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You may have long suspected it, but now there’s proof.

This isn’t the sort of news I usually cover in this blog. However, the study result below can serve to demonstrate how dentists can use research to differentiate themselves from the competition.

A study in the Winter 2015 issue of Anesthesia Progress confirmed that the severity of preoperative dental pain impacted the effectiveness of anesthesia in root canal patients.

The authors evaluated 177 patients in India with pain in one lower mandibular molar. Patients were sorted into three groups: mild, moderate, or severe preoperative pain. Anesthesia consisted of a single, standard dose local. Pain levels were recorded during root canal during this double-blinded study.

Patients with severe preoperative pain were far more likely to experience incomplete relief from the standard dose of anesthesia. In fact, 84% of patients in the severe pain category experienced operative pain compared to 33% of patients in the preoperative mild category, who reported no pain or mild pain during the procedure. The results were independent of age and gender.

One of the greatest concerns that patients have about seeing a dentist the fear of pain.

Numerous attempts have been made to address that in dental marketing, including the labels of “gentle dentistry” and “sedation dentistry.” Those attempts haven’t been overly successful.

What this study suggests is that preoperative anesthesia should be tailored to the patient’s reported pain level. Root canal patients who report severe pain would benefit from a supplemental injection as well as the primary.

That’s something you can market to set yourself apart from the competition. How? It’s in the message. What do dental patients who fear pain want to hear? That you’ll take care of them. That they won’t hurt. That you’ll listen to them when they tell you they’re hurting, both preoperatively and during the procedure. That you’ll tailor their pain relief to their reported pain level.

If you’re dealing with a patient who reports severe pain, it may well be because the nerves involved have become hyperexcitable. The intensity and frequency of the nerve impulses really are that bad. It’s not just in the patient’s head.

Clearly, reassurances of pain relief have to apply to the preoperative and operative phases of treatment. Prescribing guidelines make it questionable to give patients an excessive amount of Schedule 1 or 2 opioids postoperatively.

Your state guidelines may limit how you advertise pain relief. Within those limits, the phrasing of your message will set you apart.

Marketing to dental patients is all about getting into their heads and understanding what they want and need to hear. If you can legitimately address those wants and needs in language they understand, you’ve given them a powerful reason to choose you to solve their dental problems.

These kinds of studies don’t come along every day. When they do, look at the results from the patient’s perspective, and ask yourself how you can respond. Your marketing will be more effective, and you’ll attract more patients who want what you have to offer.


Written by Smartbox

SmartBox employs the best minds in dentistry to help you grow your practice. Our Practice Growth System™ is proven to help dentists in every market area across the country achieve predictable year-over-year growth.

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