How to get patients back in the dental office amid the COVID-19 pandemic

 As dental teams prioritize new protocols in the office to ensure the safety and comfort among staff and patients in the COVID era, recent data shows that some patients are hesitant to return to the dentist so soon.

By June 15, 63% of dental offices that were open reported a lower patient volume than usual, according to a survey conducted by the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute. Patients’ concerns about jeopardizing their health and contracting the coronavirus could play a role in their reluctance.

The following tips can help with rebuilding trust and increasing your patients’ comfort levels about returning to the dentist.

  1. Inform patients of updated safety protocols

Help patients feel more comfortable about returning by letting them know what to expect when they arrive for their appointment. Use emails, newsletters and social media to inform existing and potentially new patients of additional cleaning and safety protocols that were put in place to minimize the risk of exposure.

When communicating with patients, focus on messaging that promotes confidence, trust, safety and reassurance. Inform patients that office staff is knowledgeable and up to date on the latest news related to the pandemic and ensure them of your office’s ability to adapt and make necessary changes to company protocols when needed.

Find marketing and communication tools, including email templates and appointment reminders, in CDA’s Back to Practice Resource Center.

  1. Utilize your social media platforms

Thanks to social media, dentists can take patient engagement a step further by providing a glimpse into the office's daily operations. In addition to telling patients about new safety protocols through email, utilize engaging pictures and videos on social media to emphasize that the office staff is prepared for their return. Here are some specific ideas:

  • Post short videos of cleaning protocols before and after each appointment so patients can see what measures are being taken to maintain a safe environment.
  • Film a walk-through to show patients what to expect during their next visit.
  • Post testimonials from other patients.
  • Post selfie videos offering tips and support to show patients how much you understand and value them.

Use CDA’s social media templates to address any questions or concerns patients may have before their next appointment.

  1. Use teledentistry

Health care providers have been relying heavily on remote communications as an alternate way to stay connected to patients and provide care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Teledentistry gives dentists the flexibility to facilitate the diagnosis, consultation and treatment without the risk of potential exposure.

Experts recommend offering a 10-minute teleconsultation with reluctant patients to check in on them. This will help relax any anxiety they may have and remind them how much they trust you as their dentist.

Read Teledentistry: A different way of delivering dental care for additional guidance on providing virtual care.

  1. Offer oral hygiene and health tips

Remind patients that their health is always the priority. Use different communication channels to educate patients on the connection between their oral health and overall health and offer tips on how to maintain a good cleaning regimen between appointments.

At this time, take the opportunity to remind reluctant patients of the importance of regular dental care and why they shouldn’t let too much time pass before booking their next appointment.

It’s important to remain patient and understanding during this time of uncertainty. Focus on being a community leader and a trustworthy resource as patients and dental teams adjust to providing and receiving care in the COVID era.

Find guidance on how to communicate with reluctant team members in Tips for reducing tension among staff members who are uncomfortable working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional practice management resources can be found in the CDA Back to Practice Center.

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