Front Desk Greeting Patients

What patients expect from their dentist: The overall impression needs to be right

June 3, 2014
Patients hold their dentists to a high standard, and you should strive to live up to it.

In the worst cases, decaying teeth and other diseases of the mouth pose a threat to the health of the entire body. This is an insight supported by countless studies and now recognized the world over.[1] With this in mind, today’s dentists approach dental problems and their causes with the big picture in mind. However, it’s not just in the medical sense that dentists need to take a holistic approach. They also need to ensure that the patient's overall experience in their practice is positive. Patients value pleasant surroundings, excellent service, and modern equipment just as highly as the expertise of their dentist.

A survey by dental marketing company Futuredontics identified patients’ key criteria when choosing a dentist as comfort, transparency, and a strong online presence.[2] With the help of some simple marketing tips that just about anyone can implement, dentists can go a long way toward meeting the needs of their patients.appointment. When existing patients urgently need to see a dentist, they are likely to reach for the telephone before anything else.

Around 90% of U.S. adults use the Internet. Around three quarters of these seek information on doctors and illnesses.[3] Therefore, there is great potential for dentists to attract new patients through Google searches ­– by describing themselves effectively on their websites and via social media. Patients do their research on review sites and make decisions based on evaluations written by people treated at the practice. Asking satisfied customers to leave a positive review is a way to better position your practice on the web. Once patients have found a suitable dentist online, the next thing they will do is pick up the phone to make an appointment. When existing patients urgently need to see a dentist, they are likely to reach for the telephone before anything else.

Well-managed appointments a key selling point
The first conversation with a staff member leaves a strong impression on a caller and acts as an acoustic business card of sorts. In a busy dental practice, it is often challenging to provide a friendly and dependable telephone service, but it remains very important. Around 65% of patients who book appointments for treatment via the Internet do so outside normal office hours.[4] As an alternative to telephone contact, a web-based appointment request service that can be easily integrated into the practice website gives patients the flexibility to contact a dentist 24/7. The following morning, staff can then compare the request against the treatment schedule and book an appointment.

Simple measures to make patients feel more comfortable
Patients are like any other customers – they need to feel at ease.[5] Given the pressures of daily life, they often have only limited time to spare for a dental appointment. What’s more, many people have a fear of the dentist, which creates an underlying sense of tension.[6] A comfortable waiting room will provide patients with a calm and welcome atmosphere, a nice contrast to the harsh light of the dentist’s chair.

Long waiting times can increase the sense of trepidation before treatment, so it’s a good idea for dentists to keep their patients occupied to help ensure that the average waiting time of 20 minutes passes as pleasantly as possible.[7]

Transparency and honesty foster trust
The financial aspect of a dental visit also has an impact on the patient experience. Without dental insurance, a single composite filling costs about $150 to $250.[8] Something like crowns and bridges are even more expensive. Because few people are willing to speak openly about their financial constraints, patients appreciate greater cost transparency from their dentist. One way to alleviate patients’ reluctance regarding treatment is to offer a good financing package. To protect against the associated financial risks, there are opportunities for dentists to partner with independent providers of financing.[9]

Enhance the image of your practice – and increase your revenue
It’s true that the overall impression is what puts patients at ease when they visit the dentist, but hiring an expensive consultant is not always necessary to achieve improvement. Small but effective measures can make a difference in the way a dentist's practice is perceived by patients and on the web. Marketing your business effectively not only helps to ensure the success of your team, it also attracts patients to your practice.

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Katharina Schmidt, left, and Anita Maeck are editors at “dieleutefuerkommunikation,” a communication agency in Sindelfingen, Germany. They write for Sulzer Mixpac Ltd., a leading manufacturer and supplier of cartridge-based metering, mixing, and dispensing systems and disposable mixers for reactive multi-component materials. Find more information about Sulzer on If you have questions, email Katharina Schmidt at [email protected] or Anita Maeck at [email protected].

1. Süddeutsche Zeitung: (Compacting heart attacks with dental floss). Last access: April 2014
2. Futuredontics: “What Dental Patients Want”. Last access: April 2014
3. PewResearch Internet Project: “Health Fact Sheet”. Last access: April 2014
4. Dental Economics: “Patient reminder communications: An online approach“. Last access: April 2014
5. Castle CS: Marketing&Advertising: “5 Principles of a Great Waiting Room”. Last access: April 2014
6. The Huffington Post: “Dental Phobia: 7 common fears, and how to conquer them.” Last access: April 2014
7. Vitals Blog: “Shortest average wait time for doctors increased to over 16 minutes, up more than a minute in 2012”. Last access: April 2014
8. Best Dental Tips: “How much does a cavity filling typically cost without dental insurance?” Last access: April 2014
9. Futuredontics: “What Dental Patients Want”. Last access: April 2014