What Dental Patients Want

Dentists are obsessed with trying to understand what motivates consumers to select and become long-term patients of a dental practice.

The goal is to crack the code” that enables them to take their patient acquisition and retention rates to the next level. We wanted to learn what factors actually have the greatest influence on a dental patient’s decision-making process. To find the answers, Futuredontics® conducted a major national survey of consumer attitudes towards dentists and dentistry. This report is designed to answer many of the most important questions facing dentists today, including: 

  • What are the most popular sources patients use to find dentists?
  • Which factors have the greatest influence on patients when selecting a dentist?
  • How satisfied are patients with their current dentist?
  • What factors cause patients to switch dentists?

When Selecting a Dentist What Influences Your Decision the Most?

1. Patients Want You to Accept Their Insurance

They say that the three most important things in real estate are “location, location, location.” For dentists, it’s “insurance, insurance, insurance.” Since our last survey, “accepting my insurance” has jumped far ahead of previous leaders, “services dentist provides” and “location,” to become the number one factor dental patients consider when selecting a dentist. 59% of our survey respondents say that their decision to patronize a practice hinges on insurance. The impact of this is massive when you take into account the fact that seven out of ten survey respondents currently have dental insurance and 42% of patients say they would switch dentists if their current practice stopped accepting their plan. For perspective, only 34% said they would leave over what they perceive to be “too high of prices.”

2. Patients Want You To Be Convenient

The second most important factor patients consider when selecting a dentist is location. 44% of survey respondents said that a convenient office is a must. While younger patients (ages 25-34) are more willing to put up with an office that is out-of-the-way than older patients (ages 35-54), nearly half of all patients won’t patronize practices that fall outside the radius of their daily travels between home, work, school, etc. This is totally understandable. Today’s dental patients — people in general — are busier than ever. Anything that makes life easier is welcomed by today’s over-scheduled, time-strapped consumers. This is why practices that focus on making visiting the dentist as convenient as possible enjoy a decided advantage over their competitors.

3. Patients Want to See Your Reviews

Our survey found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of patients say their choice of dentist is highly influenced by a practice’s online reputation. The importance of a dentist’s online reviews and ratings has increased significantly since our last survey. And dentists are no exception. 98% of people at least ‘occasionally’ read online reviews for local businesses, and 84% of people say reviews play an important part in their decisions about healthcare.

4. Patients Want You to Use Advanced Dental Technology

One of the pivotal findings of our survey is the increasing importance of dental technology to patients. 19% of respondents said the “use of advanced technology to provide better and faster service” was one of the three most important factors they consider when selecting a dentist. This is a big change. In our last survey, technology just barely made it into the top ten factors patients consider when selecting a dentist. Today, it ranks as the fourth most important. While this is crucial information on face value alone, the full import of it becomes clear when we look at a subset of patients (individuals between the ages of 45-54 with household incomes of $50K to $100K annually). Nearly half of this group (45%) said their decision to patronize a practice is based on its use of advanced technology. The importance of technology to your practice can’t be overemphasized. Our survey found that many patients between the ages of 25 and 54 said that they would switch from their current dentist if they did not offer advanced technology treatment options. 

5. Patients Want Referrals From Friends and Family

While much has changed in the dental profession over the past 20 years, one thing has remained constant: The
importance of word-of-mouth referrals. 84% of the patients we surveyed solicit personal recommendations from
family, friends and co-workers when they search for a new dentist.

Word-of-mouth referrals offer dentistry’s most cost-effective source of new patients. In a widely publicized case study,
a member of the 1-800-DENTIST new patient leads program ran production numbers from a single patient. She found
that this individual was responsible for 14 secondary and tertiary referrals. Together they had generated a total of
$46,000 in production in under two years. Here are a few additional reasons why it’s essential to provide a remarkable patient experience:

  • Word of mouth is the primary factor behind up to 50% of all purchase decisions.
  • Customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate.
  • People are 4 times more likely to remain a customer when referred by a friend.
  • Referred customers are 25% more profitable.

6. Patients Want to See You Online in The Spaces They Use Most

A strong online presence is essential for patient acquisition. Six of the top ten sources patients use to find dentists are web based. The most influential online source being search engines, (e.g. like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.), which are currently used by 55% of patients. While search engines rank second only to word-of[1]mouth referrals in terms of overall usage by patients as a means to find dentists, the percentage of people depending on them has dropped slightly (4%).

The change can be easily explained by the rise of alternate online sources, including:

  • Insurance lists (employer/insurance company)
  • Online directories (Yahoo Local, Citysearch)
  • Review sites (Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.)
  • Dental referral company websites (1800dentist.com, Dentistry.com, etc.)
  • Social media (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tiktok, Twitter, etc.)

7. Patients Want You to Focus on Keeping Them Happy

Our survey found the majority of patients are happy with their dentist. Nationally, 82% of survey respondents report being “very to extremely satisfied” with their current dentist. Satisfaction levels are highest (85%) in the Central U.S. and the lowest (77%) in the Mountain states. With satisfaction levels that high it’s not too surprising that 47% of respondents have been going to the same dentist for 6 or more years.

More good news: When asked “how likely are you to switch from your current dentist in the next 12 months?” only 16% of respondents said they would consider it. While on the surface it is reassuring to see that most patients are not presently seeking a new dentist, your relationship with your patients is surprisingly tenuous. So, what causes patients to switch dentists? The answer: A lot of things.

Disclaimer: This whitepaper provides general marketing advice. Please consult your legal professional to ensure
compliance with applicable laws in your jurisdiction.

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