“Larry, you have to have a booth at a wedding show. It’s a natural for the cosmetic side of our practice.”
Christy, my dental hygienist, was getting married in a few months and she had attended one of those bridal shows that brought everyone together: florists, dressmakers, wedding planners, caterers, hotels and other wedding locations, vacation people, makeup artists, photographers, and more. But she did not see one dentist! I had recently joined the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) (now almost 20 years ago!) and my team and I had just discussed how we could get the word out about what we do and how we can do it. What an amazing team member; as she was busy planning for her wedding, she was thinking of our office and our goals as a team, too.
But it did seem like a natural opportunity. I just had recently purchased software that could import smiles, change them on the screen, superimpose other smiles, and give people a visual idea of what may be possible in a smile makeover.
So we contacted the organizers of the largest wedding show in Calgary and booked a booth. We got a corner booth for greater visibility, purchased tables, banners, lighting, and more to make it visually appealing and spent a weekend talking to a large number of women about their smiles and their upcoming big day. There was a lot of interest but, in the end, we did not garner a lot of business. The message we got was that there was so much being spent on the wedding, there was little left to spend on a smile makeover, too.
We kept going back, and refined what we were doing and how we were doing it, and we did get some interest and some people following up in our practice. It was financially worthwhile, but just by a little bit. We did wedding shows and women’s shows. We were ahead of the curve and building our reputation—one person at a time. But after three years of these shows, planning, buying supporting material, paying team members to give up some of their time to help out at the show (don’t get me wrong: I paid them for their time, but it was still family time that they were giving up to be there with me, although they did it with a smile and grace), and more, it just was not an effective use of my time and resources. After all, I was giving up family time to do this, too, and I was there every minute of every show!
One of the things that did come out of all of these shows, through research, contact with colleagues through the AACD, and my personal experience, is that we created a wedding timeline for planning a smile makeover and we posted it as a public service on our website. Over the years, many people had e-mailed me from all over the world, thanking me for providing the information, and it turned out to be a wonderful public information service. Here is what was on my website:
“Prior to your wedding day you will plan your clothing, jewelry, hair, and makeup in great detail. But the first thing people will look at on your wedding day, and the first thing you will see in all of your pictures forever after, is your smile.
“Who should be concerned with planning a fabulous smile for your wedding? Everyone who matters to you. The bride, groom, maid of honour, best man, parents of the bride and groom, bridesmaids, and groomsmen are the primary people who should consider a smile enhancement before the wedding day.
“The best cosmetic dentists in Calgary are all fairly busy, especially during wedding season, so here is a timing checklist to ensure every member of your bridal party will look their best:
3 months prior: Have a smile consult to determine what could be done. These consults are usually 30 to 45 minutes long, should be complimentary, or have a nominal fee.
2 months prior: Large smile makeovers should be started (usually completed in only 2 visits, about 2 weeks apart). This early date will ensure you will have lots of time for other last minute details. Your smile makeover will last for many years! Do it sooner than later.
1 month prior: For smiles that need minor changes only, consider home or laser whitening. The best cosmetic dental practices offer both services.
1 to 7 days prior: Go for a tooth polishing. Even if it is not time for a regularly scheduled dental visit, a thorough polishing will make your teeth shine, and should cost less than $100.”
Feel free to use any or all of this for your own website. I don’t mind. Unfortunately, the Complaints Director (CD) of the Alberta Dental Association and College told me I had to remove this from my website as it was a statement of superiority. No one complained about it, but the CD still found fault with everything I was doing and shut it down.
The happy ending to this, however, and as always, was the relationships that came out of these shows. At my first wedding show, I met this young woman and her mother. The young woman was getting married in a few months and had small peg laterals and was very conscious of her smile. We did photographs of her, analyzed her smile and offered a number of solutions from simple to complex. She chose something in the middle which consisted of two Empress restorations (this is the late 90s now) on her upper lateral incisors with some teeth whitening and she looked fabulous (I am a little biased).
But the best part is over the next 10 years I saw two of her sisters and I ended up enhancing all their smiles. They are incredibly beautiful women, inside and out. When it was all finished, I paid for a portrait session with a famous internationally renowned local photographer and they each got to pick photos that they could keep for themselves. Here is one of the images that came out of that session:
Now these three young women are all married and mothers to some amazing young kids. It’s so much fun to be part of something like this.
So enjoy wedding season. We really can make a difference for some people on a really important day in their lives.
Larry Stanleigh, BSc, MSc, DDS, FADI, FICD, FACD