We’ve all heard of dental phobia, but what about DIY dentistry? While most patients would never consider playing dentist at home, a growing number of fearful dental patients would rather take matters into their own hands than surrender to dental care and its intimidating costs. In this post, we’ll explore this trend and suggest ways you can confront and counteract it in your dental practice.
What is DIY Dentistry?
In rare cases, temporary filling repair kits and gum pain relief gels are a good solution for very short-term fixes while a patient locates a dentist. However, more and more potential dental patients are skipping bi-yearly appointments and using widely available, inexpensive filling kits, do-it-yourself orthodontic braces and even improvised adhesive materials to avoid the expense and confrontation of dental treatments altogether.
Why DIY Dentistry?
The two most common reasons patients typically turn to home dentistry are:
In some cases, dental fear is the main reason for choosing to perform extractions or improvised fillings at home rather than going to the dentist. In a UK survey, 30% of adults would rather clean a toilet, and 15% would rather do their taxes than visit the dentist. Of course, fear of the dentist often boils down to a lack of trust, which can be rebuilt through solid communication and other strategies.
Many people are simply unable to pay for the dental work they need. When money is tight, many will choose other expenses—food, childcare, or crucial medicines—over dental care. Some avoid applying for low-income assistance programs out of pride. In these situations, temporary filling kits, do-it-yourself braces and home extractions become a solution.
First of all, think about implementing some of the fear-fighting strategies we’ve already discussed to build trust in your relationships with patients, including early and open communication. You may also want to offer treatment-free appointments where patients can tour the treatment rooms, ask questions, and talk about procedures without the threat of confronting them right away. To improve patient retention, promote these services to your current patients—especially those who are overdue for bi-yearly checkups.
To improve patient acquisition, address the issue of cost in your Search Engine Advertising (SEA) and local marketing plans. In ad texts, mention that you are willing to discuss payment plans. Include a section on your website for patients who are worried about expenses explaining that you have consultations available for those needing a payment plan. You may also want to stress the fact that earlier dental care means lower cost dental care.
Since you know it’s a growing trend, try directly addressing DIY Dentistry in your communication materials. Maybe a YouTube video linked to your website and social media channels with your staff presenting all the reasons why treating yourself at home is a bad idea? In SEA ads, speak directly to potential DIY dentists, and ask them to try calling your practice instead of risking their health. Positively promote your gentle dental care and compare it to the pitfalls of DIY. But never preach: make sure to use a non-accusatory tone in all ads and web pages. Remember, patients who choose to do their dental work at home are likely battling shame about their fear or lack of money. Offer empathy to your fearful patients, and they will be much more likely to trust you.
DIY Dentistry can carry serious risks and is no substitute for quality dental care. Compassionately educate your potential and existing patients about the benefit of staying up-to-date on their bi-yearly appointments, and show empathy for their fears and concerns. Innovative dental care must take the real-life problems of patients into consideration—not only their dental health.