‘Tweaked not tucked’ culture gives dentistry a lift

In 2015 the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) recorded a nine per cent decline in surgical cosmetic procedures – the first decrease in a decade[i]. But you would be wrong to think that appetite for cosmetic treatment has waned. Dyan Williams of Med-fx explores how dentists can capitalise on the shift to non-invasive cosmetic treatments.

When you switch on the television these days it’s quite apparent the majority of people in the public eye have had some form of cosmetic treatment on their face. From covering a terrorist attack on the news to a story about firemen rescuing a cat up a tree, their expressions stay the same.

But as the focus of cosmetic treatments has shifted from invasive ‘tucks’ such as rhinoplasty and brow lifts to more subtle, non-invasive ‘tweaks’ such as anti-aging and skin rejuvenation procedures it’s not just TV personalities who are at it.

It’s a market that is worth £913m in the UK alone with 85 per cent of overall market volume coming from facial aesthetics[ii].

So how do dentists fit into the picture? With an estimated 50 per cent of dental chair time believed to be vacant[iii], facial aesthetics provides dentists with the potential to not only fill chair time with minimal investment, but also to double profits and fulfil ever growing patient demand.

It’s understood that the market for dentists offering facial aesthetics is growing by 40 per cent year-on-year as the sector diversify to meet market demand. And with the opportunity to increase annual profits by £52,000 by taking on just one facial aesthetics patient a day, it’s easy to understand why so many dentists are expanding their private cosmetic offering with toxins, fillers and cosmeceuticals.

There is a perception that facial aesthetic treatments do not belong in a dental practice, but rather in a salon, spa or specialist clinic. But the reality is that’s a barrier that dentists, not the consumers have created.

Take for example my own dentist. He has an impressive book of private patients who trust him and in turn spend thousands of pounds to get a perfectly straight and brilliantly white smile. He has invested considerably in his practice and it looks beautiful, but until I pointed it out to him I knew his patients would hop out of his expensive Italian leather chair and visit a doctor or nurse down the street in a pokey clinic for their facial aesthetics treatment.

The fact is the current providers of these treatments have not had to try hard to attract or retain this business as the public has a desire to be treated, but also have limited options were they can.

Demand for facial aesthetics has increased as the treatments have become more affordable and what’s more, it’s no longer shrouded in secrecy. There is no taboo about wanting to be the best version of yourself or correct something which for years has knocked your confidence.

Dentists already provide a clinical, trusting and professional environment for their patients and facial aesthetic customers are crying out for this option. Dentists are also arguably some of the best injectors in the market and are extremely knowledgeable about the anatomy of the whole face, meaning they can incorporate facial aesthetic treatments into cosmetic dental work to enhance the overall result. 

My own dentist was missing out on £200 to £500 per patient every three to four months. What’s more, just like in dentistry, facial aesthetics is a route to repeat business. After all, no one wants to suddenly look ten years older again.

Thankfully, he is now offering facial aesthetics to his patients and business is booming. He thought that diversifying would be a hassle, it would require further investment, it would be a distraction from his core business and he under estimated just how much demand there was for it in his own patient base, never mind beyond that.

Dental practices by their very nature are geared up to offer facial aesthetics and more so than any other provider. They have the premises, medical professional credibility, patient base and more importantly, they already have patient trust.

The only real investment dentists need to make to achieve profit margins of 80 to 90 per cent is to commit to a short training course which is usually one day – a cost to a business which can be typically redeemed by treating three facial aesthetics patients – buy the toxin or filler product which has a trade cost of just pounds per unit but a retail price of between £200 to £300 and tell their patients about the new cosmetic treatments available.

Not only is it an extremely lucrative market that requires very little investment by dentists, but it’s also pretty simple to incorporate into a practice as it consists of three simple treatment offerings – toxins, fillers and cosmeceuticals.

  1. Toxins, more commonly known under brands such as Botox, Azzalure and Bocouture are injectables used in the upper section of the face which prevent the development of wrinkles by paralyzing facial muscles.
  2. Fillers such as Juvederm, Teosyal and Restylane are also injectables which are used in the lower half of the face which plump and smooth lines.
  3. Cosmeceuticals (cosmetic-pharmaceuticals) are pharmacy grade lotions, creams and oils which offer a sales bolt on to the above injectable treatments. They can only be sold by medical professionals and aim to enhance and extend the results of toxin and filler treatments at home.

For those still unsure about diversifying into facial aesthetics, my advice is to ask your patients. You may be surprised at the results you can get from a simple patient questionnaire which asks what other treatments they would be interested to receive. You may find that a number of your patients are paying someone else for cosmetic treatments they wished they could have alongside their regular dental check-up – potentially turning a £70 check-up fee into £370 or more.  

The average facial aesthetic patient returns every three to four months for treatment and will remain a customer for 20 to 30 years. That’s an extra £1,200 per patient per year you could be missing out on by not offering them cosmetic treatments they trust you to deliver. Is that profit you are happy to send down the road to your competition?   

[i] The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons: 2015

[ii] The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons: Key Note Data, 2015

[iii] Research commissioned by The Dental Directory and Med-fx: 2015