Competition among dentists is fierce. There are over 200,000 dentists in the US, and many dental practices have been hit hard as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fewer patients have been scheduling dental appointments during this time, and some dentists have chosen not to run at full capacity. Whether by choice or circumstance, dental offices are experiencing lower volumes than they were prior to the pandemic.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, it is common in the dental industry to have a high patient churn rate. Even healthy dental practices that experience a normal attrition rate lose about 17 percent of their active patient base each year. Similarly, it is difficult for dentists to keep their new patients. The average new-patient retention is only 41 percent beyond the first appointment.
With all this being said, it is crucial for dentists to continually feed their funnel of new patients if they want their practice to prosper. How do dentists get new patient leads? They can start by differentiating their practice from the competition by screening for underlying illnesses, offering solutions for sleep disorders, and providing additional solutions and services.
Screen for Underlying Illnesses
Dentists can be the first medical professionals to spot indications of an underlying illness. That’s because many illnesses, even life-threatening ones, can manifest themselves with symptoms in the teeth and mouth. While a primary care physician may briefly check inside a patient’s mouth, dentists spend a lot more time there and can easily check for signs of illness. The following are some of the illnesses and their accompanying oral signs:
- Osteoporosis: Since osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle, these changes can be seen in the jaw and teeth.
- HIV: A sign of HIV infection can include oral thrush, which is recognized by white lesions on the tongue, gums, and tonsils.
- Diabetes: Symptoms of diabetes can include sensitive gums and bad breath.
- Cancer: Red and white lesions on or under the tongue that don’t heal can be a sign of cancer.
- Crohn’s disease: Swollen lips and mouth sores are symptoms of Crohn’s disease. The mouth sores are round, dime-sized lesions with white centers and red perimeters.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): GERD can be identified in the back of the mouth with lesions or erosion of the back teeth.
- Heart disease: Swollen, red, bleeding gums can increase a person’s risk of heart disease, as it can cause bacteria to travel through the bloodstream to the heart.
These are some of the serious illnesses that dentists can be the first to recognize. By making screening for these illnesses a regular part of your practice, you might be doing more than your patients expect, and they will absolutely be grateful for it.
Offer Solutions for Sleep Disorders
Another way you can expand your dental practice and find more patient leads is through sleep dentistry. Sleep disorders are extremely common, with over 100 million people in the world suffering from sleep apnea, and dentists can be influential in helping patients with sleep problems, especially obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA occurs when the throat muscles collapse and block the airways during sleep. This causes the person to stop and start breathing repeatedly throughout the night. Here are some of the common symptoms of OSA to help your patients look out for:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Dry mouth or sore throat in the morning
- Difficulty concentrating
- Night sweats
- Restlessness during sleep
- Low sex drive
- Trouble getting up in the mornings
- High blood pressure
Dentists can provide their patients with custom oral appliances to wear at night and prevent this from happening, thus significantly improving the quality of their patients’ sleep. Consider incorporating sleep dentistry into your practice to acquire new patients.
Provide Additional Solutions and Services
The list of additional services dentists can provide is vast. Here are a few more to consider:
Cosmetic Dentistry: Some people look for dentists who will not only clean their teeth but help their smile look the best it can be. This could include teeth whitening, dental bonding, or adding crowns, veneers, or implants.
Assisting the Underinsured: Consider specializing in helping those who don’t have dental insurance—or who don’t have enough to cover what they need. When these patients abandon the offices with outrageous out-of-pocket rates, they turn to those who offer more reasonable prices for the uninsured. Your office might be more appealing to a larger crowd if assisting the underinsured is your focus.
Periodontal Treatments: Periodontists treat the inflammatory diseases that destroy the gums and surrounding areas of the teeth. Dentists can expand by adding this specialty to their practice.
Pediatric Dentistry: Not all dentist offices are ideal for children, and there are certain dental issues unique to, or more common in, children and teenagers, such as cavities and changes in the mouth as the body grows. Having dental professionals at your practice that are specialized in working with children will make your practice more attractive to families.
Providing these additional solutions and services may help your dental practice get the new patient leads you are looking for. But don’t let them limit you: Be proactive in coming up with new innovations that will help your dental practice stand out from the competition. Continually acquiring new patient leads is vital for dentists these days to keep their practice flourishing.