Healthy donuts, anyone?
This is an actual ad from the 1940s, extolling the virtues of this miracle food. In reality of course, these were made the same as any donut – a lot of sugar and flour – but because the refined white flour had extra thiamine (Vitamin B1), it was sold as a “fortified” food that promoted pep and vigor. And they sold a lot of donuts.
It sounds ridiculous to us now, but the reality is we have own version of fortified donuts today. The supplement industry alone – which features many products making very dubious claims – is a multi-billion-dollar business in America.
I’m not saying this means Americans are particularly gullible. There are many examples of products that actually do as promised; you can, for example, get a medication that is proven to help you grow thicker lashes – at cost of about $2500 over five years. The point is, we are a consumer society – by far the most active country in the world in consumer spending – which means we are programmed to want to improve our lives and to pay for the privilege of doing it.
So why then do dentists keep hearing the “I can’t afford it” response from patients who quite clearly seem to find ways to afford other, less urgent, concerns in their lives? Just as importantly, why do so many dentists seem to anticipate these responses and not even bother to fully present their findings to these patients they expect will say no?
I recall listening to a dentist a while ago recall her visit to a local yacht club and marveling at how many of the boat owners there, who poured huge of amounts of cash into maintaining their vessels, suffered from obvious oral health issues. If the discretionary income they put toward fixing the problems in their mouths was even a fraction of what they spent in keeping their boats looking great, she thought, their smiles would be perfect.
It doesn’t even have to be something as expensive as a boat. Think about all the people of average means with a daily $4 Starbucks habit – that’s $7,300 over five years. Think what they could do for their oral health if they chose to value that as much as they value their daily latte.
And that’s what it always comes back to in the end: value. In a consumer society, we are conditioned to spend on the things that promise to bring us “pep and vigor” and restored health. If dentistry is not one of those things to your patients, it’s time to go deeper with patient education. After all, a healthy, attractive smile is no fortified donut. It is a real quality-of-life enhancer that deserves a real financial and emotional commitment.
(Click this link for more dental practice management articles by Imtiaz Manji.)