Dentists: why aren’t patients prioritizing your appointments? In 2014, only 64% of people in the US said they visited the dentist within a year, according to CDC data. Our research team was curious as to what our dentist Crowd thought about the lack of consistent patient dental visits. We asked 65 US dentists why they think patients don’t regularly come in for their check-ups using our microsurvey tool.
Patient Issues with Dental Work
When dentists were asked what specific issues were keeping their patients from coming in for regular visits, 72% said that cost was the biggest issue. However, as some respondents pointed out, “Regular care is less costly in the long term because issues are addressed before they become expensive problems.” -Dentist, CT, 43 years in practice.
Interestingly, though cost is considered a major issue, only 19% offered family discounts, 3% offered cash discounts, and 20% said they offered discounts for cosmetic dentistry.
After cost, 49% of dentists said fear was an issue. This is a known issue in the mental health community, and a number of psychologists work with patients and conduct research on dental phobias.
Daniel W. McNeil, PhD, a professor of psychology and clinical professor of dental practice and rural health at West Virginia University writes, in his 2014 book “Behavioral Dentistry,” that almost half of American adults have at least moderate levels of dentistry-related fear, with 5 percent to 10 percent reporting that they stay away from dental care as a result. Causes range from childhood experiences, to fears of being trapped, getting an injection, seeing blood, or feeling like personal space is being invaded, says McNeil in this article for the American Psychological Association.
While you may not be able to rid these patients of their phobia, making patients feel welcome and safe may go a long way in ensuring they return.
Social media could be an effective tool for dentists to both educate and recruit patients. However, very few dentists use these channels, according to this article in Dental Economics. In our survey, only 3% of dentists reported that their practice uses social media campaigns.
Taking time off from work was listed by 29% of dentists. If patients are having an issue with scheduling appointments, expanding your services could be helpful. This could mean moving offices to help accessibility or increasing hours, according to an article on Patient News.
If cost and fear are major components keeping patients from making regular appointments, it’s important to understand why and make any necessary adjustments. Increasing accessibility and making patients feel welcome are two easy steps dental practices can take.