Self-Referrals: Local Search for Prosthodontists

Prosthodontists are facing more competition than ever. But this time the competition isn’t coming from other prosthodontists, it’s from general dentists.

To be fair, there are relatively few general dentists who place dental implants. However, there are a lot of general dentists who restore implants, create and place bridges, design and create space retainers, and provide dentures. You can thank the advancements in dental technology (CEREC, digital imaging, and so on) for your income diminishing.

If the idea that general dentists are your direct competitors. consider that there are some 146,00o general dentists in the United States compared with about 30,000 total specialized dentists (prosthodontics, orthodontics, endodontics, periodontics, and oral surgery).

If even 20 percent of general dentists – one out of five – offer prosthodontic services in some form, you’re severely outnumbered.

The Traditional Referral Model Isn’t Dead, But It’s Moribund

Historically, prosthodontists counted on general dentists to refer patients needing bridges, dentures, and the like.  But as more general dentists expanded their services into territory previously held by prosthodontists, the traditional referral process began to weaken.

You certainly get some referrals from general dentists. But you’re probably seeing the more involved cases, the ones requiring highly specialized skills, rather than the full run of prosthodontic needs. General dentists are increasingly providing routine prosthodontic services – crowns, veneers, non-removable bridges, and so on.

In a way, that’s good news. You can earn more per case. But there is only so many complexes in a market at any given time, and you’re not getting the revenue from those routine cases. General dentists are.

And that trend is unlikely to slow, much less reverse.

Time To Stand Up And Stand Out… Online

Today’s dental prospects overwhelmingly begin their search a provider online. If your practice isn’t being seen in search engine results page (SERP) listings, people needing prosthodontic services won’t know you exist.

BUT – You can turn the fact that you’re getting fewer referrals to your advantage by taking the steps necessary to place high in search results. You can attract prosthodontic patients at all levels directly, rather than relying on the impaired referral network.

You can get your share and more of the patients you’re missing.

First Steps

Getting found online begins with choosing the right keywords. For prosthodontists, those keywords will likely include such phrases (long-tail keywords) as “missing teeth,” “dental bridge,” “dental crowns,” “new dentures,” and “dental implants.”

You can begin researching keywords yourself by plugging them into Google and seeing what results are returned. All search is local these days, so the results will largely reflect your market. You can also use Google’s autocomplete function; type in the first word and see what suggestions pop up. Those are the terms that prospects in your market are using.

Once you’ve determined the keywords with the greatest value, you’ll need to incorporate those keywords into your online marketing. All of your online marketing: website, blog, social media, paid ads. There are pretty specific rules for where and how to add keywords. Following the rules helps; not following the rules can actually get you penalized on search.

Getting Found Is The First Step

Your online marketing has to give your prospects reasons to choose you rather than the general dentist down the street. You’ll need to position yourself as a trained specialist who knowledge and vast experience can deliver optimal results for patients.

But even more important is to convey to your prospects that you are approachable, likable, and trustworthy. The old maxim is that we do business with people we like and trust. Dentists who embrace that saying will attract a better class of prosthodontic patients – people with the ability and willingness to pay more for the right dental professional.

Those better patients are at least 20 percent of your market, and those are the patients you need to succeed on your own terms.

You Could, But Should You?

Up-to-date SEO is essential for being found online and the field is constantly evolving. Generally, busy prosthodontists will retain a specialty firm to handle search engine optimization (SEO), which includes keywords, and to create content to position them as the only logical choice to solve prospects prosthodontic problems.

If you have a burning interest in SEO, and a huge amount of bandwidth, you can handle this. But it won’t make you any money. You make money by seeing patients and providing superior prosthodontic solutions.

SmartBox provides state-of-the-art SEO services and expertly written dental content as part of our industry-leading Patient Attraction System™. Discover what SmartBox can do for your practice by visiting

Reserve your free Practice Discovery Session™ and receive your customized Patient Attraction Roadmap™.

We’ll show you how you can double or even triple your practice… no matter what the general dentists in your market do.