What oral health marketers should focus on to get patients back in the office.
By Dr. Kami Hoss
During the pandemic, the oral health industry experienced economic difficulty as many people put off hygiene and other dental work out of health fears, while some simply used COVID-19 as an excuse to get around a procedure they’d rather avoid. In 2020, the dental industry, which is valued at about $140 billion, suffered a year-over-year revenue decline of 6%, with dental hygiene appointments alone dropping 47%.
For oral health businesses, there’s good news on the horizon: More than half of the U.S. adult population is at least half vaccinated for COVID-19. As a result, people are going back to many regular activities and are expected to soon resume normal health procedures like dental and orthodontic visits. While the opportunity to make up for lost revenue is ample, oral health marketers will still need to emphasize the importance of clean and straight teeth to get their patients back into their health routines. After 20-plus years as a dentist, orthodontist and oral health educator, I will share what I hope is helpful to industry peers.
Embrace the Power of a Winning Smile
This summer, oral health businesses should point out the benefits of a great smile. After all, what do Priyanka Chopra, Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts have in common? The importance of a winning smile is hard to oversell, and of course, it’s not simply superficial.
At the same time, you don’t want to inadvertently come across as teeth-shaming. Instead, focus on the benefits of taking great care of your oral health. As Jack Nicholson, a Hollywood icon with a signature grin, might say, it’s always important to accentuate the positives.
Emphasize Why It’s So Important
Indeed, oral health businesses need to get creative. Oral health marketers should think of ways to communicate two simple ideas:
• It’s probably been a while since the consumer’s last visit.
• A smile says a lot without saying anything at all.
Both are messages that will resonate with people of all ages, from young, single adults to parents and beyond. Speaking of parents, they are a hugely important demographic, and oral health marketers should be careful to strike the right tone with them.
When messaging to moms and dads, oral health marketers should remind them that, again, it’s probably been a while since their child’s last visit. Then, they may want to emphasize the incredible impact oral health has on a child’s life from birth through high school graduation. Of course, sophisticated ad targeting on digital channels like Facebook, Instagram and Google can allow oral health marketers to tailor messaging to parents whose children are a certain age.
That said, that level of ad customization can be expensive and may be outside some oral health marketers’ budgets. There’s another message that will likely work for parents of children of all ages: It’s very important to avoid toothaches. When kids get a toothache, they can’t sleep well, and they tend to eat softer foods that typically have more carbs and sugar, as opposed to eating harder, more nutritious foods such as vegetables or fruits. Sleep deprivation can impact their alertness and behavior in school, and the meals and snacks consumed during this immense period of growth impact their whole-body development. And of course, poor nutrition can impact the health and appearance of a child’s teeth, which can, in turn, negatively affect the confidence they have in their smile and, subsequently, their self-image with peers.
So, oral health professionals should remind parents of the mouth’s outsized effect on a child’s well-being and happiness — especially as the end of the school year approaches and they start thinking about things like dental and orthodontic visits.
In closing, as an entrepreneurial-minded oral health professional who has built up a brand that now employs a few hundred staffers across several locations, I can’t overemphasize the importance of smart marketing this summer. While this industry looks to recoup the greatest revenues possible from what was lost during the pandemic, the best way to get patients back in for their needed care is to remind them what’s at stake: the winning smiles that we all want to see.
Dr. Kami Hoss is a member of Newsweek Expert Forum, an invitation-only network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with the Newsweek audience.