3 Ways to Build Dentist-Patient Trust

January 12, 2016
Bill Schu

Like it or not, dentistry is a business. And while making the bottom line add up is critical, so, too is ensuring patients have the kind of experience that keeps them coming back.

The vast majority of dentists engage in ethical practices and steer clear of behaviors that could take advantage of their patients financially. Unfortunately, however, the dentists who don’t make bigger news. Local newscasts are often filled with stories of dental malfeasance.

Nevertheless, alongside physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, dentists generally score high on Gallup’s annual surveys of the most trusted professions. Building and maintaining patient trust is an everyday endeavor; any encounter with a patient that leads to doubt about your professionalism could lead to loss of a customer, or, worse, potential litigation. Here are a few tips for keeping the trust you fought hard to earn.

Avoid aggressive diagnosis of tooth decay

As fluoridation and better overall dental hygiene continue to chip away at the nation’s need for cavity care, the temptation for some might be to look for opportunities for restorations and other pricey procedures that may not be necessary in some cases. Upselling is prevalent in many industries, but unlike the “undercarriage protection” made famous by the movie Fargo, creative selling in dentistry and other fields of healthcare can be quite damaging. Medical diagnoses are often subject to second opinions from patients, but because it is rarer in dentistry, the temptation is there to over-diagnose.

Consider frequency of cleanings, exams, and x-rays

You and your staff are quite familiar with the risks associated with radiation exposure, but your patients may be less so. When x-rays are needed—particularly cone-beam and other types of x-rays that involve large doses of radiation—take the time to explain to the patient why the x-rays are necessary and what the risks might be.

Communicate well with every patient, but take special care with new ones

On a related note, we have covered the importance of good communication here and elsewhere. While it’s important to establish and nurture relationships with all patients, those who are new to your practice can be particularly susceptible to a lack of trust, because they have no history with you. Take every opportunity to engage new patients on a professional level before and after your portion of their dental exam or procedure.

The Bottom Line

The period of evaluation that comes with the start of the new year may have you looking at revenue earned last year and projections for this year. There is nothing wrong with putting plans in place that will drive additional revenue. Just make sure that the care and trust of your patients always remains the paramount consideration in the process.