Most dental practices offer whitening for patients and the treatment is in high demand as most Americans believe having a beautiful smile is important for social interactions, relationships and even being able to get a good job. Meanwhile, some patients come into the dental office asking about whitening, others do not. Among those who do not, some may want whitening but not bring it up and others may not know what their options are. As a result, as dental professionals we shouldn’t be concerned about starting a whitening conversation. We can also be better prepared to discuss it tactfully with patients if we have some whitening conversation starters.
When starting a conversation about tooth whitening, here are some openers you may want to consider:
Ask patients about upcoming life events
As we get to know our patients over time, they will often chat about big (and small) life events. This could be starting university, a new job, getting married, going traveling or other life events. Asking about these events may also help to relax a patient. It can also enable a natural conversation where you can then introduce the idea of tooth whitening.
This could be done in a general and gentle way, for example, ‘Is there anything we can offer to help you feel prepared and confident for the wedding, like teeth whitening?' For example, you could ask if they are interested in whitening their teeth?’ You might also want to consider having an image of a couple in wedding photos with whitened teeth on your wall, or at another event, which might cause the patient to open up about it before you even ask. If a patient does indicate interest, it is then important to open the conversation up further, define the timeline and discuss this with the patient.
In the absence of events, you can still ask patients opening questions to find out if they are interested in whitening and also to help them consider it. For example, ‘what would you change if you were able to change your smile in any way?’ Your patient may well say that they would like whiter teeth (or straighter and whiter teeth). Another potential opener is ‘Are you happy with the appearance of your smile?’
Take the shade of your patient’s teeth at every recall appointment
Add taking a shade to your regular patient examination. This creates awareness for the patient of the shade (color) of their teeth, and any changes over time, and can be the starter for them to ask whether and how they could whiten their teeth. This can be particularly effective if you notice the shade becoming darker over time, and a tactful way to address this potential concern. It also allows the patient to engage with whitening once they have had time to consider their options and to discuss this further with you, at which point you can ask if they have given any more thought on whitening their teeth.
Talk about whitening as part of treatment plans
For example, consider a patient that requires treatments like tooth-colored direct restorations, crowns and bridges. This is a natural time to raise the topic of whitening and ask if it’s something they’re considering in the near future. Explain that the color of the restorations cannot be changed once they’ve been placed, so whitening the teeth afterwards means that the natural teeth will be brightened while the restorations will not. In order to achieve a good shade match, it’s better to whiten the teeth first and then match the restorations to the brighter smile.
Educate patients before they reach the chair
Don’t wait until your patient is in the chair; use all of your available marketing channels to let them know that you can help them achieve a brighter, whiter smile. For example, you can provide detailed information about the whitening services you offer on your website, or use your waiting room’s digital display to illustrate the rapid results that are possible with options like the Colgate Optic White Professional Take-Home Kit. You could also showcase results from your other satisfied patients on your social media channels. This can inspire your patient to pursue a brighter smile of their own and give them the confidence to ask you about their options.
What is most important when having these conversations is that we actively listen to our patients and let them decide if they are ready to consider whitening and to proceed. The examples given above may help to open a whitening conversation in a gentle and friendly way and help to maintain and build the trust patients have in you.