The Most Important Tool in Your Dental Practice

February 12, 2016
Bill Schu

As a dentist, you have a lot of tools at your disposal. But the most important tool to your business, the one you can't do without if you're going to be successful, is communication.

As a dentist, you have a lot of tools at your disposal. The mouth mirror is obviously important. The excavators and chisels get the dirty work done. That sickle probe gets a lot of use. But the most important tool to your business, the one you can’t do without if you’re going to be successful, is communication—with your partners, with your staff, and most importantly, with your patients.

Let’s take a look at a few ways that better communications with your patients can help your practice grow.

Actively seek out patient questions and requests. Seems obvious, right? But you’d be surprised how often a dentist will breeze into a routine hygiene appointment, do a quick check of the teeth and maybe a scrape or two, and then head immediately off to a more profitable endeavor.

Many patients are reluctant to go to make their dental appointments to begin with, and the environment at the dental office can be intimidating to some. No matter how long you get to spend with each patient, make it impactful. Small talk is fine, but take a moment to see if they have any questions or concerns about their dental health. You may have to lead some patients into it by asking a few questions yourself to get them started. If you make this a regular practice, you’ll find that not only do you have happier patients who are more likely to return, you’ll also likely identify some opportunities for additional business (though this shouldn’t be your primary goal during this communication). It doesn’t take long, but the impression it leaves could make all the difference.

Talk to patients about the importance of preventive care. Many of your patients and potential patients will go much longer than they should in between routine maintenance. For most, you’re not going to change that. But once you have a patient in the chair, a gentle reminder about the importance of frequent preventive care is imperative. A word of caution, here, though: Try not to be condescending, don’t fear-monger by showing videos of dental disasters to patients who skipped a check-up or two, and don’t go over the top with a hard up-sell of your services. Most patients will respond better with a gentle prodding than a sales pitch with the subtlety of an anvil.

Communicate with patients online. We’ve previously outlined the key components that any dental website should have. But beyond those, you’ll need some sort of strategy to communicate with potential new patients before you ever see them face to face. A good place to start is with your face and the faces of the rest of your staff. Post photos of yourself, your dental partner, your staff, and everyone who makes your office run. Your name sounds similar to all the others, and the initials after your name are probably the same, too. Your face is unique.

Make sure that any inquiries that are sent through e-mail or the website are addressed. If someone has taken the time to request additional information online, not getting back to them is a very bad start to a relationship you’d like to foster. Make sure your contact information is everywhere on your website. And make sure you’re properly staffed so that there is always someone available to field calls from current or future patients.

The results of great communication with your patients may not always be easy to quantify. But being a dentist means more than being really good at the clinical aspects of the position. You need to be enough of a people person, too, to add that personal touch. If it’s just not in you, fake it until you make it!