Recession is coming…?

By Dr. Addison Killeen

September 5, 2023

Banks are failing. DSOs are buying like crazy. Stock market is doing wild upswings and downswings. Seems like all the pundits are saying a recession is coming. If everyone on the face of the earth thinks that a recession is coming, will it really happen?

I am sorry to say I am not smart enough to make that call or to tell you how to prepare. However, if we were to prepare, we should look at the economic downturn of 2007-2008 as a playbook for what dentists should do. If we look at the best practices that saw growth during that time, what did we see?

Assumption #1 would be that people will make decisions based on their “feelings,” not necessarily what is going on in the market, with their paycheck, or their retirement funds. This is a huge thing: people do not make buying decisions based on their own financial picture, but how they perceive their financial situation. So even if a recession does not happen, people are already making decisions based on that assumption. This could be why DSN members have seen lower treatment acceptance rates and a lower close rate for larger treatments like All-on-X fixed implant dentures.

When people start acting like they have less money, even though they have the same amount: what happens? They start to become much more insurance-dependent. This means that they will want dentists who are in-network. This also means that they will tend to do more of the items that are more highly covered by insurance. They will also make more deicsions based around the financial impact.

To fight that, we need to focus our practice on 2 things:

More focus on hygiene: When we focus on growing the hygiene side of our practice, we grow the total number of patients. This is a highly insurance-driven side of the business, so we can still see growth here even though the economy might be struggling. When we get more patients in as hygiene patients, then we can also have more opportunities to show them how Invisalign, implants, or other treatments might help them greatly. The great thing here is that you get to cut down on marketing costs for these high-dollar treatment options. No more Invisalign and implant campaigns on Google. No more Facebook Ads targeting esthetic cases. Focus on increasing hygiene numbers and those cases will still come but mixed in with patients looking for comprehensive care.

Discussing options with better verbiage: When we discuss treatment we need to be very aware of what is going to stop the patient from getting the best option. If it is money, let us address that upfront by saying, “I know this is going to be expensive in the short term, but in the long term it will be better for you.” By acknowledging the downsides of the treatment, you become more trust worthy and will have a higher case acceptance rate.

The great thing about this strategy of more hygiene and better communication is that it is also the cheapest of all options. Verbiage is free (other than the time to train). Dental Success Network offers tons of resources around communication, scripting, and ways to help patients achieve the best outcomes. When looking for more hygiene patients, it is all about internal marketing and getting more patients in who are like your current base. This could be to increase the time you spend asking for referrals, or doing a referral program.

With these two strategies, you can hopefully avoid some of the stress that a recession might bring, if it ever comes!