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How Facebook advertising can help dental practices to look to the future by targeting older patients

Oct. 26, 2017
Dental practices seeking to establish a strong digital presence might not immediately think of Facebook marketing. However, Facebook employs cutting-edge advertising targeting technology that can help dentists to generate more patients. Learn more in this article by John Marks.
John Marks, Chief Operating Officer, DentalROI

In my last article, I talked about the benefits of LinkedIn advertising for a dental practice. Here I go over the benefits of tapping into the power of Facebook for your practice.

Dental practices seeking to establish a strong digital presence might not immediately think of Facebook. However, the popular social media site, which boasts a huge number of users, employs cutting-edge advertising-targeting technology that can help dentists to generate more patients.

Facebook adverts are displayed across an extensive range of online platforms, including smartphones, laptops and tablets, as well as desktops. Perhaps surprisingly, Facebook enables dental offices to become future-ready by focusing on older adults who are increasingly using the platform and may represent the financial core of dental practices over the coming years. Engaging with potential patients—young and old—who use Facebook apps on smartphones and other mobile devices is becoming more and more important for dentists.

Towards the end of 2016, The Telegraph reported that the use of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, had overtaken desktop and laptop computers for the first time. Technology news editor James Titcomb said this milestone underscored the rapidly-rising popularity of mobile devices, which had accounted for a mere 5% of website browsing in 2010. (1)

In traditionally “mature markets” such as the United States, the desktop is just about holding sway, but the gap is shrinking significantly, with mobiles representing 41% and tablets 8% of website visits as of September 2017, according to the Statcounter research company, which monitors internet use across 2.5 million websites. (2)

If you class laptops as mobile devices, which many people do, the ascendancy of portable devices in the US is undisputable. Figures for Spring 2017 from statistics and market research platform Statista show that the number of people in US households that owned a laptop or notebook computer totaled more than 171 million. (3)

According to demographic and social science researchers at the Pew Research Center, almost 80% of people in the US who go online (68% of the population if you include those who never access the internet) were using Facebook in 2016, a 7% rise from 2015. The Pew Research Center partly attributes the popularity of Facebook to the rising number of older adults joining the site, including 62% of internet users aged 65 and over, a 14% increase on 2015. The research center said that in 2017, half of older adults who own cellphones have some type of smartphone and concluded: "Facebook remains the most popular social media platform, with its users visiting the site more regularly than users of other social media sites." (4)

Statista says the number of active mobile phone Facebook users in the U.S. in 2015 was nearly 133 million, forecast to increase to 167 million by 2020. (3)

Connecting with existing patients and targeting new ones

Facebook—set up by Harvard students Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin in 2004 as a college-based social network—overtook MySpace in 2006 as the planet’s most popular social network site. In August 2015, Zuckerberg announced that the platform had reached a momentous landmark, with more than a billion users logging on to the site in a single day.

The high-profile status of Facebook has been credited to its popularity with both individuals and businesses, and it gives dental offices the opportunity to tap into a large audience of prospective patients while maintaining contact with existing clients. In particular, Facebook enables dentists to engage with the growing number of people regularly using smartphones. More than 800 million Facebook users access their mobile app daily.

Facebook marketing boasts an array of targeting options, including age ranges and geographic locations, which enables precise targeting of a narrowly defined audience of potential dental patients. It offers advertisers a range of audience targeting tools, plus a remarketing facility that provides a potent supplemental marketing strategy. Remarketing on Facebook is similar to that offered by Google AdWords, continuing to show your ads to your website visitors when they go to other sites or use social media.

The growing popularity of Facebook among older adults will be an important aspect in online dental marketing for practices that look to the future. Dentistry professor and public health sciences expert Eric Solomon says an aging population is becoming the financial mainstay of dental offices, and predicts that by 2040, 62% of dental expenditure will be by patients at least 40 years old. Younger adults (20-39) would become a less important demographic among dental patients, said Solomon, partly because of effective dental treatment they received as children. (5)

Building trust to generate more clients

Facebook ads basically work on a pay-per-click (PPC) basis, where you pay a small fee every time someone clicks on your ad. Alternatively, you can choose a cost-per-impression (CPI) system—paying every time Facebook shows your ad, regardless of whether anyone clicks on it. Click-through rates (CTR) are increasing for Facebook advertisements as the platform introduces further measures to improve is advertising tools for businesses.

A specific approach for Facebook advertising for dentists may be useful. For example, an analytics system can measure the performance of your campaign so you can see how it is doing in comparison with promotional drives of your competitors. This enables you to fine-tune your campaign as and when needed.

A strong presence on Facebook can also enhance a dental practice’s brand image. Users frequently access their Facebook newsfeed—several times a day in some cases—which allows repeated exposure to your target audience. This, in turn, helps to establish and maintain trust in your practice while creating opportunities for future retargeting.

In 2015, the number of active small business Facebook pages reached 40 million. Only 2 million were active advertisers, though, and the other 38 million are missing out on a golden opportunity, according to TechCrunch, an online publisher of technology industry news, which says the reach of organic (free) content on Facebook pages is decreasing because of increasing competition and the limited attention span of users.

In fact, the visibility of business pages has been reduced by Facebook over the years. On the other hand, the company has been bringing in new measures to give advertisers more support as it continues to offer a low-cost means of creating and maintaining a successful brand and attracting new business.

The situation of a large number of prospective dental patients on Facebook, coupled with relatively few competing dental offices, makes the platform an ideal medium for a practice striving to generate new patients. A potential drawback of Facebook advertising is that it can be difficult to stand out from the herd, particularly for a busy dental office, so the help of professional social media marketers might be needed.

Facebook advertising boosts the reach of dental practices

People spend, on average, nearly two hours a day on digital social networks. In the US, 40 minutes of that time is devoted to Facebook, with users publishing comments, giving status updates and sharing images. Every minute, Facebook fans “Like” more than four million posts. More than 1.5 billion log on to the platform every month—nearly half a billion via mobile phones.

Facebook has become too big to be ignored by small businesses such as dental practices. It presents an opening for dentists to promote their practices within their localized community and connect with prospective new patients, potentially creating a steady flow of new business.

If your dental website contains quality content, you may well want to share it in the form of updates across social networks such as Facebook. However, you need Facebook advertising to reach out to more prospective patients, particularly older people using smartphones and other mobile devices to access the platform.


1. Titcomb J. Mobile Web Usage Overtakes Desktop for First Time. The Telegraph website. Published November 1, 2016. Accessed October 1, 2017.

2. Desktop vs mobile vs tablet market share, United States Of America. Statcounter website. Accessed October 25, 2017.

3. Number of people living in households that own a laptop or notebook in the United States from autumn 2010 to spring 2017 (in millions). Statista website. Accessed October 1, 2017.

4. Greenwood S, Perrin A, Duggan M. Social media update 2016. Pew Research Center website. Published November 11, 2016. Accessed October 1, 2017.

5. Solomon S. The Future of Dental Practice: Demographics. Dental Economics website. Published April 2015. Accessed October 2017.

John Marks is the Chief Operations Officer for DentalROI, a digital dental marketing company with over 20 years’ experience in creating custom dental websites. He is a pioneer when it comes to custom Marketing (including Facebook) and Dental Websites. For more information, email him at [email protected] or visit


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Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Apex360 e-newsletter. Apex360 is a DentistryIQ partner publication for dental practitioners and members of the dental industry. Its goal is to provide timely dental information and present it in meaningful context, empowering those in the dental space to make better business decisions.

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About the Author

John Marks | Chief Operating Officer, DentalROI

John Marks is the chief operations officer for DentalROI, a digital dental marketing company with over 20 years’ experience in creating secure dental websites. He is a pioneer when it comes to online security development for dental websites. For more information, email him at [email protected] or visit