Guide to Patient Engagement


There’s a very common experience in the world of dentistry – a patient is scheduled for a recall after a relatively healthy check-up. That patient is non-committal, tough to get a hold of, or cancels on you, last minute or well in advance. Staff can sometimes feel like they’re just fishing around for any existing patient to fill the gap. Never even mind the extra labour that goes into finding new patients all together. 

We at ClearDent like to think of patient engagement as a collection of tactics and technology that lower the risks of no shows, and keep people engaged in your practice. Building a better relationship with your patients requires that you meet them where they’re at, not where you want them to be. Offering choice to your patients around simple things like how they’re contacted can go a very long way, while making you seem more available and responsive as a care provider. When patients are happy and feel like they have agency, they’re more likely to stick around, show up for appointments, and even tell their friends and family about the amazing work you do. 

In this guide, we’ll offer tips, and explain how the right tactics, along with effective practice management software that provides patient engagement, can help you win over even the most unresponsive individual. 

Getting Patients on Your Side 

Your schedule as a dental practice is full. We know that from the first moment you unlock the doors, to the last sterilization of the day, there’s plenty of running around to keep every staff member busy. The notion of spending more time communicating and interacting with your patients, when a 60 minute procedure ends up taking 75, or your 10:00 arrives for 10:30, is tough to imagine – but great patient communication leads to patient loyalty.

The need for every appointment to show up on time without surprises determines how stressed you and your staff are likely to be, and how much production is completed in a given day, and when it comes to patient loyalty, the truth of the matter is that an ounce of interaction can really be worth a pound of prevention. 

As an example, let’s talk about how even a friendly conversation or two can cut down on a large reason for no-shows. As business owners, it can be easy to count the seconds when a chair is occupied, but production is stalled, as a revenue loss. What you should be counting are the moments you’re building trust and a rapport with your patients. Those small moments when you’re offering an open ear, and talking earnestly about their care are prime drivers for patient engagement. Call us a broken record, but when you’re building patient engagement, a friendly conversation or two can cut down on a large reason for no-shows. 

Patient engagement has one of the largest payoffs for your business compared to time or money spent, but it’s a long game that requires commitment from you and your staff. 

Read all about building your own patient engagement strategy in our free eBook: Patient Engagement in Dental Offices 

Book cover of ClearDent's guide to "Patient Engagement in Dental Offices: A Roadmap to Better Relationships"

Even if you become best friends with your patients, you’ll still need to focus on those smaller nudges and reminders to make sure they remember to attend their own recall. If your patients, and especially the new patients you’re trying to bring in, skew a little younger, it’s important to recognize how their preferences are different from the older demographic. 

ClearDent wants the very best for your business. We’ve seen and studied practices of all shapes and sizes, and there’s one piece of advice we live by: 

Stop calling them. 

Being a modern dental practice means adapting to the new, and building a relationship with patients. Patients that trust you feel like they’re being heard are ones that show up on time, every time. 

Living Up To Your Own Reputation 

Once you’ve got patients on your side, a curious psychological phenomenon begins to happen.  

When someone in a conversation mentions they’re looking for a new dentist, people that are happy and engaged with theirs will almost always recommend them. As humans, we follow the recommendations of those we know and trust and we call this social proof. As a practice, you reap the benefits of eager patients bringing in more business, without spending a dime. 

The Internet has changed what we consider social proof to be, but it has also created a dependence for growing businesses in the form of online reviews. Everywhere from RateMyMD, to Google Maps come with a range of stars and numbers rating yours (and many other) businesses. While it shouldn’t occupy too much of your time, you or your staff need to keep an eye out for your online presence. 

Taking Criticism in Stride 

The old adage of losing well is always true, but every time you receive a negative online review, there is a narrow window to turn around that opinion, and even improve the impression that other readers might have. When handled carefully, there are ways that any dental office, regardless of their size, can benefit from receiving their critical feedback in public. 

Read about the best way to handle online complaints

While it may feel out of your control, remember that every review you receive comes from your own patients. Even if most of the general population aren’t inclined to immediately post online after a cleaning or new crown, there are ways to inspire people to leave positive feedback online. We’ve certainly seen our share of dental practices running sweepstakes and contests in a bid to inspire t patients to leave a kind word or two, and we’re big fans. 

That odd mix of a personal patient experience, positive online review, and social proof – whether digital or in-person, is magic for business. It brings in new patients at a lower rate than any advertiser will charge, and cuts down on no-shows and those nervous individuals trying to blow off their next appointment. 

Learn More About Patient Engagement 

Interested in getting closer to your patients, and building an impressive online reputation? Read the Is it time for your practice to take a closer look at itself or its numbers? We have a few articles that other practices have found helpful: