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Little touches with a big impact: making patients comfortable is less complicated than you think.

Imagine walking into a totally strange and unknown place for the first time. There are foreign objects you don't recognize, unfamiliar sounds and smells, and people wearing exotic and outlandish costumes who are uttering words you don't quite understand. You instantly feel edgy, nervous and out of place. Well, you've just stepped into the shoes of your average dental patient.

So, what can you do to help put your patients at ease? The answer is easier than you may think: Just about anything you do to make your patients feel calmer and more comfortable during their visit can have a significant effect on their overall impression of your practice and, more importantly, increase patient loyalty and case acceptance.

Here are a few suggestions:

It's all in the greeting. This might feel really simple, but when patients sit in your operatory, greet them by name and thank them for coming in (or coming back) to the practice. Making people feel welcome is an important role you can play, especially when you know the doctor or hygienist is rushed or running behind.

Make some small talk. You might not think you have that much in common with all of your patients, but certainly you have something in common with each of them. Find that mutual interest. Maybe you both have school-age kids, or maybe you shop at the same grocery store. You can always just ask them how their new crown feels. Whatever they say, write it down in the file so you have something to talk about on their next visit. It will start to seem like you always remember little things about people, and they'll feel like you really care as a result. That feeling is the first step in building a trusting relationship.

How about some new music? You know those tired old CDs that the practice has been offering patients since ... well, since they first came out with CDs? Why not bring in some CDs from home that you've outgrown and let them have a change of pace!

Think about smells. No, not the way you smell ... the way the office smells. Suggest to the doctor or the OM that you bring in some aromatherapy candles or nonburning aromatherapy sticks (available in any home decor shop or department store). This very inexpensive move can make your whole office smell less medical and feel more like home!

Give their jaw a break. If in the middle of a procedure, when patients' jaws have been open for 20 minutes, or even an hour, encourage them to close their mouths and rest for 30 seconds. This is something I've heard practices affectionately refer to as a "torture break." Better yet, offer to give their jaw muscles a light massage! This little gesture can have such a positive impact on patients' physical comfort level, and make them feel like they've been treated as a human being, not just a mouth.

Compliment the doctor. The fact is, doctors can't really brag about themselves to their patients ... but you can! Tell every patient what a great dentist you work for. Tell them that you go to this dentist for your dental work and that you think he/ she is a great clinician. Talk about the doctor's extensive training, or tell them how much you enjoy working in the practice because of how up-to-date the equipment is. You might think that patients naturally assume you go to your employer for your dental work, but that's not always the case. If you tell them that you trust him with your mouth, it will often give them the little bit of reassurance they're looking for to proceed with treatment.

In the end, just looking at your practice from your patients' point of view, and going out of your way to ensure their comfort, makes a huge impact. You have a chance to be the friendly, welcoming, reassuring face of your office--and believe me when I say, patients will notice the difference.

Naomi Cooper is the vice president of marketing at 1-800-DENTIST[R], the company behind dentistry's leading new patient marketing program. With over 10 years of marketing and management experience and the expertise gained from working with thousands of dental practices nationwide, Naomi's responsibilities also include industry and professional relations, as well as GoAskFred. com, an online forum where dental professionals can ask all their practice marketing questions. Naomi can be reached at
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Title Annotation:Dental Business
Author:Cooper, Naomi
Publication:The Dental Assistant
Date:Sep 1, 2008
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