Monday, October 27, 2008

How People Choose a Dentist

After a couple of decades in the dental referral business, I've found that there are five basic ways that people find a new dentist. They are:
1. Ask a friend, neighbor or coworker
2. Pick one randomly from an insurance provider list
3. Look in the yellow pages
4. Call from an ad on TV, in the newspaper, or from a mailer
5. Look online

While some of these are good and some are totally random and unreliable, here are the questions you should be asking yourself.

With asking someone you know, how do you really know how they evaluate the dentist? Have they been to several, and settled on this one? Or do they just like the hygienist? What do they really know about their dentist and his qualifications versus others in the area? Usually not much.

Picking from an insurance provider list is obviously like using a dartboard, where you end up choosing by the sound of a person's name (we all do it!)

Yellow pages is almost as bad. First of all, the ad runs for a year, without changes or corrections. The dentist could have lost his license one week into the release of the book. But mostly, this is just an upgraded dartboard. You may be able to tell some of the services they offer, but my experience is the bigger the ad, the worse the dentist--that's my personal opinion, your mileage may vary.

Calling from an ad or mailer is okay, but it doesn't give you any screening feedback on the dentist. It's still just an unfiltered message about the practice.

Going online may give you more information, and that's significantly better. If the dentist has a website then you can get a feel for the practice, and see what they have to offer for services. Unfortunately only 30% of dentists have a website, and most of them are not very comprehensive.

My business is different than these other methods for several reasons: first, we check the licenses of the dentists on an ongoing basis. Second, we make sure they have adequate malpractice insurance in case anything goes wrong. Third, we find out everything about the practice and put it in our database in a searchable way.

But most important is that we're sending people to our dentists, who are independent practices, by the way, and getting feedback on the experience of seeing them. If the experiences turn out to be negative, we drop the dentist. But some of the dentists we've been referring to for 20 years without a complaint, literally thousands of people sent to their office. But no one gets to stay a member if they don't meet our standards.

And they don't get to be members just because they pay. Our screening process is harder than any other dental organization. And certainly a lot harder than the dental societies. With them, it's pay your dues and you're a member. That's not us.

Choosing a dentist can be easy if you use the right resource. We try every day to be that resource, and get better and better at it. And if you didn't experience that with us, I want to know about it.

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