Dental Report from Sturgis
The month of August is always an exciting one for me. I have been attending the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally for six years, after being a rider for over twenty. It is an amazing event featuring thousands of attendees and hundreds of vendors. Every town within fifty miles has a “mini” rally with more vendors and more riders. This year marked the 75th anniversary of the very first rally, which started from a handful of motorcycle enthusiasts who wanted to picnic near a little cycle dirt track which they happened to find in Sturgis.
The Rally lasts for one week, during which time the population of Sturgis swells from around 6,800 to about 400,000 people. Many people camp at one of the dozens of campgrounds. Some in tents and others in the most elaborate recreational vehicles possible. Hotels in all directions are full with nightly rates doubling and tripling the standard fare. Some campgrounds charge for campsites, plus a daily entrance fee. Beverages start at around $5.
Riders from around the world can be found. Some rent bikes after they arrive, like the riders from Australia we ran across. Some have their bikes shipped from Europe, like the French bikers we met. Huge double-decker semis filled with motorcycles unload in vast parking lots. Tattoo parlors abound with the average cost of a tattoo being $150, rising for larger pieces to “the sky’s the limit”.
More and more bikers are retirement age, a demographic somewhat problematic to the motorcycle industry. However, these are the people with both the time and money to spend on biking. A “low-end” Harley-Davidson or Indian without any add-ons runs around $10,000. A “high-end” cruiser starts at about $18,000 up to $45,000, and more.
Riders are happy to spend their money at this event. I couldn’t help thinking that these substantial sums would pay for quite a bit of dental treatment for all of the attendees.
Although dentistry is terrifically important to everyone’s health, we often compete with discretionary dollars when it comes to our patients. If people don’t value their dental care as much as they do their motorcycles, we lose out. When I told people that I was a hygienist, they had quite a few comments.
My dentist charges too much - I know he needs to pay for that new car.
While it might be easy to dismiss these remarks, they prove that we still have a big public relations problem with the general public. Why are people fine with spending $18,000 on a motorcycle, yet think $100 for a prophy is too much? Why is $1200 for custom saddlebags a normal charge, yet $1000 for a crown is too high? It typically comes down to what people understand and what they value.
Here are a few ideas:
Many of the people I spoke with expressed interest in having their teeth whitened. They thought an office procedure was better than using over-the-counter products. Therefore, low cost tooth whitening seems to be a plus for a dental office looking for new patients. People are likely to respond to a low-key ad for tooth whitening in conjunction with a prophy and exam.
A few people mentioned they had read in the newspaper that dentures were just as good as natural teeth. This shows they are reading about dentistry with interest, although their take-away was not what we might want. A web article or “letter-to-the-editor” in your own hometown newspaper giving information on implants and crowns might go a long way toward convincing potential patients to give your office a try.
Many people mentioned aging and hoping to continue doing the things they like to do for many years to come. A targeted postcard focused on keeping teeth for a lifetime to feel and look your best is a message that might be received positively. For example: Your teeth are some of your best assets for staying healthy and looking your best. We have techniques that can help you, and they may be less expensive than you expect!
While we can probably never compete head-to-head with some types of expenditures, that is no reason to quit trying. It is a powerful message to let potential patients know that a beautiful smile and the ability to eat what they want is within their reach. Most people want to enjoy life while they can. A motorcycle is one way to do this. Maintaining good health and good teeth is another.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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