Some Recent Dispatches from “The Practices”

Many Breathe practices (with our help) are preparing their business plan for 2012. An integral component of an effective business plan is an up to date knowledge of the market place in order to anticipate the future pattern of demand and provide for it.

With this in mind, we recently asked a group of ten private practices to give us their observations on the current status of their dental market. These practices are located across the UK in areas that include: Yorkshire, Lancashire, Surrey, Worcestershire, Essex and South Wales. I thought you might be interested in their responses pasted below.

Have a look at what they say and rate it against your own experience. At the end I’ll pull together some conclusions from their reports and together we can see how this affects you and your practice for 2012!


1. We are seeing routine treatments such as: composite fillings, single unit crowns in abundance, none are being deferred for financial reasons. 
2. Our patients are spreading treatment over longer periods due to their finances.
3. Amalgam is less acceptable
4. Patients are surprised that “mercury” fillings are still used and don’t want them.
5. Pts want old amalgam fillings replaced with tooth coloured alternatives over a period of time.
6. Patients are afraid of the risks associated with amalgam fillings and more patients are requesting alternatives.
7. There are patients looking for safe amalgam removal
8. Tooth whitening still sells, it’s very price sensitive, patient’s expect a discounted offer.
9. There is a lot of TMD and para-function in patients and the majority of patients don’t know they’ve got it!
10. The over 55’s want aesthetically pleasing smiles without resorting to orthodontics.
11. Very few smile makeover or full mouth rehab treatments done over last 18 months but patients are now starting to return for big treatment plans.
12. Specialist referrals for certain treatments eg. Implants, Endodontics or Periodontics are more common and generally accepted by patients when recommended.

Customer Service:

1. Patients are still prepared to pay for good service
2. Patients are dissatisfied with quick in and out service, they want to be listened to and be involved.
3. Patients are always looking for “drill free” “pain free” “impression free” “needle free” dental care.
4. Patients seem to think everything is saveable as they think there always is an alternative to extraction.
5. Patients expect wider opening hours to give appointments after their work hours. Time missed from work is a worry as it means less income for them.

Patient’s Willingness To Pay:

1. Patients are reviewing all their direct debits to cut their costs.
2. Patients are more money conscious and less willing to spend unless they really need to.
3. More finance requests being refused by 0% finance companies.
4. Not as many patients choosing finance options, preferring to use PAYG over a longer period of time.
5. Not much uptake on credit options, patients seem afraid of taking loans in this economic climate.
6. Patients looking to delay treatment for as long as possible.
7. Job worries are making some patients delay non-essential treatment.

Keeping Their Teeth and Implants:

1. Implants are most frequently used method of replacing a missing tooth in the under 70’s with removable partial dentures’s being the second most frequent.
2. I do fewer dentures but those patients who have them are expecting a higher quality result.
3. More patients are aware of implants and don’t expect dentures to be their only option.
4. Patients expect to keep their teeth for life.
5. Patients feel that Dentures are not an acceptable replacement for missing teeth.
6. Patients are fearful of having Dentures.

Attitude to Hygienist Appointments:

1. Patient awareness of Periodontal Disease has increased in recent years and most of our patients see our hygienists regularly.
2. We need to communicate to patients better the value of regular hygiene appointments.
3. Regular patients can see the benefit of regular hygiene visits
Parents and Children:
1. Parents are (surprisingly) happy to pay for early, interceptive orthodontics or preventive treatments for their children.
2. Parents seem willing to pay for better treatment for their children and are realising that The NHS doesn’t always provide what’s best.
3. Parents are more concerned about their children having treatment, particularly Orthodontics than looking after their own dental health.

Cosmetic Dentistry:

1. Our patients are interested in aesthetics but prefer minimally invasive treatments such as whitening, orthodontics or composite bonding.
2. Most people want to put their dental health first ahead of the appearance of their mouth.
3. People seem more aware of what cosmetic treatments are available and are well informed about what is involved.
4. White, straight teeth still seem to be a priority for most people.
5. The appearance of patient’s front teeth seems to take a higher priority over their general oral health.
6. As far as some patients are concerned, the way they look is everything.


1. Straight white teeth are still in demand (although less people consider it affordable) and orthodontics is considered to be a more acceptable way of achieving this (rather than veneering).
2. More adults aged 20-45 are choosing Orthodontics to improve their smile.
3. Parents are sometimes keen for straight teeth after they see the results of their children’s Orthodontic treatment, but they can be put off by the cost and length of treatment.

Value of the Dentist Patient Relationship:

1. Most patients prefer to see a dentist that they know or have been recommended to via a friend/relative /colleague.
2. The personal relationship with the dentist has become more important than ever.
3. The personal relationship between the patient and the dentist is still important. Patients like to get to know and trust their dentist and they hate change.


1. Anxiety and phobia are preventing patients receiving the dental care that they know they need.
2. There are still a lot of nervous non-attendees out there
3. Many new patients have a low dental IQ, ie “not been to dentist in years as I’ve never had any problems” or “if it aint broke dont fix it”.

What does this mean for Private Dental Practices in 2012? Demand in 2012 •

There is plenty of demand for single unit Dentistry, selling higher value treatment will be more challenging.

• Patients will always want a cosmetic solution where possible/affordable.

• Patients want straight white teeth and adult patients are wiling to consider having Orthodontic treatment.

• Patients are wiling to pay for health benefits.

• Parents are willing to pay for the best solution for their children.

• Patients are willing to be referred for, “Specialist Services” such as Implants, Implant retained dentures, Endodontics, Periodontics, Orthodontics.

• Patients want implant based solutions, not removable dentures.

Client Journey

• Learn to communicate to patients the benefits of multiple unit dental solutions.

• Patients are more willing to pay if they appreciate the value of the service. Therefore, explain the value of the proposed treatment and what’s in it for them, before explaining the fee.

• Make it easy for the patient to spread the cost or the time over which the treatment is delivered.

• Spend time with patients, they value the relationship with their dentist and this will distinguish your practice from many of the newer market entrants including the supermarkets and retailers.

• Offer appointments outside of the usual 9-5 office hours.

• Explain why the patient “needs” the proposed treatment and use “fear of loss” as a tool to help them to yes.

• Make hygiene visits an essential and fundamental element of your client journey. Learn to communicate the benefits of this service to every patient. Don’t let dentists do “scale and polishes” while the patients are going numb…

• Always offer a cosmetic solution.

• Have plenty of information in your practice (preferably digitally based) on the range of your practice services.


• Offer “drill free” “pain free” “impression free” “needle free” dental care.

• Offer sedation to anxious patients.

• Offer Amalgam free dentistry. This is very attractive to patients and an easily understood message for your marketing.

• Have a special clinic with bespoke solutions for nervous/anxious Patients.

• Diagnose, treatment plan and treat more Patients with TMD and Parafunction.

• Bring Specialists into your practice rather than referring out.

• Have a “Budget” or an “Essentials” range, priced at 25% less than your fees.

• Offer parents alternatives to NHS treatments for their children.

• Offer invisible braces.

• Have an effective and measurable patient get patient programme.


Simon Hocken Director of Marketing, Breathe Business

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