3 ways dental assistants improve patient retention

mouth model appointment reminder

Dental assistants can keep patients coming back to the dental office. Some might say it’s a superpower! And there are numbers to back up these statements.

According to DANB and the DALE Foundation’s Financial Impact of Dental Assistants on the Dental Practice research results, 94% of dentists, dental office managers, and other dental leaders agreed that dental assistants help improve patient retention. There’s also evidence that practices with higher dental assistant pay have better patient retention, likely because those assistants stay with the practice longer and patients get comfortable with them over time. On the flip side, practices with high dental assistant turnover may have a more challenging time retaining patients — in addition to facing lower patient volume and productivity.

Below are three specific ways dental assistants help to retain patients.

Building trust

Each day, dental assistants prioritize building trust with patients and making them feel comfortable. You do this by talking and listening to patients before, during, and after the appointment. You answer patients’ questions, hear and validate their concerns, and empathize with their experiences. Sometimes, you’ll even hold their hand if they’re seeking comfort. Overall, dental assistants’ efforts can help patients agree to and feel good about pursuing the dentist-recommended treatment. With you by their side, patients often feel reassured everything will be OK.

“The best thing about being a dental assistant is creating a trusting relationship with an apprehensive patient — so that the next time they come in, they are all smiles and seemingly happy to be back,” shares Janaya. “Dental assistants can change mindsets so that patients have a better experience at the dentist’s office.”

Making patients feel important

As dental assistants know, everybody in the dental office likes to feel appreciated and special. Dental patients are no exception.

Because you spend so much time talking and listening to patients, dental assistants are in the perfect position to reassure patients they’re the dental team’s priority. We’ve heard that simply remembering little details about the patient, such as their children’s names, can reinforce to patients that they’re significant.

“People like to feel special, and they like knowing that you listen to them,” agrees Lara. “They can tell this when you remember something they mentioned during their last appointment — maybe a vacation they were excited about taking, a new baby they were expecting, or a wedding they were planning to attend.”

Providing education

Last, but certainly not least, dental assistants contribute to patient retention by serving as a resource for patients. In fact, dental assistants consider educating patients to be among the most important things they do.

Sharing information about oral healthcare and answering patients’ questions can benefit patients in many ways. For example, knowledgeable patients are less likely to feel anxious about visiting the dental office and may be less inclined to avoid it. Additionally, they are more likely to accept dentist-recommended treatment, practice good oral-hygiene habits at home, and return to the dental office for follow-up care.

Deborah agrees that sharing knowledge is power, and that dental assistants are well equipped for the task. “We must educate! We must help patients understand their oral healthcare situation, how to reverse bad habits, and why they may need that expensive treatment,” she says.

“We must take the time to educate with grace and encouragement,” adds Erica.

Read more: 3 ways well-compensated dental assistants benefit the practice