By Lucas Smith
Almost everyone understands the importance of regular dental checkups, yet 21.3% of US adults rarely visit the dentist at all. The most common reasons for avoiding making a dental appointment are cost and dental anxiety, but there’s another factor which greatly affects how often people pay their dentist a visit: trust.
Dental work is expensive and is something patients often don’t think they need, especially if they’re not experiencing any major symptoms. However, delaying necessary treatment can often turn a simple, cheap procedure into a painful, expensive one which could have been avoided had action been taken sooner.
By earning the trust of your patients, they’re much more likely to accept the treatments you offer without debate. Not only does this help streamline your day-to-day operations and increase your revenue, it also improves the health of the patients you treat. Everyone wins.
To safeguard your dental practice and your patients’ wellbeing, here are five ways you can get your patients to truly trust you and act on your recommendations.
A small introduction has a big impact on building trust. You’ve got a lot of patients to see and high targets to reach. But taking the time to introduce yourself and having a quick chat with each patient can help them feel more comfortable and more trusting of you.
As a dental hygienist, this task is easy as you get to spend a lot of time with the patient. You can introduce yourself at the beginning of the appointment then make small talk as you wait for the dentist to enter the room. Knowing you’re interested in them as a person makes your patient much more likely to agree with you later on.
If you’re a dentist, you should make a quick introduction before the hygienist begins her tasks. This way, if the patient does require further work, your first communication with them won’t be to give them bad news and ask for money. They’ll have already met you on even ground first.
Treat every patient as an individual
It’s easy to see a patient as their condition: a cavity that needs to be filled, a case of gingivitis that needs treating, a tooth that needs to be extracted, etc.
While this may be true to a certain degree, each patient is also a unique individual with their own set of needs, desires, fears and concerns. To win them over, you need to consider them as a single patient and adapt your behavior and approach to them.
For example, if you can tell you’ve got an anxious patient, you need to be gentle, softly-spoken and welcoming with them. If you come on too strongly, they’ll get out of the chair and you’ll never see them again. Tailor your manner to each patient and you’ll get much better results.
Show patients their teeth
One of the reasons many patients struggle to believe they need dental work is because they can’t see anything wrong with their teeth.
Things that a dental professional can spot from a quick oral exam are invisible for most people without trained eyes. That’s why it’s so important to show patients their teeth and point out the problem areas.
If an X-ray has shown that a patient has problems with their teeth, show them the X-ray. Point out the problem areas and what they mean. Bring out an X-ray of healthy teeth and compare them so the patient can see the difference. When they can see the problem areas in front of their own eyes, they’re more inclined to agree to the treatment offered.
Another reason patients sometimes don’t trust dental professionals is because they don’t fully understand the gravity of their problem or the treatment being offered. It’s your job to make sure the patient is totally informed about the effects of their decision.
In clear, easy-to-understand language, explain what will happen if the problem goes untreated. Dental issues rarely clear up on their own and it’s likely your patient will have to return to your practice for more invasive, lengthy and expensive treatment if they don’t get their problem solved now.
After, spell out how the treatment you’re proposing will help solve the patient’s problem. Clarify each individual procedure and illustrate how it will help them. When a patient has all the information, they’re in a much better position to understand the reasoning behind your choices and make a logical, educated decision.
Address negative reviews
Building trust with patients doesn’t just happen within the dental practice — it happens online, too. No matter how good you are at your job, you’re likely to get some negative feedback at some point. It doesn’t matter whether the patient was right to leave a bad review or whether they were making false claims. What matters is how you respond to it.
93% of people say online reviews influence their purchase decisions. That means even a single negative review could have a major impact. One way you can curtail the negative effects of a bad review and even turn it to your favor is through a professional response.
Wherever the negative review has been written, publicly acknowledge it and address your concern before directing the conversation to a more private channel. This will show prospective patients that you really do care about the people you treat and you want to fix any problems that may present themselves.
Don’t forget — it’s not good enough to just look trustworthy, you have to be trustworthy, too. If the reviewer has a genuine complaint about the treatment they received, do everything in your power to solve it. If the claims are untrue and the reviewer is out to cause trouble, consider taking legal action before things go any further.
Although you know you’ve got your patients’ best interests at heart, you have to convince them of this fact. Some people see dental professionals as hungry salespeople only interested in bringing in money. But you know you got into the industry to help people and make a difference in their lives.
Show your patients that your passion for your job has never diminished and everything you suggest is to help them maintain their oral wellbeing. By following the above advice, your patients will see you for who you truly are and will be more inclined to listen unbiasedly and act upon your advice.