Ann Le The old adage says that a smile makes everybody beautiful. Sadly, concerns over the appearance of teeth will keep some folks from smiling as often or as brightly as they should. The good news is that the statistics from a recent study show that more and more people are taking advantage of cosmetic dentistry services in order to improve their appearance and their smile. The right cosmetic dental procedure can improve a patient’s appearance, health, and confidence and of course, a dental office’s reputation. Information from this report can help patients understand how accessible cosmetic surgery may be. In turn, it can also help dentists offer the right procedures to the right patients. With that in mind, let’s take a moment to review some statistics about the growing popularity of cosmetic dentistry. The Study The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) gathered responses from 363 dental professionals across the country for their latest survey of the cosmetic dental industry. About 96 percent of the respondents identified themselves as cosmetic or general dentists. The rest included other dental office staff and technicians. Participants included both members and non-members of the AACD. In addition to this latest report, the AACD also published a similar 2015 cosmetic treatment report to use for trend comparison in some cases. This older report surveyed 360 dental practices and had a similar makeup of respondents. The AACD has compiled similar studies irregularly going back to 2004. Discussing Cosmetic Dentistry The two reports did not ask exactly the same questions, so it’s helpful to review them both. For instance, the earlier study asked about patients’ motivations for seeking a cosmetic procedure. It also queried dentists about the nature of their initial conversations with patients. About one-quarter of the respondents said patients initiated the conversation, often after a referral from somebody in their social circle who had good results with their own treatment. This information supports the idea that dental offices should encourage patient referrals. The following statistics from the 2015 report help explain the motivations driving patients to discuss cosmetic dental procedures. The survey uncovered a variety of reasons, and some patients expressed more than one motivation: 86 percent of the patients wanted to improve their appearance. Almost half hoped to look and feel younger. Slightly over half hoped to prepare for some important event. The report cited weddings as a common example. Some patients needed treatment for restorative or health reasons. For instance, they suffered injuries or needed previous work restored. The later studied focused more on which office staff spoke with patients about cosmetic services. It found: Dentists participated in initial conversations 98 percent of the time. More than half of the time, dental assistants and hygienists also spoke with patients about procedures. The Most Popular Cosmetic Procedures Dental bonding remains the most popular cosmetic dental procedure. It accounted for 43 percent of all cosmetic procedures in 2017. Crown and bridge work was next common. These two categories together accounted for almost 75 percent of all cosmetic work. The popularity of teeth whitening and bleaching has dropped and was the least popular service performed by dentists in the survey. Although this decline may be due to a simple drop in demand, it is also potentially explained by the growth in home whitening kits, strips and gels. Cosmetic Dentistry Costs Naturally, the cost for any patient depends upon the treatment needed, location, and other factors. These are typical results from the 2017 study: Over 30 percent of the survey respondents said that their average cosmetic dentistry patient spent at least $5,000 on these services in the prior year. In 2015, only 22 percent reported patients spending $5,000 or more. About 20 percent reported patients spent less than $1,000 a year. The latest report demonstrated a positive trend when it came to average patient spend. The average patient spent $5,477 per year in the 2017 survey. In contrast, the average patient spent $4,116 in 2015. Dentists mentioned that they believed this increase came from baby boomer patients with more disposable income to spend on cosmetic dentistry. The average price per procedure stayed somewhat flat or had modest increases between 2015 and 2017. This cost varied by procedure. These are some examples of average cosmetic treatment prices in 2017: Implant procedure: $2,299 Bleaching: $353 Veneers: $1,313 How Do Patients Pay for Cosmetic Dentistry Services? Of course, not all patients paid upfront for all cosmetic dentistry services. Primary sources of financing included third-party financing, dental insurance, and dental discount plans. If patients needed dental work because of an illness or injury, medical insurance may also cover some costs. Likewise, typical dental insurance policies may not cover purely elective cosmetic services. Third-Party Financing for Cosmetic Dentistry Offering third-party financing for cosmetic dentistry continues to grow in popularity: 78 percent of dental practices believed that offering third-party financing helped improve the number of cosmetic procedures they did. This number increased by 5 percent from the 2015 to 2017 survey. To encourage cosmetic treatments, 73 percent of the practices offered third-party financing options within their office. Dental Insurance and Dental Discount Plans Over half of the respondents accepted dental insurance and about one-third accepted some dental discount plans. For covered services, dental insurance plans will pay some portion of the costs. With dental discount plans, the practice will agree to offer members a discount for the services that they perform in order to belong to the plan. Many insurance plans include a network, and dentists have to agree to base their charges upon a set schedule in order to belong. Dentists may accept these terms in order to attract members to their practices. According to the recent study, dentists who offered third-party financing enjoyed 50 percent higher revenues over those who did not. Dental insurance apparently led to 10 percent higher revenues. In contrast, practices that accepted dental discount plans received somewhat lower revenues. However, the study pointed out that the difference may be explained more by the kinds of practices that accept discount plans rather than dental discounts having any causal impact on lower revenues. For example, general or new practices may be more likely to accept discount plans than established specialists. Cosmetic Dentistry Trends Overall, patients appear more willing than ever to discuss cosmetic dentistry services with dental professionals. Even though the price of many services has remained steady, average patients have spent more, suggesting that they’re willing to pay for more than one kind of treatment. Dental professionals should engage patients in the discussion of helpful procedures and encourage their satisfied patients to tell their friends and family about their experience. Offering financing alternatives and affordable treatment plans can also help introduce more people to the benefits of cosmetic dental procedures. Where to Discuss Cosmetic Dentistry In Memorial City and Houston, Texas, bring your cosmetic dentistry questions to Bunker Hill Dentistry. We will work with you to develop a timely, effective, and affordable treatment plan. Call today at 832-834-5281 or schedule online with our appointment form. Ann LeAnn Le has been successfully managing dental practices since 1990. She is currently Practice Manager at Bunker Hill Dentistry in Houston, TX which she runs with her husband Dr. Tri M Le.