Patients are starting to return to more normal healthcare patterns in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowing what they now expect is key to a successful dental practice.
By Dr. Mohamed Tarek Galal
In the highly competitive market of dentistry, understanding patients' wants and needs is the key to a successful business. Unless you live in a rural or low-density population area, you’ll find competitors everywhere you look, and that means standing out from the rest.
Not only that, but the world is still recovering from a two-year “sabbatical” from healthcare in general. Since the start of the pandemic, the state of many patients' oral health has deteriorated. Now that patients are returning to more regular dental visits and checkups, understanding their needs is more important than ever – both for their oral health and the success of your practice.
A Review of the Past Two Years
Dental caries is the most common ailment to affect the body. The pandemic didn't change that, but it did change the way people look at decay. Previously, most people looked at decay as something that needed to be taken care of right away or risk additional problems. Over the past two years, some patients have changed this view. The fear of infection has led people to go to their dentists only when an emergency arises. Periodic appointments for cleaning and check-ups were almost non-existent during that time.
Many dental practices shut down completely during the highest peak of the pandemic. Others reduced their working hours, due to the high-risk environment and the high possibility of infection in the dental office.
The "New Normal"
Now that we seem to be past the most alarming and critical phase of the pandemic, you’d expect that people would resume prioritizing their oral health, but the reality – unfortunately – isn’t so.
A 2022 survey by Carequest Institute for Oral Health proved that a lot of Americans still face obstacles in regards to their oral healthcare. The primary concern isn't infection, but financials. Forty-three percent of the survey participants identified the high cost of dental treatment as the primary burden on their oral healthcare. About 70 percent agree that the solution to this problem is the inclusion of dental treatment into Medicare or Medicaid.
Here is what patients want from their dental visits:
- A care-free environment:
Everybody fears going to the dentist, and it's the dentist’s job to alleviate that fear. That process starts in the clinic’s reception. A cozy style with some soft music and relaxing aromas of scented candles go a long way in making your patient feel right at home.
- A dentist who listens:
The process of removing dental fears doesn’t stop there but extends to the inside of the clinic as well, namely the dentist’s attitude and the way he/she conducts themselves. Building trust with your patient is key not only to lifting their fears but to establishing a long-term relationship with – hopefully – a lot of referrals.
- A low pain experience:
No pain is a bit of a stretch, as most dental procedures involve at least some mild pain. Reassuring the patient that the pain is momentary and will subside soon, together with the dentist’s attitude and relaxing demeanor can make all the difference in the world.
- A friendly neighborhood dentist:
Again this all plays on reducing the patients’ fear. They are already dreading going to the dentist, so imagine if going to the dentist’s office involves a long commute. Build relationships within your community so people think of you first when they think of going to the dentist.
- A financially feasible visit:
Cost is one of the primary concerns of most patients. A successful dentist must take that into consideration by doing one or more of the following:
- Offer Payment options for patients.
- Clarity on what the insurance covers. Patients expect the highest level of healthcare, and will appreciate clarity on what their insurance does, and does not cover.
- Incentives for loyal patients. The patient that's been visiting your practice for years is worth rewarding.
1. Carequest Institute for Oral Health: Americans Are Still Not Getting the Dental Care They Need
Available online on: https://www.carequest.org/resource-library/americans-are-still-not-getting-dental-care-they-need
2. ADA: April JADA finds more than 1 in 5 US adults have untreated caries
Available online: https://www.ada.org/publications/ada-news/2022/march/april-jada-finds-more-than-1-in-5-us-adults-have-untreated-caries
3. CDC: Oral and dental health stats
Available online: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/dental.htm
Author: Dr. Mohamed Tarek Galal BDS, MFDS RCSEd, Member of AACD is a practicing dentist, the founder and owner of Confidental Clinic in Cairo, Egypt. He graduated from the faculty of dentistry, Ain Shams University, obtaining his Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) in 2010 and has been practicing ever since. He acquired a postgraduate diploma of Oral Surgery in 2013 from the same university. In 2014, He acquired the membership of faculty of dental surgery (MFDS) from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd), one of the highest honors in professional dentistry. In 2016, He became a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). He has also been in the writing and research business for over 5 years and has written more than 700 pieces on many different medical and dental topics for various websites, blogs and medical pages.