creating loyal dental patients figure 1

Many dentists - too many dentists - have stories about patients who are unintentionally disloyal. This is the patient who has been in the practice for years, diligently coming back for hygiene and accepting the doctor’s recommendations for any immediate clinical needs.

Then one day they walk in with a new set of veneers that they got from the “cosmetic dentist” down the street, or they went to an implant center they heard about so they could say goodbye to dentures. Ask them why they went elsewhere for treatment, and they respond, “Oh, I didn’t know you did that here.”

As frustrating as that is to hear, I heard a story from a dentist that takes the frustration to another level. This dentist had invested considerable time and expense in continuing education to upgrade his clinical skills. One day, he finds out that a team member has referred a patient to another practice for a procedure that he had just recently been trained to master. Not only did the patient not think that their regular dentist did this kind of thing, the dentist’s own team members didn’t know!

There are other variations of this story, such as the new dentist who buys a practice from a retiring practitioner. For that incoming dentist, every patient is new, and if that new dentist offers a more comprehensive level of care than the exiting provider, there is going to be a lot of work that gets diagnosed - conditions that the patients never knew they had. It’s up to the new dentist to make the patients aware of their new possibilities within the practice.

This is why I urge dentists to get past the notion of being modest about their accomplishments and really celebrate, openly, the clinical advances they make in their careers. Build that wall of fame and refresh it regularly with new cases - especially new kinds of cases as your skills improve. Frame and display every certificate you earn for completing any continuing education program. It’s not bragging; it’s about educating patients as to the level of clinical excellence they can expect from your practice.  

At the same time, make it a point to educate your team about your clinical advances. When you get back from a workshop, talk about your experience at the morning meeting and explain what this means for patients. Bring team members into the operatory to see completed cases or do a case review of a recent challenging case at a meeting. Ask the team to watch for patients who might fit the profile of someone who could use the kind of treatment in which you now have advanced training.

If you’re a Spear Online member, have the team review the patient acceptance videos that describe what happens with untreated specific conditions and their treatment options, so they can be confident in discussing these options with patients. These brief videos are some of the most powerful mindset-influencers I have seen. If you have access to them, you really should be using them. And if you don’t have access, they are worth the price of membership.

It’s important that the team understands that this is not about selling more dentistry; it’s about providing a new, higher level of dentistry to the patients you all care about. That’s something they can get excited about and want to talk about with patients.

In other words, the solution to preventing unintentionally disloyal patients is simple. Remember, these are people who have proven that they want you to do their dentistry. All you have to do is show them what you can do.

(Click this link to read more dental practice management articles by Imtiaz Manji.)