How to Improve Dental Patient Retention

african american man at dentist

At first glance, it may seem like adding new patients to your dental practice translates to growth and higher profits. The truth is that adding new patients only tells part of the story. Every day across the country, dental practices are losing patients. If you’re losing patients at the same rate as you’re gaining new ones, your dental practice’s growth is actually stagnating.

The key to true success is to keep as many of your patients as possible as you get new ones. This is called patient retention. Discover how to measure dental patient retention and ways to increase dental patient retention for your practice.

Why Is Patient Retention Important?

Your patients are testimonials of your skills as a dental professional and your dental practice as a whole. When your patients have a good experience under your care, they will tell others about their satisfaction. If they have a poor experience and leave your dental practice, that will be the story they tell when others ask who they should choose for their dental care. Retaining your patients means you have a higher rate of client satisfaction, which leads to more positive word of mouth and exponential growth.

Patient retention is also important because your patients are the easiest demographic for you to market to. Think about the more difficult, scattershot approach of trying to market to potential customers. You may see a low return percentage on your efforts. You’ll soon find that convincing someone new that your dental practice is excellent and the best choice for them can be challenging. This is especially true if attracting new patients means convincing them to leave their current dental practice.

Your best choice is to upsell your dental practice to your existing customers. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Efforts for retaining current patients are much more affordable than spending money trying to get new patients.
  • Existing clients have a higher lifetime value than new patients that come and go, so retaining patients will yield the highest profits for your practice.
  • Your retained patients are easily accessible and marketable, while new patients can be hard to find and market to.
  • Upselling your services and delivering on your promises to current patients will keep them engaged and eager to return to your office for their dental needs.

With these thoughts in mind, investing in patient retention should be the foundational approach for your dental practice. Trying to get new patients should come later. New patients will often come naturally as you have more satisfied clients spreading positive reviews about your practice.

What Is Patient Attrition?

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Patient attrition happens when your patients stop visiting your dental practice, often to find the services of another. According to dental patient retention statistics, the average attrition rate is 17% in the dental industry. This means nearly 1 in every 5 patients stops going to a particular dental practice for their oral health needs.

If your attrition rate is around 17%, you’re at least doing as well as most other dental practices. But this also means you have an excellent opportunity for improvement by getting your attrition rate down. To do this, you first must know how to measure patient attrition for your dental practice.

To calculate your dental practice’s patient attrition rate, start by determining how many active patients you have. An active patient is anyone who had an appointment in the last 12 or 18 months. Then go into your records to find the number of patients who had an appointment within the last 30 months. Subtract the number of active patients from this number, then divide the difference by the number of active patients to calculate your attrition rate. For instance, if the answer is 0.15, you have a patient attrition rate of 15% for the 30-month period.

Once you know your patient attrition rate, you’ll have a deeper understanding of your dental practice’s performance. This number is crucial as it allows you to take the next appropriate steps to make improvements and increase your patient retention.

What Patients Look for in a Dental Practice

One of the first steps toward retaining your patients — and getting new ones — is knowing what patients are looking for in their dental practice. Here are five key factors every patient wants to see in their dental practice:

  • The doctor’s education: Everything else on this list is important, but the doctor’s skill comes before anything else. General dentists need a degree from an accredited institution, while specialists, including orthodontists and oral surgeons, need more schooling. Prominently display all degrees, awards and commendations for your patients to see and mention them on your website.
  • The staff’s training: The whole staff needs proper training, experience and opportunities for continuing education. This keeps their licenses current while helping them stay in step with the latest technologies and techniques.
  • A welcoming atmosphere: Anyone who comes to your dental practice wants to feel welcomed. Many patients will identify your practice with how they feel the first time they walk in, but your website can also contribute to feeling welcome as an individual or being seen as just another patient.
  • An organized and clean space: How your dental office looks will give existing and potential patients an idea of how you feel about your craft. Patients will perceive clean, orderly offices more positively than messy, disorganized ones.
  • Excellent communication: Communication is key. Patients want to feel like they can contact you with their dental needs, and they especially want your staff to take the time to explain their dental situation to them in terms they can understand.

Ways to Improve Dental Patient Retention

To overcome dental patient retention problems, you need to make the right improvements. Here are some ways you can increase patient retention and decrease patient attrition:

  • Answer questions: Always answer patient questions promptly and honestly. This fosters an environment of openness, and your clients will grow to trust you, which is a valuable part of patient retention.
  • Create a safe atmosphere: Patients, young and old, want to feel at ease when they visit the dentist. Create an environment where people can relax and feel comfortable before, during and after their appointments.
  • Reach out: Often, you can avoid patient attrition by reaching out to your existing patients. Send out email and phone reminders about upcoming appointments. Stay active on social media and consider sending monthly newsletters with oral care tips. And always schedule your patients’ next appointments before they leave your office after their current appointment.
  • Conduct a dental patient retention survey: Sometimes, the best way to know how your patients feel about your dental practice is to ask them directly. Ask patients to fill out a survey so you can see how you’re doing in their eyes.

stainless steel dental instruments

Use the Right Dental Instruments for Improved Patient Retention

You must provide quality service to keep your clients returning to your dental practice. For that, you need the right dental instruments for the job. View the services and resources from ProDentUSA online to learn more about how we can ensure your dental practice has all the tools you need to get the best results for your clients. Contact us today for more information.