Lynne Womersley talks to David Bretton about whether the rising demand for cosmetic treatment is likely to continue…
The increase in demand for cosmetic treatment driven by people spending more time on video calls has been one of the much-discussed silver linings among the past year’s hardships.
But as we potentially start moving out of the virtual and back into the real world, what does that mean for the so-called ‘Zoom Boom’? Is it about to go bust, or is it here to stay?
To find out, I spoke to cosmetic dentist David Bretton…
Lynne: Is the ‘Zoom Boom’ still happening or has it levelled off?
David: Like many practices, we saw huge demand for elective cosmetic treatments when we returned to work in June 2020. We thought that might tail off by January 2021, but that hasn’t happened.
We might see a bit of a drop when summer holidays and travel is back on the cards, as people use their disposable income for that instead of cosmetic treatment.
However, that could be counteracted as people begin to meet up with friends again and, if those friends have had smile makeovers, that might be another driver for treatment uptake.
I think we might see demand stay high for some time. I myself participated in the Zoom Boom and finally had my lower teeth straightened after seeing myself talking on so many video calls and decided I needed to do something about it!
Lynne: What are your thoughts on how patient expectations might change based on their experience of dentistry during lockdown?
David: I know that many patients want to return to normal face-to-face appointments as soon as possible, but there are also a lot who have enjoyed the convenience of virtual consultations.
I think we’ll continue to have a mix of virtual and in-person consultations in the future – probably much more than before COVID-19, but not as much as during the pandemic.
I won’t be returning to certain review appointments face-to-face again, e.g. treatment option review appointments, because the new virtual alternatives are working efficiently and are popular with patients. Our practice is based in a city centre which means patient’s commuting into the centre, paying for parking/transport, etc. – all of which could be avoided with a virtual system.
Furthermore, my diary is booked up weeks in advance and virtual appointments allow us much more efficiency, e.g. conducting these out of surgery hours or even in fallow time or other lost clinical time. Our patient base has high expectations and often wish to be seen very quickly.
Lynne: How can dentists adapt to meet their patients’ changing expectations?
David: It is important to understand the demographic of your patient base, what their experience has been during lockdown and how that may have changed their needs and expectations. This is something we are always reviewing and changing.
I attract a large number of younger millennials, particularly through social media and Instagram. Millennials value convenience and service highly and they are often happier to pay a premium for this. This is also why clinics should ensure they respond to enquiries, etc. from this patient base as quickly as possible, e.g. via good social media presence and a good website with the ability for things like chat bots and the option for virtual consultations and online booking services.
I think we need to also offer flexibility with payment e.g. finance options. The ability to pay for higher cost services in instalments is something our patients are used to and expect – it’s how they buy their cars or sofas, so they have no issue with paying for their dental treatment this way either. I think if you want to do more cosmetic work such as Invisalign® or implants, offering flexible payment solutions is key. A patient may struggle to comprehend investing £10,000 on their dental health, but paying £300/month for 36 months makes more sense to them.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that patients, and consumers in general, are increasingly interested in the sustainability and ethics of companies they spend money with. That’s one of the reasons we’ve recently implemented a recycling service for aligners through Spotlight Oral Care. We think it’s the right thing to do and our patients agree – we’ve had great feedback from them about it.
Lynne: Thank you David, it’s great to hear about your personal experience and thoughts on the future.