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Dr Luana

Dental Advertising - Does it help the patients and the dentists?

Dentists have been around for a long, long time. Archaeological evidence points out that some form of dentistry existed as early as 3000 BC. Mankind has always been in need of these able care givers to relieve them of the severe pain that is associated with tooth and oral problems.

Yet, the dentist has always been associated with pain. A visit to the dentist is never considered pleasant. The dentist has an ugly reputation, and he knows it. That is why, the profession is now warming to advertising as a method to improve the image of the dentist and increase business. But how much credence can the consumer give to such dental advertising messages?

Most consumers get their information from the media, without ever being sure of whether they can rely on it or not. Consumers are bombarded with ad messages every day. Some sources say that the normal American is subject to about 6000 ad messages in various forms every day.

Advertising has become the normal means through which every industry and commerce communicates with their customers. The dental profession has long scorned advertising, claiming it to be unethical or unprofessional. The results? Lesser and lesser people visit dentists. Oral hygiene is declining. Conscious of these trends, many dentists and dental associations have consented to advertise both the profession in general and individual practices.

If the matter was only about dentists wanting to advertise their business or make advertising for dental products, we would certainly have nothing to fear. Indeed, it is a blatant reality that the dentist is the custodian of good oral hygiene. If advertising helps consumers understand this, then it is a laudable effort.
However, behind the scenes of dental advertising lurk Wall Street pundits and pharmaceutical companies, desirous to skyrocket their profits with dental products advertising. Dental management firms, backed by Wall Street, are becoming more prevalent. These firms use advertising routinely as a method of increasing their business and dental products sales.

Crudely put, dentistry is becoming just another product to be sold to the end-consumer. One website, advocating the need for dental advertising, gave analogies of the beef and milk industries as examples to follow. While this situation exasperates many dentists, it is a fact that dentistry is becoming a sophisticated business and that individual practices that refuse to advertise or cannot do so are being phased out. And there the danger lies.

Is the trustworthy dentist round the corner a thing of the past? Is the dentist becoming a mere employee in some intricate multinational network—a cog in the wheel of a larger machinery that neither listens to the consumer nor cares about him? For the time being, most people are content with the dental profession. Over 83% of Americans report to be satisfied with their dentists. Dentists are rated highly (61%) for their honesty and trustworthiness.

Consumer associations recognize the need for reliable and independent information about dental practices. The fact is every one of us, at any given time, may be required to visit a dentist. Information should be available to the consumer on the different offers in his region so that he can make a pick. Advertised dental care is often not equal to advertised dental care. Dental advertisers are bent on generating the “desire” to visit a dentist.

Past “prevention” programs are being dumped to the profit of ads that promote dental care as a way to have a better smile or nicer breath. Yet, nearly 66% of people visiting the dentist claim to have done so preventively. Demise of preventive advertising is decreasing awareness about issues such as the connection between periodontal disease and heart disease. Advertisers want to create demand while consumers want dental health. The two views seem incompatible.
The best way for the consumer to go about dental advertisement is to consider the source. If the source of an ad is a huge multinational company, then the objective of the ad is clear. One must be cautious of such ads, even if the message is enticing. Second, like with any dental product advertising, the consumer should analyze his own needs. Does he really need tooth whitening right now? Thirdly, he should purposefully seek out independent information. What are the risks involved? What has not been divulged in the ad? These questions help the consumer make an informed decision.

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