The Patient Experience
The Office

Focusing on the Patient Experience

As you have undoubtedly heard, going to the dentist is most people’s most hated experience. Close to 60% of people have anxiety about the experience, and for some, it’s a true phobia. It’s tough to let someone go into your mouth — which you rely on for eating and breathing — and poke around.

Are We That Scary?

Many times dental appointments are painful. And there’s always the risk of getting news that you need a significant procedure. Those procedures cost a lot of money and are often more painful than a routine cleaning.

As a result, people avoid the dentist, which doesn’t do their oral health any favors. What can you do to soothe people’s fears and give them a better experience at your clinic?

Here are some tips that will help.

Make Scheduling Simple

The first thing you can do is make sure that scheduling a dentist appointment is simple. If you haven’t updated your website to allow online scheduling, that’s a great start. The harder it is to schedule appointments, the more excuses people will make.

Your office staff probably already ask patients if they’d like to schedule their next appointment as they check out. This is another excellent way to overcome fear and get cleanings and care on the calendar.

Finally, make sure you follow up with reminders. Dental appointments happen infrequently — perhaps as rarely as twice a year — and it’s very easy to get busy and overlook the visit. Many people check their cell phone text messages even more often than email, so consider a text messaging reminder system.

Educate Patients About New Technology

Many people who avoid the dentist have memories from decades ago that involve a bad experience. Or, they may have heard horror stories from others. When you talk to patients about the latest technology and how it keeps them comfortable and pain-free, it can help them relax and enjoy their visit.

Make sure your marketing talks about the comfort of the modern dental office, about how patients can wear headphones, or even take advantage of sedation dentistry (if you offer it.) These reassurances not only help encourage appointments, they’ll make the actual patient experience much more pleasant.

Your messaging can also include the fact that regular dental appointments may help you avoid getting cavities or needing significant dental work. The more often someone attends to their dental health, the less likely it is that there will be substantial damage to repair.

Make Your Waiting Room Relaxing and Inviting

Everyone who visits your dental clinic will spend at least a few minutes in the waiting room. This space is one of the highest-impact areas for patient comfort and putting people at ease.

Are you a family dentist? Include a play area where kids can relax and enjoy simple toys. Do you serve mostly adults? Create comfortable seating in a serene environment. Chairs should not be hard or uncomfortable, and you want to avoid a sterile, “doctor’s office” feeling.

Many dental offices include magazines, and patients still read them. However, it may be even more useful to offer free WiFi. You can post the WiFi password prominently in the waiting area so patients can listen to music, go online, and more without using cellular data.

Consider Fun Rewards for Adults at the Dentist

You might think that the only patients who are interested in fun and encouraging stickers are children, but you’d be wrong. Although adults rarely admit it, many are delighted with the same simple, playful, and cheerful messages that kids are.

Stickers are so popular as an add-on to retail purchases that there’s a thriving resale market for them on eBay and other online sales sites. Customers even share their disappointment online if they don’t get their sticker sheet.

Why not jump on a trend? Give your adult patients the option of getting a fun and uplifting sticker after their appointment. You can even use a tongue-in-cheek reference to the act of going to the dentist by giving away #Adulting stickers.

You’ll be surprised how many delighted patients will accept a sticker and even share it on their social media accounts. It gives you great advertising, and you may find patients asking about a sticker when they schedule!

You Can Make Going to the Dentist a Fun Experience

There’s only so much you can do about the actual process of cleaning and repairing a person’s teeth, but there’s so much about the patient experience that you can impact otherwise.

Make it easy to schedule appointments and send text message reminders. Help patients understand that today’s technology means less pain and discomfort in the dentist’s chair. Encourage folks to relax in a high-quality waiting room with amenities that your clients enjoy.

And, don’t forget to have fun. Even adults enjoy whimsical and inexpensive rewards for their responsible behavior, from stickers to little toys to a piece of dark chocolate. When you reward your patients, they’ll be more likely to return.

With these tips, your dental clinic will be a place your patients feel comfortable, leading to more regular appointments, referrals, and an overall improvement in your business.

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