When a Texas dentist surveyed 16,000 dental patients across the country and asked them what they want the most—which affected how they choose their dentist—the answers were surprising, most of all because they had to do with internal marketing. (See Inside Dentistry, Oct 2009, Volume 5, Issue 9).

The survey showed that, whatever you say on your post cards or web sites, these patients look at how you present yourself and your practice in real life—surely a humbling experience for all the dental marketers out there!

We can learn a lesson from these survey answers and put the emphasis of your marketing efforts where they truly belong—with your performance and care for your patients!

For example, one of the high scoring answers was “a prompt new-patient examination.” This meant the patient would be seen either the same day or within 48 hours max. A longer wait gave the patients the feeling that they were not important to the practice and therefore killed the desire to come.

Obviously, “warm and friendly staff” scored equally high, but did you know that “Having the highest standard of sterilization and general cleanliness in the office” means to patients that bugs in light fixtures, ants in the reception area or a stain on the carpet equals that the practice doesn’t sterilize their instruments properly?

“Postoperative phone calls and instructions” are highly valued, but patients do expect the doctor to make the call and not delegate this to a staff member.

Patients objected to things like tattoos and body piercings with the staff which should at least be covered up. Similarly, patients don’t want long hair falling in their face during treatments.

Similarly, as much as the dental marketing industry loves to advertise “beautiful smiles” as the main desire of prospective patients, it’s actually the smiles of the doctors and the staff that patients look to the most. Quality dental work and nice teeth with the doctors and staff serve as an invitation for the patients, not just to improve their own teeth but to show off the results of the practice as a whole.

(Related: The Latest Trends in Dental Marketing)

“Being on time” registered as the #1 concern of most surveyed patients. Patients felt that if dentists are late, they don’t respect their time. Period. If the patient is supposed to be there on time, so should be the doctor.

“Hours of operation” are considered very important and a deciding factor in a patient’s choice of dentist. Peak demand times are from about 7 a.m. until about 10 a.m and from 3 p.m. until about 6 p.m. These hours may vary, but in general patients want dentists to be open and available during the hours that they are able to come in.

“Location” is traditionally an important factor for patients. On the average, city patients will not drive more than 4 to 5 miles to go to the dentist; in rural areas the distance considered convenient was a bit more. But if your practice is further away than that, patients will be looking for a new dentist.

Lastly, patients want and expect dentists to explain what treatment(s) they need, answer their questions and listen to their concerns. Patients will choose a dentist who provides details and options.

At the MGE Communication & Sales Seminars, doctors learn all the various aspects of getting the patients to accept the treatment plans they need with the financial options they have—a very successful combination that has increased the profitability and production levels of thousands of practices across the country as well as the number of satisfied and well-cared-for patients!

If I were a dentist, I would use these survey results as a checklist to routinely make sure my practice complies with these points. I am certain, from my experience as a marketer, that just putting these points in with your practice would raise your new patient flow dramatically—not to mention the existing ones who will appreciate your efforts to make them more comfortable and happy.

I would also ensure that your external marketing (website, newsletters, emails, postcards, etc.) reflects these points, seeing that they are what potential new patients are looking for in their new practice.

Good luck!


MGE’s Marketing Department provides this general dental practice management advice to furnish you with suggestions of actions that have been shown to have potential to help you improve your practice. MGE may not be held liable for adverse actions resulting from your implementation of these suggestions, which are provided only as examples of topics covered by the MGE program.