The Elephant In The Dental Treatment Room

Think we know our patients?

An interesting email came across my desk his last week….

The writer of the email lives in Florida.

“I absolutely hate going to the dentist. I hate it the same
way most people hate going down to the Department of Motor

It’s the kind of transaction that simply feels like a
complete waste of time. Kind of like paying for homeowners’
insurance – you shell out a bunch of money, with no tangible
benefit or happy experience.

And on top of this, the service at my dentist’s office
absolutely stinks. Here, check this out:

* Unless you make the first or second appointment of the day
(at 7:30 or 8 am), you’re going to wait… and wait… and

Friday I had an 8 o’clock appointment and I got in at 8

But three weeks earlier I had a 1pm appointment, and I
didn’t get in until 1:45pm

This is the standard over here, which is why, at one
point… I stopped going to the dentist for 2 years.

Imagine how the hygienist would feel if I made her wait 45
minutes to see me?

On top of this, the 5 minutes the dentist does come in to
see you (and it’s always a different dentist every time):

* Outside of the cursory look at my teeth – which the
hygienist just looked at, for 35 minutes… the dentist says
or does nothing…

* No one calls you by your name – not even the dentist

You’re constantly reminded that you’re just a body. Could be
you, or someone else – doesn’t matter to them, at all…

* If you have to reschedule an appointment, you can’t do it

Here’s what I mean: They once sent me an e-mail confirming
my appointment time about a week in advance. I responded
“Thanks for the reminder – I won’t be able to make that
appointment (I scheduled it 6 months earlier at my last
appointment, so this isn’t uncommon). Do you have something
around the same time this Thursday or next Thursday?”

They responded: “No.”

I e-mailed them back, “No problem. Can you please have
someone call me when you get a chance, so I can

Never heard another thing.

No follow up e-mail… no phone call… nothing.

Pure class…

* They also don’t take American Express. They say its
because they don’t like how Amex handles their merchants,
but they are full of crap. They’re too cheap to pay the
extra 1% merchant fee.

How do I know this – I once asked the person at the counter
who collects the money, “Hey, I bet the dentist uses
American Express to pay his own bills, right?”

To which they responded, “Of course.”

So not only does he place his own selfish needs ahead of his
customers, but he has no rapport or loyalty from his
employees – who are ready to dish out the dirt on him at the
drop of a hat.

So, you’re probably wondering, “Craig, why don’t you just
get another dentist?”

And the answer is simple. Every single dentist I’ve ever
worked with is pretty much the same. So to me, it’s “better
the devil known, than the devil unknown.”

What a way to keep your customers, huh?

Their bedside manner is awful, or zero… they treat their
patients like farmers treat cattle… and customer service
means “sending you a reminder to come clean your teeth every
six months.”

The thing is, if you’re a dentist – this is great
information to have, because all you’d need to do is create
some kind of a differential, or some kind of a Unique
Selling Proposition, is to set your office up completely

* Treat people like people – speak to them, call them by
their names maybe even…

* Spend time with your patients. Let them know you care
about their teeth, their overall health, and even them as

Honestly, this is such basic stuff here, it’s actually an
embarrassment I even have to discuss this…

* Set your business up so your patients feel like you’re
doing things to make THEIR life easier, not YOUR life
easier. Take as many different forms of payments as
possible… allow your patients to book appointments
online… and treat your staff better.

If you treat your staff better, they’ll treat your patients
better, and everyone wins.

The ONLY reason I go to this dentist is because they’re
close to my house. If another dentist opened up a practice a
half-mile closer, I’d go there.”



So what’s your take on this?

Here are my takes:

Firstly, despite what we as Dentists like to think, Dentistry is a *Grudge Buy*.

Not many people enjoy going to the Dentist, even when it’s a regular visit, and even when there’s the likelihood of not much, or nothing, being wrong.

Secondly, for those regulars, we need to spend the time with them.

Even though we know there will probably be no restorative work to do on them, it’s important to make sure we are thorough in our examination with them, and that we also give these patients value for their time.

You’ve heard me mention this before:

Children spell “LOVE”, T.I.M.E.

And adults spell “Attention” the exact same way. T.I.M.E.

Take the time with your long-term patients.

Spend time with them visiting with them. Don’t just do a drive-by examination.

Be there for them.

Thirdly, run your hygiene department to time.

Don’t keep your hygiene patients waiting.

Respect their time.

A dentist friend of mine from Baltimore told me that he recently changed Dental Offices because the hygienist continuously and constantly kept him waiting for his hygiene appointment.


On a regular basis.

And my friend goes four times a year because of a cleanliness issue, not a periodontal issue.

And this office belonged to a friend of my friend from Dental School.

Remember, the number one reason in business, in any business, that clients take their custom elsewhere, is Apathy, and perceived Apathy that they are displayed by employees within that business.

Finally, in this day and age, take more payment options.

And don’t begrudgingly take them.

Work out your numbers, and adjust your fees one time across the board so that your business silently collects sufficient to cover the cost of those merchant fees.

Then set and forget them.

And smile.

The hidden bad advertising you display by looking and appearing tight fisted and just plain mean, is *NOT* at all equal or lesser than the small cost of adding some merchant fees that may be a small amount more than the mainstream…

The feelings and concerns of clients, customers and patients of our Dental Offices are very much like those expressed by my Floridian friend in this email.

Just because we as dentists do not see this sort of correspondence so much does not mean that this is not happening in our world.

It is.

It’s the elephant in the room.

And we need to be aware of that elephant each and every time we see all of our patients.

Every time.


The Ultimate Patient Experience is a simple easy to implement system that I developed that allowed me to build an extraordinary dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb.  If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report.

Email me:

Did you like this blog article? If you did then hit the share buttons below and share it with your friends and colleagues. Share it via email, Facebook and twitter!!