Since lockdown began in March, the pandemic has left little untouched and little unaffected – dentistry included. But dental practices are experiencing a spike in interest when it comes to cosmetic dentistry.
As practices tackle new guidance and PPE requirements, dentists are seeing a significant rise in interest when it comes to procedures such as teeth whitening.
Dubbed the ‘Zoom boom’, some have claimed this is the result of people spending more time looking at their appearance. Additionally, many have cash to spend after thousands of planned holidays were disrupted or cancelled.
We hear from Dr Jan Einfeldt and Dr Nishan Dixit, president of the BACD, who discuss the boost in popularity of cosmetic dentistry.
Dr Jan Einfeldt
Private practices were originally told to close but then later, that private practices were never told to close.
The short-term impact was that all private dentistry stopped for a while with disastrous financial impact on private practices and very poor access to dentistry for the general population. We are now seeing the medium-term impact where people are actually spending the money they saved by not going on holiday, on their teeth instead.
A friend of mine works with online transactions and says the number of online shopping transactions for them has quadrupled since lockdown. When people are at home and get bored, they shop online.
I believe the long-term impact of lockdown will be that some dental practices will adapt very quickly to the new conditions and will be implementing initial virtual consultations in the future as well.
In my own private practice, I have certainly seen an increase in enquiries about cosmetic dentistry.
Several patients have told me that their holiday was cancelled. They got the money back and have decided to spend it on their teeth instead.
This has been for treatments like teeth whitening, teeth straightening, veneers and crowns.
We have been doing more consultations via zoom, which is handy for patients because they can be more flexible. Even after the lockdown is over, I believe this technology will stay and be used even more in the future.
However, there are still patients who want to see a real person in front of them. And also want to have an instant assessment to proceed to treatment sooner rather than later. My team asks patients what they prefer; some prefer the initial consultation to be virtual and some prefer face-to-face meetings.
What can a practice do to prepare for the future?
They can offer initial virtual consults and use technology like Smile Mate to let patients upload photos to a portal. The software cleverly analyses the teeth for teeth straightening and creates a report.
Virtual consultations can be done with apps like WhatsApp, Skype or directly from iPhone to iPhone.
However, that will not change the fact that the rest of the patient journey still needs to be carefully conducted. Or the initial virtual consultation will not make any difference.
Practices and dentists must still focus on the whole journey. Not just on one piece of it or on a specific piece of technology. Ultimately, people still prefer to buy services from people they like and trust.
Initial virtual consultations can be a helpful step for some patients. However, rapport is – still – best built face to face. It’s just that the rapport building may now start before the patient is even in the practice.
Dr Nishan Dixit
As a result of the pandemic, many dentists have been unable to perform some elective cosmetic procedures, including crowns and veneers. However, what we have found is that there has been an increase in demand for orthodontic treatment. Particularly for clear aligners such as Invisalign.
Certainly, at my practice, enquiries about tooth whitening treatment have also gone up among both existing and prospective patients.
Before lockdown, I think a lot of people were deciding whether to have cosmetic dental work done and have been motivated to proceed, rather than put it off any longer. Even with regard to routine dentistry – whether that’s for white fillings or general oral hygiene treatment – patient demand has definitely increased.
Tooth whitening is usually a treatment that goes up in demand during the summer months anyway, as patients want a brighter, whiter smile for their holidays. Since lockdown, I think tooth whitening has increased due to the fact that patients were already planning to undergo treatment, but were unable to due to the circumstances surrounding the pandemic.
Furthermore, tooth whitening and, indeed, short-term orthodontics are popular due to being relatively quick and requiring minimal intervention. These procedures introduce patients to the ways in which they can enhance the health and appearance of their smile.
With treatment for clear aligners, in particular, patients can see what their smile will look like before commencing any procedures, so they know what to expect. There are also applications involved with this process that enable patients to monitor their treatment progress from start to finish.
I think the increased interest in cosmetic dental procedures is multi-factorial. The media has played a significant role in making people more aware of their smile. Patients are also talking about the difficulties of finding dental practices that are open.
These factors might have made people realise that they do not want to be in a position where they are suffering from prolonged pain or discomfort due to poor oral health and, therefore, cannot afford to neglect their mouth.
The ‘Zoom boom’ has been a key driver in boosting demand for cosmetic dentistry. Especially as patients are seeing themselves more often on a screen and, consequently, feel more conscious about their smile.
However, I think the Zoom boom was just the tipping point for people to seek out cosmetic dental treatment they were already interested in. Especially when it comes to minimally invasive solutions.
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