How dental marketing keeps me from visiting the dentist office
School was out! I think the only person more excited about the end of school, besides the school staff, was me. No more 6:30 wake up alarms for a solid month. Looking forward to a full seven hours of sleep, excitement filled my inner being. Then the reality of summer chores hit me. My list included athletic physicals, lawn mowing in the brutal Texas heat, and the dreaded trip to our local family dentist office.
Going to teeth cleaning was about as much fun for me as—nothing I can think of. As the Rolodex of chores whirred through my head, I paused at the dentist office to try for a second to wrap my mind around why I dreaded the task so much. Unlike so many people, I have insurance and access to dental health services.
Every dentist office was the same
The dental care associates that we had seen were all nice enough, but something about the process always put my teeth on edge, literally. It was never better in one dentist office than another. In a small town, my insurance company paid for X-rays I didn’t have time for. In a large town, I waited so far past my scheduled time that I felt like sending the dentist office a bill for my hourly rate.
Thinking it through, I realized that I feel constantly bombarded with dental marketing without any corresponding perceived value on my part. You see, if I felt “cared for” when I left, I might feel differently. However, I can barely tell one stagnant waiting room equipped with 24/7 Disney from another.
Dentist office or car dealership?
Between the Groupon offers, the Internet pop-ups, and the waving Zoom teeth whitening balloons, I feel stalked by dental professionals who see me as a dollar sign and never as a person. In fact, the only place that I have felt that hunted is the new car lot. Like so many people, I’ve sneaked in at night to a closed dealership just to avoid feeling like a bunny rabbit coated in Marinara sauce. All in the attempt to make an informed decision absent the sales pressure.
Truth be told, the dentist office is actually worse that the dealership, because at the dealership I can refuse the hefty add-ons and warranties with ease. I’m in the driver’s seat because I’m paying the whole tab for a new car. At the dentist office, they’re getting my money and the insurance money. He’s crippled by licensing laws and “standard of care” rules that force him to treat me for things that I never asked for and don’t need. It always seems like that’s still not enough.
The dentist office tacks cancer screenings and gum tissue measurements and a whole list of things they never did in the past onto my bill without question. Every time I pass a dentist office with the waving balloon I wonder why he’s so broke that he’s scrambling for my kid’s fluoride treatment like it’s the only thing that’s going to buy his lunch that day.
We need dental care, not dental retail
It wasn’t always that way. Dental care used to rank right next to medical care on the list of respectable professions. In the past, the only reason to dread going to the dentist office was the drill. Today, that’s the least of my worries. Oral hygiene shouldn’t be a fight. Anyone should be able to walk into a dentist office that is clean and calm, and feel like that professional has your best interest at heart. That’s what’s they used to call “a practice”. I would give my business to a place like that in a heartbeat. For life.
That’s what people want when they need dental help. They’re fighting to protect themselves from professionals taking more and giving less. Less empathy, relationship, time, and education. Less dedication to the patient. The effect is endemic. The consequences for peoples’ oral health and the dentists who serve us is verging on catastrophic.
It’s not the dentists’ fault
Completing years of training, student loans, obtaining a license, and opening an office just to beg people to come in. Discounting procedures, installing iPads, and renting giant roadside balloons to bring patients in. Having to practice creative dentistry just to make it? Something is utterly broken.
The dentists and we suffer this together, and yet we seem pitted against each other. Having gone through the issue, I came to the root of it: As a pacifist, I avoid conflict. I don’t want to fight my dentist (or anyone), and so I do the next best thing—Avoidance. Informing myself, I felt empowered with both my own interest and my dentist’s interest at heart.
The fight with the dentist office continues…
I felt the best approach was to get educated before going in. Knowing we’d engage in the same bi-yearly argument regarding fluoride treatments for kids, I prepared myself. I pulled up research and Youtube to see what was going on in the fluoride debate these days. Turns out, the tickle I felt about too much fluoride was real. But that’s an issue for another day.