The New Dental Consumer

How to acclimate to the needs of today’s dental patient by Dr. Marvin Berlin

The large volume of information, services and products that can now be easily accessed online has radically changed how businesses and consumers operate over the past few decades. In the dental industry, patients are researching dental services beforehand and becoming much more educated on oral health care than ever before. As more information regarding the importance of lifetime care and the effects oral health has on overall health is widely circulated online, patients are becoming much more health conscious. When choosing a dentist, they also have the ability to browse all the dental office websites in their communities in order to compare services.

Office websites are not the only sources of information. Patients can access countless social media, review and rating sites (Facebook, Google+, Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.) with office recommendations (and oppositions) left by other patients. Together, all of these sources have helped create this new “dental consumer.”

What actions can you take in your office to adapt to this consumerism shift? First of all, evaluate your marketing methods. Are you communicating the right messages and values? Do you fully understand what your target demographic wants? It’s important to build a brand for your office that stands out, especially if your area is highly competitive. When marketing your services, promote “why” this care is important rather than simply “what” you provide. Define what positive outcomes can result and what negative consequences can be avoided. Since more and more patients are searching for dentists online, use this to your advantage. A well-designed, user-friendly website that clearly communicates your mission and values will go a long way in setting you apart from others. As social media popularity continually increases, I encourage you to utilize these platforms as well. Proactively communicating your message through Facebook, Twitter, etc. is a great way to reach a mass audience easily and inexpensively.

“As ‘dental consumers’ become more knowledgeable and have access to more choices, they will expect more. Embrace it – this is an excellent opportunity to advance your skills, techniques and level of care.”

Dr. Berlin
Dr. Marvin Berlin, DDS
practicing dentist at McKinney in McKinney, Texas

Besides online initiatives, staying active in your community is a great way to communicate your values. Each year at my office, we hold a Free Dentistry Day, helping hundreds of people receive needed care. Not only do we help others, but this event helps us demonstrate our commitment to our community – another effective way to stand out from other offices.

The services you offer can also determine how you are perceived by “dental consumers.” Today’s educated patients are looking for more than root canals, fillings or traditional dentures. To meet these expanded needs, advance your skills in order to offer more services. We have seen the rise of Invisalign, laser dentistry, implants, CAD/CAM new smile design software and other expanded services – for good reason. These advancements are helping patients enjoy more effective results in a more convenient manner. If you can’t provide these advanced methods, patients can easily find someone else who can.

In carrying out the right actions to satisfy “dental consumers,” you will need to maintain the right mindset. Offering a wide variety of services will only take you so far. Today’s patients need to know you will go above and beyond. You must treat people like people want to be treated. If a patient is in need of immediate emergency care, we find a way to get them in immediately. As I’ve stated before, I’ve heard many doctors say, “I want to work smarter not harder.” This is simply not possible. You have to work through lunch sometimes, rearrange your schedule at a moment’s notice to accommodate emergency care and have extended hours for patient convenience. This “extra mile” mentality has helped us distinguish ourselves from others and build ongoing relationships with our patients.

In addition, cultivate patient education. More patients are taking the time to learn about oral health on their own, so foster this. Clearly communicate why you are recommending a specific treatment, the benefits that will result and the problems that will be avoided. This will give them more trust in you and the treatment plan you create.

This consumerism shift will likely escalate even further. As “dental consumers” become more knowledgeable and have access to more choices, they will expect more. Embrace it – this is an excellent opportunity to advance your skills, techniques and level of care. Otherwise, just as any other business who cannot meet consumer expectations, you may fall behind.