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It’s a pivotal time for dentistry. And with over 200,000 dentists practicing in the US, competition is tough. Whether you are starting a new practice or looking for ways to expand an existing one, preparing a plan that focuses on the patient’s experience is a strategic step in business growth. 

Your game plan should include four simple strategies:

  • Pull ideas from your competition
  • Develop a patient-centric experience
  • Explore the digital space for branding and innovative services
  • Expand those services for better patient care

Let’s discuss each point.

1. Check Out the Competition

You have an excellent practice. But if you feel you could do more to attract new patients, look at what the competition is doing. Do they offer extended hours or a new procedure? Do they have an engaging online presence? Are they targeting services to a specific demographic? For example, promoting specials or highlighting new services on social media is a proven way to expand your brand’s reach. 

Also, track your online reviews and engage with review posts. A survey found that 43.3 percent of respondents select dentists based on their online reviews. When customers see how quickly you respond to reviews (both good and critical), you present your practice as caring and responsive to patients. 

2. Create a Positive Customer Experience

Let’s face it: Basic oral care services are standard among dental practices. If you want to attract more patients, don’t just focus on the procedure—focus on the patient. Offering patient-centric services such as flexible office hours, same-day appointments, financing options, and using up-to-date, time-saving technology contributes to a positive customer experience. 

“At my practice, I offer Saturday appointments,” says Fadi Swaida, DDS. “I also provide an emergency contact number for my patients. Most patients will never need to use it, but it brings them comfort, knowing I am just a phone call away in an emergency.”

Dr. Swaida also mentions the positive impact cutting-edge equipment has on his practice. 

“Patients also respond positively to new dental technologies because they are perceived as more effective and less invasive. Using current dental technology demonstrates your focus on professional development, which can be reassuring to many patients.” 

3. Join the Digital Space

Today’s customer is not only researching healthcare providers online, but they are highly interested in using virtual oral care services in the future as well. “Patients believe virtual dental care has the potential to promote healthy behaviors and educate individuals about the prevention of oral diseases,” says Samantha McGrail

According to the DentaVox survey, half of the surveyed participants believe diagnosis and risk assessment can be addressed successfully by teledentistry. The survey found that 78 percent of patients are likely to start using teledentistry within the next five years. 

“As patients become more open to using virtual dental care, dentists and other providers have an opportunity to bolster their telemedicine programs to incorporate teledentistry,” adds McGrail. Teledentistry, among other services, offers innovative ways to expand your dental practice and foster growth. 

4. Expand Your Services

The COVID-19 pandemic may have temporarily shut down your dental practice, but you can reopen with a diversified role in patient care. Faced with a growing need for health services, the American Dental Association expanded the scope of oral care services, passing Resolution 20H-2020. Among other duties, this resolution allows dentists to

  • perform FDA-authorized diagnostic tests to screen patients for infectious diseases,
  • take patient medical histories and triage medical patients, and 
  • perform other ancillary medical procedures and activities, as requested by medical personnel, to expand the nation’s surge capacity.

Although the COVID-19 health crisis is subsiding, seeing patients twice per year positions dentists to help screen for early detection of diseases or conditions that aren’t typically associated with oral care but impact the patient’s overall health. 

By conducting a clinical exam and recording the patient’s health history, a dentist can screen patients for obstructive sleep apnea by noting a large tongue or tonsils; mandibular retrognathia or micrognathia; large neck circumference; nocturnal choking or gasping; obesity; loud or irregular snoring; or breathing pauses during sleep. 

“Individuals presenting with these symptoms or features may be referred to a primary care physician or sleep medicine specialist for further evaluation,” notes the American Dental Association.

Today’s oral care technologies offer exciting possibilities to help propel your dental practice into a new marketplace. By placing the customer as your focus, you can develop and promote services that will attract new patients now and for many years to come.