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Client vs. patient: Who's more important? (Part 4: New patient appointment)


  Client vs. patient: Who's more important? (Part 4: New patient appointment)

In part four of this "client vs. patient" series, we explore the importance of catering to both patients and clients when it comes to the new patient appointment. You can view the entire series here.

You want new patients. You take courses, workshops, read forum threads and even hire “experts” on how to market to patients, get them in the door, connect with them, get them to say “yes” and have them return, time and time again. There’s a falsely held truth in dentistry that success relies solely on new patients and how much treatment dentists can diagnose. This is far from the whole story.

There is another target market that plays a critical part in the success, diversity and longevity of a practice. These are the clients. Clients are the decision makers. They decide if a patient moves forward with treatment, which level of service a patient will tolerate, if the cost to value ratio is acceptable and often drives the patient’s emotional response throughout the process. Often these important individuals are called guardians, parents or spouses. Don’t be fooled by those titles. These people are clients and must be catered to in marketing, technology, practice management, team development and office environment with equal amounts of thought and energy as a patient.

New Patient Appointment

The new patient appointment is where patients and clients get their first real experience with the team and practitioner. How the team and doctor interact, communicate and connect with both patient and client will ultimately determine if a patient accepts any kind of treatment or a client becomes willing to pay for it.


Personal: Since patients will be the ones physically touched and manipulated by the doctor and team, they are looking for more of a personal approach. Creating the personal connection with patients entails the following:

Body language: Rounded shoulders, soft eyes, hands placed in lap, lots of head nodding and smiling

Chair placement: Height slightly below patient level, front facing for eye contact

Communication: Open-ended questions, ask-assertive, empathetic tone

Physical contact: Comforting hand on shoulder, back patting

Results oriented:  Patients’ main thoughts and concerns are results oriented. They want to make sure that when treatment is complete they will have ideal results. Be sure to use a variety of means such as previous patient pictures, Photoshop, impressions, intra-oral photos, etc. to talk about and share anticipated results.


Professional:  Clients are looking for the team to be professional more than personal. It’s important that the education and experience of each team member is easily observable by the behaviors the team exhibits. Professionalism can be demonstrated through:

Body language: Square shoulders, direct and confident eye contact, hands at side, neutral/relaxed face

Chair placement: At eye level, 45-degree angle

Communication: Direct open or closed questions, tell-assertive, confident tone

Physical contact: Firm handshake

Process oriented:  To comfort most clients’ worries, tell them about processes and systems upfront. Knowing they can rely on a strong foundation that moves them through the experience diminishes the amount of guessing, questioning and mental work the client has to do. Clients don’t want to have to think during the extent of the treatment; that’s what they are paying the team to do.

This article is part one of a five-part series. Next: Part 5: Client vs. patient: Regular/recare appointments

Editor's Note: Jen Butler, M.Ed., has been working in the area of stress management and resiliency coaching for over 20 years. For more information on how to stressLESS, join her mailing list, take a stressLESS Intensive course, and connect with other like-minded, dental professionals while learning how to reduce and manage stress by joining a stressLESS Mastermind Alliance TODAY!

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