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Six Ways to Improve Patient Retention at Your Dental Practice

Posted March 27, 2019

Kate Harveston

Patient retention remains critical in building a thriving, successful dental practice. The principle that attracting new clients costs far more than keeping current patients happy holds true in the world of dentistry. In fact, given the phobias many people have of dental work, patient retention in this field becomes even more important.

How can dental professionals improve patient retention? While it sounds simple, improving the overall patient experience keeps clients coming back time and again. Keep the following six factors in mind when designing office policies.

Offer a Warm Welcome

First impressions matter greatly and improving patient retention, therefore, begins the moment a new client walks through the front door. Make every effort to train front office staff in greeting patients warmly and making them feel welcome. A simple gesture can make all the difference. For example, offering incoming patients a bottle of water costs little, but impresses new patients by letting them know their comfort matters.

Likewise, when the patient sits in the dental chair for the first time, greet them with a handshake and a pleasant introduction. Don’t forget the power of a smile when it comes to easing patients’ nerves and making them feel welcome!

Communicate Clearly

The majority of dental patients never attended medical school and don’t understand doctor-speak. Communicating with patients in plain language they can understand builds trust. In addition, clear communication improves patient outcomes. Those patients who understand their dentist’s instructions remain more likely to follow them.

Inform patients of their dental issues clearly, including what caused the problem as well as available treatment options. Likewise, advise clients as to the potential hazards of delaying or denying treatment. Ask the patient whether or not they understand. Then, take the time to explain concepts in a different manner if necessary to improve understanding

Constant Contact

Patients today expect to reach a live person for support. Patients who call only to reach a dentist’s voicemail lose interest. This is especially true when competing practices greet them with a friendly voice.

Obviously, no one can work, let alone remain awake, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. However, the advent of telecommuting has opened the door to quality answering services. Likewise, this allows patients to hear a smiling voice regardless of what time they call. Better yet, live operators can inform patients as to when they can anticipate a return call from you.

Reward Referrals

One easy and low-cost way to reward returning patients and attract new ones simply involves rewarding patients for their referrals. Typically, referral rewards take the form of offering a patient discount on future visits. Offering referral discounts increases business by up to 110%, so taking advantage of this simple incentive increases revenue significantly.

In addition, make it easy for new patients to schedule their initial appointment online via the practice website. This way, new patients can book their appointments immediately upon hearing about your fantastic dental office when the referral is fresh in their minds. People quickly forget what others tell them. So, avoid letting valuable referral patients slip away while they wait till business hours to call.

Schedule Wisely

Many patients find it difficult to attend dental appointments during the workday. In order to improve patient retention, accommodate their busy schedules. Try offering early morning or later evening hours at least one or two days out of the week.

In addition, avoid scheduling patients too closely together, as this can lead to delays and long wait times. Nothing irritates patients more than arriving on time for their dental appointment and languishing in the waiting room for an hour.

Simply Ask for Suggestions

Utilizing patient surveys to evaluate their customer service experience shows that a dental practice cares about providing a top-notch dental visit. Hand out a feedback form to each patient and collect these forms before the patient leaves the office. That way, if a patient reports a serious problem, office staff can address it immediately before the patient tells their colleagues or posting a negative review online.

Also, while addressing negative reviews, avoid becoming angry or confrontational, even if the patient’s dissatisfaction seems unreasonable. When responding to negative reviews online, maintain a professional and positive tone. Never bash a difficult patient publicly.


Creating a positive patient experience keeps dental clients returning to the same practice year after year when the time for their annual exam arises. By treating all patients with respect and paying attention to providing excellent customer service, dental practices leave everyone, patients, technicians, and dentists alike, smiling at the end of each visit.

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