Dental professionals see many different patients with equally varied dental visit experiences. Some are “old pros” who have never had difficulty in the dental chair while others are newbies who don’t know what to expect. Still others need sedation to weather even the simplest of procedures. Here are tips on how to jump start patient education.
1. Start simple.
For new patients, offer postcards that explain how often they should brush their teeth and with what pressure as well as what signs they should look for to identify gum disease, cavities, and so on.
For kids, you could have check-off graphs on postcards with dental health routines listed as rows and days of the week as columns; for example, brushed teeth before school/rinsed after lunch/brushed teeth after dinner/flossed before bedtime. Eventually they won’t need these reminders but they will help everyone in the family out.
2. Make your educational materials interactive.
Remember the game “Trivial Pursuit”? Add some flair to your business cards by printing a few questions and answers on the back. This is an ideal opportunity to address easy Q&As or facts, such as “What does Novocain feel like,” or “What’s the difference between regular and deep cleanings?” It’s easy to assume that patients would know these facts, but surprisingly few do.
3. Invest in placards or trifold pamphlets that illustrate each procedure you do in your practice.
For printed material, it’s more effective to illustrate the procedures instead of providing before-and-after photos because photos might be too small to see. If hiring a professional illustrator is not in your budget, call local colleges and high schools and hire a student to do color illustrations for you. Not only will it save money, but allowing the student to post his work on social media and in his portfolio means more exposure for your practice. In fact, some of this information may already be available from online providers, so be sure to check that out as another option.
4. Run videos in your waiting room and on your website.
nothing too graphic that shows a real person undergoing a procedure. There are many animated videos that can instruct patients without driving them out the door with fear. Also available are videos that isolate real teeth so the viewer doesn’t see graphic depictions of a person’s mouth. These videos help to depersonalize the patient from the dentist in a positive way by working to show them a specific procedure clinically because the dentist and patient are out of view.
5. Don’t forget the power of social media.
It’s the fastest way to convey patient education and spread your brand via word-of-mouth and clicks. You can blog or do a podcast about your practice and about all the conditions you treat. If you don’t have time to film or record all these methods yourself, you could make a cameo appearance in each one and instead use your technicians to explain procedures in greater detail.
This serves several purposes: It puts your name and face out in the world and gives this exposure to your staff, too. Not only is your practice working to educate patients, you and your staff become “real people” and psychologically this results in a feeling of familiarity and trust with patients, potential and existing.
Education is key to establishing a rapport with patients and is crucial to easing their stress about dental visits and procedures. You might not be able to completely get rid of nervous patients’ fears, but you’ll be taking a step in the right direction to involve your patients in their dental care and health.
For more ways to help your patients, check out our financing for dental patients.