line unless they correct the root cause.”
So the cosmetic dentistry opportunity for dentists isn’t solely about offering cosmetic treatments such as teeth whitening and veneers. It’s also about taking a holistic view of a patient’s overall dentition, and helping them to understand the issues they need to correct in order to achieve the best cosmetic results.
The opportunities cosmetic dentistry offers to general dental practices are clear. But before you explore how to become a cosmetic dentist, you need to identify the types of cosmetic dentistry procedures you may be able to offer.
Some common types of cosmetic dentistry you might consider adding to your dental general practice include:
Now that you understand what are the different types of cosmetic dentistry, adding a cosmetic element to your general dental practice is well within reach.
Dr Dey began his cosmetic dentistry journey about 10 years ago with a teeth whitening offer on a discount coupon website. It was an idea that helped him transform his one-and-a-half-chair practice into an eight-chair practice within two and a half years.
“That was the start of my aesthetic-focused dentistry,” he explains. “I sold 816 teeth whitening treatments on the first day I posted that offer. So I got more than 800 new patients into my practice in one day, and I posted the same offer every six weeks for two years.
“It turned out that people who want whiter teeth also want straighter teeth. So many patients came in with a teeth whitening coupon, but ended up getting veneers, aligners and implants.”
That’s a master class in how to become a cosmetic dentist. But Dr Dey didn’t stop there. He says it’s important for dentists to focus on a balance of internal and external marketing.
“Internal marketing is all about making sure patients know what you can do in the practice,” he says. “I’m constantly having conversations with my patients about the cosmetic treatments we can offer them, and so are my hygienists.”
Dr Dey’s external marketing efforts have focused around social media. He says providing discounted cosmetic treatments to carefully selected social media influencers has been very successful.
“When people see our cosmetic work on social media influencers they follow, it justifies that we are the practice to go to,” he explains. “And the social media influencers we partner with create quite a lot of content around their experience with us that we can use. It has worked incredibly well.”
A good relationship with a cosmetic dental lab is the key ingredient to successfully transforming your general dental practice into a multidisciplinary cosmetic clinic. A good cosmetic dental lab will not only be able to manufacture highly personalised veneers, aligners, crowns and implants, but will assist you with digital smile design that will help your patients visualise their cosmetic treatment outcomes, and help you to sell cosmetic treatments.
However, ‘digital’ is the keyword here. Dr Dey runs a fully digitised practice. He says the success of a modern-day cosmetic dental practice depends on the digital tools and workflows you have at your disposal.
“Cosmetic dentistry has changed quite a bit since digital technology, so you need to make sure you have a good relationship with a digital cosmetic dental lab that is fully kitted out to deliver,” he says. “A lot of the smaller labs haven’t taken the leap into digital, and are not going to be able to help you produce good quality digital dentistry.”
For Dr Dey, a digital scanner is one of his most important tools. “It’s all about the digital scanner. I refuse to take a physical impression anymore, so my lab has to be able to deal with digital scans, communicate and deliver. I’m not having too many face-to-face conversations with my lab. It’s critical they can do it all digitally.”
Dr Stacey is also a proponent of digital dentistry. His practice has partnered with Avant Dental, and digital scanners are a vital tool he uses daily.
“Scanners make a world of difference,” he says. “Whether I’m doing a basic dental examination or a consult for full mouth reconstruction work, I always take a full scan of the patient, and get it up on the screen.”
He says showing the patient the scan in the chair is the best way to explain how he would implement the treatment. For alignment cases, he uses an iTero scanner to show the patient an Invisalign simulation.
“The simulation is good to show the general aim of the treatment,” he explains. “I can show the patient the point we can get their teeth to with Invisalign, then we might look at doing veneers or an implant. The patient can get a visualisation on what that end goal is and the treatments we’ll use to achieve it.”
A good cosmetic dental lab will also help you set up digital workflows that will drive efficiency across your practice.
Dr Stacey explains that with Avant it’s a straightforward process. “We take the scan, send it to the lab, they get it instantly, open the file, and if there’s anything they can see that needs to be adjusted, we can do it right there and then.”
Avant Dental’s digital smile design typically follows a five-step workflow. It generally begins with pre-planning during the patient’s first consultation. With a treatment outcome agreed on, a digital scan is taken and sent to Avant.
Then Avant reviews the treatment goal and produces a design proposal. This includes recommending the most suitable materials.
The dentist and patient then review the computer generated design proposal via Avant’s online platform. The dentist can make on-the-spot alterations with assistance from an Avant technician while the patient is in the room.
Following design approval, Avant prints a suck-down template or a putty key that fits over the patient’s teeth as a temporary trial. If no further alterations are required, Avant manufactures and colour matches the veneers, crowns, bridges or implants as per the specifications in the design proposal.
Dr Stacey says this process enables patients to get a good visualisation of the cosmetic treatment, and helps to close the sale.
“We can get Avant to do a digital smile mockup on a few days turnaround, get the patient back in and that usually motivates them to go ahead with the cosmetic work,” he says. “If you don’t have a scanner, you’re looking at an x-ray which doesn’t mean anything to patients.”
“My clinical scope has been increased significantly by dental labs,” Dr Dey concludes. “It’s all about giving you the confidence to deliver cosmetic treatments that will add revenue to your dental practice.”