Providing “gentle dental care” and achieving a high rate of dental patient retention is a matter of being sensitive to your patients’ needs. Once again, your patient personas are your best resource on this. What do your patient types most desire from their dental treatment? What are their goals and fears? In this post, I’ll discuss some of the most pressing concerns and needs of dental patients based on patient interviews.
Need: Clarity in Pricing
Patients of all walks of life appreciate having a clear sense of what their dental treatments will cost. As we’ve mentioned before, you should never downplay the fees involved in dental treatment, but should rather keep patients informed. Your staff should be ready to work with patients to create a plan for payments. 56% of Americans without dental insurance avoid the dentist, ostensibly due to costs. We’ve outlined this problem using the example of tooth extractions, but this applies to all dental treatments. When pricing and payment are transparent from the start, patients are more likely to get the care they need and stay loyal to your practice.
Concern: Dental Jargon
I can’t stress enough the importance of trust in a dentist’s relationship with his or her patients. And don’t forget, a patient’s relationship to everyone in the practice counts, from the receptionist to the staff. Everyone has an opportunity to educate patients about their dental health and dental care needs in a sensitive, effective manner. Remember the difference between selling and educating? Don’t alienate your patients with unexplained technical jargon. Explain dental treatments just as you do the costs of treatment: with respect, clarity, and understanding. This will help you earn the trust of your patients and improve patient retention at your practice.
Concern: Dental Health and Appearance
Teeth are an important part of a person’s appearance, and they can be revealing of one’s social class, financial status, age, and overall health. Concerns over tooth decay, extractions, and the aesthetic state of a person’s smile are more than just health concerns. Many patients experience anxiety and shame about dental problems. While a dentist is not a psychotherapist, you and your staff should remember to be sensitive to these fears. Never discuss a patient’s dental health or treatment plan like it’s a car repair—maintain respectful professional distance, but always be kind.
Patients like to know their options. When presenting patients with a treatment plan, think through the different treatment approaches with that patient’s specific persona and concerns in mind. For patients who have financial concerns, can it be done in stages and paid for in installments? For patients who have fears about the pain, can you offer an IV anesthetic to minimize discomfort? For patients who have busy work lives, is there a way to minimize the number of appointments and overall treatment time?
These are just a few common concerns of dental patients that can largely be addressed through thoughtful communication, education, and compassion. Use your patient personas to generate a longer list and educate your dental practice staff about increasing patient satisfaction and retention by addressing patients’ wishes and needs. It really comes down to putting yourself in your patients’ shoes and offering quality dental care—they’ll thank you by continuing to come to your dental practice!