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How to keep patients coming back to your dental practice


Adding in a few basic creature comforts can make your practice more comfortable for patients (and more profitable for you).

When you walk into a well-managed restaurant, there is a good chance that you will be greeted with a warm, friendly smile that will make you feel so welcome that you’ll think that you were at home.

And upon departure, you’ll receive the same glowing spirit that beckons you to return soon. This is the KIKO principle - kiss them on the way in and kiss them on the way out. If it works for successful restaurants, then it will certainly work wonders for a dental practice.

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The wow factor is, by definition, a quality or feature that is extremely impressive. Relating that to your dental practice means that you need to separate yourself from the crowded dental market by providing exquisite customer service. This will not only help increase your word-of-mouth referrals, but also retain your current patients.

Take your waiting room to the next level

A welcoming reception area is a good place to start. Scatter a variety of current magazines and play soft, contemporary background music that would appeal to the majority of age groups. A K-cup coffee maker is an inexpensive addition that takes up little space and is welcoming and appealing to waiting patients. Add a mini, glass-door refrigerator for bottled water, juice and iced tea.

Whether for a new patient or just to update insurance information, have a staff member come out to the patient to deliver forms and to answer any questions. This gives a much more personal touch than someone handing a stack of paperwork over the front desk or through a small window. Massage chairs can relax nervous patients. The air tinted with a hint of aromatic scent helps convey the spa feel. And don’t forget to place your portfolio book with examples of your cases to give them a preview to possible treatment options for their case.

The power of comfort and entertainment

Once back in the treatment room, provide creature comforts like soft neck and head pillows and warm blankets. Some successful practices even include paraffin wax hand baths and head, neck and foot massages to relax patients. A hot towel provided at the end of a procedure adds a wonderful finishing touch. There are many inexpensive towel warmers available on the market. Offer headphones for music. Many patients appreciate any chance they can get to soften the shrill sound of the high-speed handpiece.

I highly recommend operatory televisions in the ceiling. This simple luxury has worked for me for decades! Hook it up to cable so your patients can enjoy a wide choice of programming. This can be extremely helpful when there is an extended waiting time - making for less grumpy patients. It also is a huge aid in distracting a patient during treatment making their overall dental experience more pleasant.

Related article: How to attract new patients

There are also added bonuses with ceiling TVs. You can play patient educational or informed consent videos. You can hook up an intraoral camera and give your patient a real-time tour of their mouth. And you can focus in on trouble spots like fractured teeth, leaking restorations and perio disease. Another benefit is the ability to display a PowerPoint to show off your cases and to aid in your treatment plan presentation.

Up next: Don't forget the kids...


Don't forget the kids

If you have a family practice, don’t forget to wow the kids also. Happy moms and dads mean happy referrals. Get a small toy box and fill it with a bunch of toys that can occupy the kids while mom or dad is undergoing treatment, or waiting their turn while sibling is getting their teeth cleaned. This can cut down last-minute broken appointments due to child care issues. You can also have hand-held video games or DVD players available. These are relatively inexpensive and well worth the price by keeping the kids from running around the office while you are trying to work.

We have a large toy chest filled to the brim with low-priced trinkets. Every child who enters the office, whether receiving treatment or not, gets a reward for “good behavior” by picking out a toy from the “Treasure Chest.” That produces some very big smiles on their faces. The kids will be excited to return for their next fun visit!

Related article: 10 ways to simplify pediatric dentistry

Another great idea for the kids and parents that has worked well in our office is the No Cavities Club. It is a wall plastered with photographs of child patients who have no cavities. We take two pictures, one to put up on the wall and the other to take home. We affix a sticker with the practice name to the home pic in hopes that mom or dad will proudly display it on their refrigerator for guests to see (and hopefully the guests will ask who their great dentist is). It’s also a great time to take a pic for your office Facebook page. Make sure that you tag the parent’s page so their friends will see your happy office. When posting on your wall and/or Facebook, make sure that you have the parent sign a release. HIPAA lurks everywhere.

When treatment is finished, go ahead and give your patient a big hug. That goes a long way to cementing your doctor/patient bond. Give them a hot towel to clean off any stray debris. This gives them a warm and fuzzy feeling. Then, either you or a staff member, should personally escort the patient to the front desk.

After checkout, give the patient a flower (carnations are relatively inexpensive), to bring home. Even men are happy to give it to their significant other. This gives a wonderful parting shot. And don’t forget that the goodbye is just as important as the hello. With good eye contact, give them a warm, cheerful farewell so that they can carry that WOW experience with them out the door.

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