Encouraging an Increase in Patient Acceptance Rates
Once a patient is in the chair, how can a dentist convince that patient they need additional dental work besides a routine cleaning? What about individuals who never visit a dentist because they suffer from dentophobia?
Fear of dentists and fear of non-routine dental treatment are some of the most common phobias affecting patients of all ages. An extreme fear of dentists and everything associated with a dentist is called dentophobia. People with dentophobia may experience panic attacks if they just think about going to the dentist. About 12% of adults in the U.S. have extreme fear, some of whom may never visit a dentist no matter how bad their oral health becomes.
Dentists also have patients who aren’t dentophobic but balk when told they should consider dental sealants to reduce cavities, use bridges or dental implants to replace missing teeth, or wear partial dentures to replace multiple missing teeth. Too many patients take the time to have their teeth cleaned at least once a year but avoid getting recommended dental treatments essential to their teeth and gum health. Here are some tips for reversing low patient acceptance rates.
3 Methods for Increasing Patient Acceptance Rates
Understanding why patients resist treatment or fail to follow through on recommendations is the first step to improving acceptance rates. Common excuses for refusing needed dental procedures include:
- “I don’t have time to make several visits.”
- “I don’t have a toothache, so …”
- “Oh, my teeth are fine. I don’t care if they’re a little crooked.”
- “I’ve had missing teeth for a few years now. Doesn’t seem to bother me.”
- “Why should I spend that much money on my teeth? I don’t have toothaches, and they’re not loose!”
As a general dentist, you’ve probably heard every excuse imaginable from patients who don’t want to accept your treatment recommendations. Although not all your patients will respond positively to the following persuasive techniques, it’s likely you will have more patients agree with your recommendations than you originally expected!
Provide educational materials to patients.
Most people don’t realize what happens to gums when empty sockets remain empty, when crooked teeth stay crooked, or tooth pain goes unchecked. Print and video materials designed to educate dental patients are widely available online. Take the time to inform patients that leaving empty sockets promotes gum disease and loose teeth and that ignoring periodic tooth pain can result in potentially serious infections and tooth loss.
Caution patients that allowing their teeth to remain crowded or crooked interferes with brushing and encourages bacterial growth. It’s also especially beneficial for general dentists to be able to provide straight wire orthodontics to patients with malocclusions who would otherwise need to be referred to another dentist or orthodontist.
Fill your practice with skilled and knowledgeable team members.
Competent and personable dental assistants and hygienists are perhaps a dentist’s most valuable means of increasing patient acceptance rates. Collaborating with your practice’s team about each patient’s oral health needs is essential for validating treatment recommendations. Everyone knows the significance of making an indelible first impression, and it is the assistants and hygienists who can immediately assure patients they are receiving exceptional dental care. General and pediatric dentists offering orthodontics would benefit from having their treatment teams complete our orthodontics courses specifically for their dental assistants and hygienists.
Create a professional but relaxing office environment.
When your patients walk into the waiting room, what do you think they notice first? The initial perception of a dentist’s reception room will quickly influence what a patient thinks about the practice as a whole. Patients who are visiting a dentist for the first time will notice if the furniture is modern and comfortable, if the carpet has been vacuumed, if the room smells clean and fresh, and if there are things to do while waiting (TV, magazines, free Wi-Fi).
Imagine a dental patient waiting for the first time in a cramped room with dirty carpet, damaged furniture, and empty end tables. It’s probable that the patient might leave before being called. The other likely scenario is that the patient will schedule their next cleaning or have a cavity filled but decline the dentist’s recommendation for further treatment. Who would accept a treatment recommendation from a dentist with such an unpleasant reception room?
There’s also the problem of lengthy wait times for patients. Dentists can usually stay on schedule until one or two patients put them behind for some reason. If a patient has waited 30 minutes or longer to be seen, they may become resentful and unsatisfied with their experience by the time they sit down in the dental chair. Offering different types of entertainment in the waiting room, such as interesting digital signage, free coffee or soft drinks, and complimentary iPads decreases the perception of wait times so that patients feel like they have waited 20 minutes instead of 40 minutes.
The less irritated patients feel when you recommend a treatment, the easier it is to increase that acceptance rate. The American Orthodontic Society is a nationally recognized organization that offers CE orthodontic courses to general and pediatric dentists who want to expand their practices, retain more patients, and increase patient acceptance rates. Learn more by visiting AOS today!
To learn more about our popular orthodontics courses for pediatric and general dentists, check out one of the upcoming events below.