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Changing Patient Perceptions About Dentists

By Planet DDS
November 1, 2021

You’re probably painfully aware that patients don’t always have the best impression about dentists. Bad past experiences have given many patient’s a negative perception about dental appointments. But that doesn’t mean you can’t change those perceptions for the better.  

It’s not personal 

There’s a general cultural bias that forces you to swim against-the-current as a dentist. Chances are, you have good chair side manners and you’re providing a positive patient experience so any negative perceptions your patient might have aren’t actually because of you. 

In addition, the media hasn’t been kind to dentistry through the years. Movies, tv shows, and social media have poked fun at the profession with stereotypes – many of them negative.  

A patient’s past experiences and conversational buzz around dental appointments add to the stereotype, too. And though you take steps to minimize pain and anxiety, many patients still approach the dental chair with fear and loathing. 

Whether based in reality or not, patient perceptions greatly affect your practice. If patients have anxiety about visiting the dentist, they’re less likely to make and keep appointments.  

So, here’s what you can do to help improve patient perceptions.  

Changing the narrative about dentistry 

Guide the conversation in a positive direction 

Start by seeking to understand your patient’s feelings about their dental care. A patient could feel they’re being judged for their poor or lacking oral health routines.  

Compliment them for investing their time and resources in scheduling and showing up for their appointment. Let them know that by coming in, they’re not only taking care of their oral health, they’re improving their overall health, too.  

Along with encouraging words, you also want to listen to what your patient has to say.  

  • Allow your patients the freedom to vent about previous bad experiences. Ask open-ended questions to gain understanding about specific experiences that are unique to them. 
  • Encourage them to talk about their good experiences. Again, lead them with questions that give you insight into their positive relationship with dentistry. This will also help you continue to provide the type of care that the patient seeks.  
  • Clarify your care standards and set positive expectations for their appointment. It’s important to watch your language and narrative. Be realistic about treatment protocols without being “blunt.” 

Exceed patient expectations 

This goes beyond amenities. Coffee and tea service, comfortable chairs, free wi-fi, and tv monitors are somewhat the norm these days.  

You want do better if you want to change their perceptions. 

While patients won’t object to being pampered, their expectations are focused elsewhere. Timely appointments, convenient patient-facing systems, and attention to detail are foundational to the overall experience.  

  • Greeting patients by name from check-in welcomes patients and makes them feel valued.  
  • Refine your patient-facing systems and workflows 
  • Ensure that patient appointments go smoothly from waiting room, X-rays, operatory, treatment presentation, and check out.  
  • Educate your patients as you treat them. Lead them to make the connection between oral health and overall physical health. Taking time to review X-rays with patients and show them exactly what’s going on with their teeth and oral health is a way to not only educate your patients, it also helps build trust.  

Cultivate patient relationships  

Patient perceptions are formed not just during appointments, but also in how your office engages with patients before and after their appointments. The goal here is to stay in touch with patients using timely reminders and meaningful touch-points to continually build trust and loyalty with them. You can do this in several ways:  

  • Provide communication channels for your patients to share their opinions, questions, and reviews about their experience with your practice. Freedom to leave reviews, ask questions, and refer others helps personalize their relationship with you. 
  • Seek their input through post-appointment surveys. Create brief, timely, and responsive surveys that returns useful (not templated) information. 
  • Thank and reward patients with products and promotions that enhance their oral health. A beneficial gift connects a positive outcome to their relationship with your practice.  

The following resources can help you upgrade your patient experience and change the patient perception about dentists: 

Create Loyal Patients by Improving the Patient Experience 

How to Improve Your Chairside Manner and Create an Elevated Dental Patient Experience 

Use technology to improve patient perceptions 

You might find an all-in-one cloud solution like Denticon to be effective for data monitoring, patient facing features, managing communications, imaging software, and overall dental practice management to help patients form more positive perceptions about dentistry.  

Request a demo of Denticon practice management solution and imaging solutions to learn more.