Have you ever had a patient return to your office with a freshly-restored mouth from extensive dental work – which you didn’t do? You gently ask why they didn’t come to you for this, as you have been treating them for years, and the response comes back: “Oh, I didn’t realize you did that kind of thing.” And then, deep inside, you cry a little. After all, you put in a lot of time, effort and expense into developing your clinical competencies so you can serve your patients needs at the highest level.

Judging from how many times I have heard stories like this, it is a frustratingly common occurrence in dental practices.

In a way, it’s not surprising. The world of high-end esthetic dentistry and implantology is more heavily marketed than ever before. A patient with a smile they are less than satisfied with sees an ad – at a bus stop, on a billboard, in a newspaper, on TV or social media – and they think: “That’s what I need. I should go there.”

So why didn’t they think of you? They probably like you and trust you as a dentist. They probably would say they enjoy a good relationship with you. But do they know you well enough to know the range and level of your clinical skills? Is the relationship open enough that they would ask about these procedures with you to find out if you did them? And for those procedures you don’t perform, do they trust you enough to have you recommend specialists and guide their treatment process? In short, does the patient really understand what you and the practice are capable of doing for them?

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This is not just a problem for dentists – it is a major factor in developing any brand. Take Spear, for instance. Many people in dentistry see us a campus-based education organization. Some people could name a couple of prominent faculty members here. But the fact is we have a deep and well-respected roster of accomplished faculty leaders and we have systems of learning – for teams and patients as well as dentists – that go well beyond the campus. We have things like a comprehensive library of digital resources that can be accessed anywhere at any time, and collaborative outreach into local dental communities through our study clubs. We are an organization of more than 150 people devoted to all aspects of making dentists great, both clinically and in the business of practice management. And yet I am still often amazed when I hear of dentists who think of Spear as only a place for campus-based lecture learning.

dental legendThat’s why building our brands must always be an ongoing process as we evolve. For us it means doing the right marketing and getting the word out through our network of committed clients. For you, it is a matter of simply telling patients what you do. Your team needs to be talking to patients about what you have been doing lately. Patients need to hear about new procedures you are providing. They need to hear it in the hygiene chair and in your operatory. They need to see the certificates on the walls from your continuing education. They need to see recent photos of your best makeovers on prominent display. That’s how you make your skills known, and that’s how you stop your patients from being seduced by that bus stop ad. After all, if your patients are not aware of the great dentistry you are capable of, you are not getting full value for your professional commitment. You run the risk of becoming a legend in your own mind.

So let’s brand-build together. Dentistry is an incredible profession, and great dentistry changes lives. For those of us who are committed to the cause, it’s not something to keep quiet about.

(Click this link for more articles by Imtiaz Manji.)