Th Bethhamann

“Branding” your practice identity

March 1, 2005
In 1985, after graduating from Loma Linda School of Dentistry, I planned the opening of my solo dental practice in Southern California.

In 1985, after graduating from Loma Linda School of Dentistry, I planned the opening of my solo dental practice in Southern California. As a new dentist, one of the first steps was to consider my practice “identity” and how to market it successfully. My husband, Curt Hamann, MD, who was acting as my business manager, and I had many discussions on this topic! After thinking about the image I wanted to project, Curt and I agreed on the practice name and logo.

We chose Alabaster Dental as the name, for alabaster is a translucent seashell of rare beauty. We invited patients to share our family’s love for ocean sports and shell collecting. Alabaster is also a finely textured, usually white and translucent gypsum that can be carved into decorative ornaments. What a perfect representation of our interests and quality dental work. For my logo design, we opted for an embossed, pearl-colored alabaster shell on a pale rose background. The subtle beauty and translucency of the shell symbolized smile perfection. I was thrilled with this combination of beauty and strength, as the dentistry I wanted to provide embodied these characteristics.

Alabaster Dental projected a brand of quality along with a very positive, cosmetic image. I continued the shell theme in the choice of décor and artwork. A talented patient even painted a gorgeous watercolor of an alabaster shell that we proudly displayed in our reception area. Over time, patients would send us shell-themed cards while on vacation, or come to the office with gifts of unusual shells.

We used our theme consistently on stationery, business and appointment cards, our practice newsletter, and mailers to new residents and targeted demographic groups in the surrounding area. In addition to mailing programs with offers for new patients, we developed plans to deepen relationships with patients coming to Alabaster Dental. This was accomplished by sending welcome letters, thank you notes, birthday and anniversary cards (both personal and practice), and sending gifts to those patients and colleagues kind enough to refer others. All of these items reflected our positive, upscale theme and image.

As a woman and a dentist, I understand that women are often the “shoppers” for their family’s products and services. Women usually make the family’s dental appointments and see that their husbands and children keep them. Alabaster Dental’s theme proved very appealing to the women in the area, another causal factor in our success.

Our business grew by attracting patients to our brand identity. Patients feel more relaxed when you share your personality and interests. I’ve seen colleagues create unique branding by highlighting their particular interests in their office décor. For example, an office in New York has a New York taxi theme, complete with black and white checkered floors. Another dentist I know decorated his office to reflect his passion for cinema with a tribute to Hollywood in the reception area and hallways. Pediatric dentists have long understood that stepping out of the sometimes stiff and colorless professional image helps their patients relax and feel both comforted and welcome. Embracing a friendly theme can also relax adult patients. For example, adding some sparkle to your “in-office” wear through colorful scrub tops or lab jackets can break down barriers, and communicate your interests to patients. If you have an aquarium in your office, why not select ocean-themed scrub tops, along with fun, “fishy” reminder cards to reinforce the theme? Soon you’ll find that your image, your dentistry, and your patient base are synchronous.

Cosmetic dentistry’s explosive growth has revolutionized dental practice branding. And, unlike in 1985, now there are so many products available to market cosmetic dental services.

In my role at SmartPractice, I helped design several distinctive families of products to build a practice image by showcasing a single cosmetic design on products, including postcards, appointment cards, photo albums, and wall art, to name just a few. These professional collections instantly show patients and prospective patients that you are in the business of smile transformation.

Often I hear from doctors across the country that these products invite their patients to explore cosmetic dentistry. These dental professionals also update their “1980s look” with a more stylish, professional, and polished look. A female dentist in Michigan is “very proud of the cosmetic dentistry she performs and uses professional smile images to help her market her practice.” A colleague in Indiana revamped her décor and reports, “This is the first time ever for us to have art in our operatories and in the reception area that feature cosmetic dentistry. Patients comment about the smiles and we see an increase in cosmetic dental cases. We also show a before-and-after video in the reception room for subliminal impact.”

In 2005, resources are readily available to help you establish a consistent brand image for high-quality cosmetic dentistry. You can develop instant recognition in your community and promote your expertise, linking your care to fulfilling patient expectations.

Editor’s Note: References available upon request.

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After graduating from Loma Linda University School of Dentistry in 1985, Dr. Beth Hamann enjoyed a number of years in full-time practice. She now specializes in multi-tasking, serving as vice president at SmartHealth, practicing dentistry part-time, and raising six active and talented children. She can be reached at bhamann@

Branding your practice identity is important because:

  • First impressions count. A professional, coordinated, consistent image gives you credibility in the community and among your colleagues.
  • Commitment to quality. With a strong image reflecting your professionalism, patients and prospective patients perceive you as well-organized and capable of providing excellent services.
  • Your brand image sends a message. How you visually project your image conveys who you are and the high quality of your dentistry. At the same time, your brand should appeal to the type of patients you wish to bring to your practice - those who are interested in what you do.

In an effort to ensure the continued efficacy and relevance of its product line, service and direction, DENTSPLY Prosthetics conducted its third annual Prosthodontics Advisory Forum prior to the 2005 Chicago Midwinter Meeting.

Twenty of the nation’s top prosthodondists participated in the forum, held Feb. 23, at the Four Seasons Hotel. V. Sundar, Ph.D., Manager of Product Commercialization, and Nels Ewoldsen, DDS, MSD, Director of Clinical Research, moderated the wide-ranging discussions.

Event feedback enables DENTSPLY Prosthetics to better serve, educate, and understand the needs of the industry, while uncovering ways to more efficiently direct company resources. As such, the forum dovetails with the broader corporate goal of DENTSPLY International to provide cutting edge technology, education and service.

Also participating were representatives from DENTSPLY Caulk, dental consumables division, and DENTSPLY Friadent/CeraMed, the implant division. Among forum topics were over-dentures and prosthetic attachments; implant products their indication and applications; tooth occlusion; and new techniques for direct composite crowns. Participants developed their own focus-issues in break-out sessions, which were presented to the group for discussion.

Later in the week, DENTSPLY International conducted the Women’s Dental Forum, bringing together 19 women dentists representing various specialties. Representatives of six DENTSPLY International divisions introduced attendees to new and existing products, with the hope of discovering ways of making company products and services more useful to the growing female dental professional segment.