dentistryI talk a lot about how dentistry today needs to be in touch with the new consumer landscape. Some dentists have challenged this line of thinking; in their view, dentistry is a health service, not a consumer product, so it shouldn't be "sold" the way you sell cars, clothes and smartphones.

I certainly agree that great dentistry begins and ends with clinical excellence and I greatly respect clinicians who make that a priority—that's why Spear is in the business of helping good dentists get better with their clinical skills. But I think it is a mistake to overlook the consumer mindset and the value-creation skills that are necessary to engage with it. After all, it doesn't really matter how great your clinical skills are if you are not getting enough patients to say yes and allow you to demonstrate those skills. As Dr. Gary DeWood tells participants in our workshops, it's about getting people to ask for great care, and then connecting with that "ask" by reaching them as patients, clients, and consumers.

The simple fact is, in today's economy, the consumer mindset is everywhere. We consume coffee—not like we did years ago when it was a dime-a-cup drink favored by older people, but as a personal lifestyle enhancement. We consume data and information. We consume time.

A perfect illustration of this—and one the dental industry should pay close attention to—is how we now "consume" fitness.

Dentistry Needs to Reach Patients in a Way That Speaks to Them

The gym used to be a place for body-builders and "health nuts." Now, people like me go to the gym to work out several times a week. Anyone who is serious about following an exercise regime invests at least three hour fours a week in their health program, which is a pretty significant commitment of time. For some, it is about around-the clock awareness. People are wearing Fitbits and other devices to track their physical activity and monitor vital signs. The soon-to-be-released Apple Watch is going to be heavily loaded with fitness-lifestyle features.

People are spending money to be a part of this fitness culture. Aside from those devices, there are the fitness club memberships (the average is about $660 a year), not to mention personal trainers, special clothes and other accessories. They don't ask if their insurance covers it—they just pull out their credit cards because they want it. They want to buy into something that can make them feel better and look younger.

This is what I am talking about when I say that dentistry needs to engage with this consumer-based economy. We need to reach patients in a way that really speaks to them, a way that helps them see that great dental care is also a lifestyle choice worth investing in. In this sense, it should be the goal of every dentist to embrace the consumer-based model and fight for that mindshare. Because when patients start thinking about dentistry the way they think about their other wants--Starbucks habits, Vegas weekends, and gym memberships—it becomes a priority in their lives, one they are willing to pay for like all the rest. Getting that kind of consumer mindshare is the challenge facing every dentist today.

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Commenter's Profile Image Brad Shern
November 19th, 2014
Good article - can you point me in the direction of how to step by step gain that mindshare in a community where the public Just picks a dentist through word of mouth or what kine of deal they can get?
Commenter's Profile Image Imtiaz Manji
December 2nd, 2014
Great question, Brad. It’s one that comes up a lot and it would be difficult to do it justice here. I’m going to do an article on this in the next little while, so stay tuned. Thanks for the feedback. Imtiaz
Commenter's Profile Image Hedley Fulton
March 6th, 2015
Going to the dentist is definitely something that we should do for our own well being. Going to the dentist can really help prevent a lot of really bad toothaches in the future. I have read before that you should be going to the dentist at least once every six months. I think that is a really good idea just to make sure that you still have proper oral health.