Why do implants have to cost so much?

Editor's note: Richard Geller's column, Marketing Madness, appears regularly on the DrBicuspid.com advice and opinion page, Second Opinion.

In my efforts to help dentists grow their practices via the Internet, there is one comment I hear over and over from prospective patients: "Why do implants have to cost so much?"

In my opinion, they cost too much because a lot of doctors:

  • Don't recognize the marketing opportunity that implants present
  • Don't see the business opportunity implants represent
  • Don't realize that lower priced implants can be quite profitable and allow them to serve their communities much better

I'm going to share with you an implant marketing method that can be quite profitable for some doctors, and can also make it possible for some -- maybe you -- to serve a large group of eager people who I believe are not being well-served by dentists right now.

It tells you how many doctors are reluctant to market themselves a certain way. And how you can take advantage of your colleagues' reluctance to make a killing and also help people who are not being served right now.

I have consulted with thousands of dentists over the years, and in recent years I've run an Internet patient-generation program for dentists.

One of my clients -- a California dentist who had been practicing for many years -- dropped out of my program. Sadly, he recently told me that he had to borrow money from his father-in-law just to get by. Never in his 20 years of practicing has he seen conditions like they are today.

He is practicing not far from the glamorous folk of Hollywood, and yet he is about to go out of business due to cash flow problems.

Let's be clear here. To my knowledge, no drugs were involved, no alcohol, no poor judgment. Just the inability to market himself.

I hate to see this happen. And, thus, I hope this article will do two things: show you how to serve your patients better, and lead you to a whole new way of practicing that will be very profitable in these tough times.

You won't like this

Let me be very straight with you on this. Consider this a wake-up call.

Doctors are not serving a huge raft of patients right now. Here is an e-mail I recently received from a prospective patient as part of my marketing program for dentists:

"My teeth are a mess, and I am finding it very hard to face the public with confidence as my teeth are slowly rotting away -- do you have some kind of payment plan?"

Here's one from another would-be patient who responded to the Internet marketing I do on behalf of docs:

"I have been receiving your e-mails for a few months now because I need implants on two of my bottom front teeth (with three temporary teeth) that will be replaced by three crowns after the implants have healed. My regular dentist sent me to an oral surgeon in St. Paul, MN, and I have received a quote from the oral surgeon. That does not include the three crowns my regular dentist will do after the two- to three-month healing process. The total cost comes out to be about $9,500. I am a 51-year-old single female working full-time, and this amount is so much money for me in current economic times ... can you recommend any oral surgeons/dentists that do implants?"

And here's another that hits the point pretty straight on (his spelling and grammar, not mine):

"Why don't you quit bs'ing, you know dam well dentist are over priced crooks."

And just to balance things out:

"I just wanted to let you know I just love receiving e-mails from you. I am having three implants put in on May 15th, and you have given me so many answers to questions I wanted to ask but was too embarrassed to ask. Thank you so much for all the great info."

Finally, this patient was particularly clear about the matter:

"If one cannot afford said service, how is this really benefiting the consumer? The price point is really OUTRAGEOUS!!!"

It's easy to substantiate the cost of treatment by all of the education and equipment costs. But what good is it when the dentists are unwilling to eventually lower the price point so that more consumers will have access? I'm pretty sure that if implants were more affordable, many more people would see this as a viable option.

So the situation is this: There is a huge need for implants. The standard of care is changing, and bridges really are not the best solution for many (if not most) patients who are losing teeth. Yet implants are very expensive, often too expensive for the people who need them.

Or is this really true?

Implants people can afford

A while back I spoke to a doctor who is absolutely cleaning up financially. His marketing plan involves advertising in newspapers and offering cheap implants.

He shaves costs everywhere he can and tries to place and restore implants in the $1,500 range (a sweet spot for most people). And the cases he gets may be $5,000 or $8,000 cases or $10,000 cases rather than the $15,000 or $20,000 cases nobody is getting right now due to the economy.

Add it up. If his material and lab costs are $600 and he can efficiently do implants for $1,500, that margin isn't bad. If he can do five implants a day, that's $4,500 in gross margin, times 16 days open -- that's $72,000 of extra gross profit. Sure, you have to add general and administrative expenses, but hey, $72,000 is a lot of additional clams.

So each day, on average, that means five implants that need to be placed and restored. But with the economies of scale, perhaps an associate helping, how difficult is this?

I am very unhappy that more docs aren't jumping on board here. I hear too many say things like, "I didn't go to dental school and get $200,000 in debt to do a $1,500 implant."

Well, you have people who need you. You went to school to help people and make money doing so at the same time. Just as we all make money by serving others. The market needs you to pick up on this challenge and run with it.

We need docs willing to advertise aggressively and go after people like this one who e-mailed me:

"I need two tooth implants to replace missing teeth, get some cavities taken care of, and get my teeth whitened. Please tell me how much I am looking at for costs. I am a single mother with no insurance and a tight budget. Can you help me?"

Why can't you help this woman? Why can't you work something out? Why do implants have to cost $4,000 to place and restore?

There is no reason. The profession is going to have to change. Corporate dentistry is going to bring mass implants to most people who go to the dentist. There is no way to defend $4,000 implants except for very high-end practices.

And meanwhile, why not serve the public and clean up financially. Gear up. Advertise aggressively with implants that are low cost. Get your vendors to cut costs and offer good value to people who need it.

These folks will move heaven and earth to figure out how to pay for your dentistry. But they are not Cadillac buyers and can't afford a Cadillac. They need a Chevrolet, and I am concerned the profession isn't giving them what they need.

If you are willing and able to get in there and do it, you too can serve people who are just not being reached. And you can make more money than you think this way.

Meanwhile, I am doing a webcast on how to advertise on the Internet without competing with every other guy and gal in your area on Google. I'm explaining how you can get patients without advertising on Google and how you can use Facebook to get patients. Go to Cases4Dentists.com to get in on the next practice-building webcast.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2009 DrBicuspid.com

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