Why is it that people love to go to salons but hate to go to the dentist? (Stick with us, non-salon types. We’re going somewhere with this). People will joyfully cough up large amounts of money for the privilege of getting plucked, waxed, pelted with hot stones, and tortured in all kinds of creative ways. But ask them to sit in a chair for a few minutes with a slightly uncomfortable dental appliance in their mouth and watch their face fall quicker than you can say, “No cavities!”
People don’t go to a salon just for the beauty—just as they don’t go to a bar just for the small-batch, organic, artisanally-crafted beer. They go for the sense of community. And most dental offices don’t really feel like a place of community. But they could. And perhaps they should.
There are things to consider when buying a dental practice, such as what the previous owner was doing within the community to keep up the reputation of the office. You’ll want to stick with those that were working. It’s also a good idea to add some new outreach, to get the community to accept your presence in the office.
If you’re starting up a dental practice, though it may seem intangible, you will need to think about the power of community even more. In a world that leans more and more toward digital interaction, actual contact with a live human can have a massive impact. For patients, finding a place that feels like home is the difference between going to the dentist for a service once and going to a practice repeatedly for the rest of their lives. People don’t just want to find a dentist; they want to find their dentist, in their community.
There is no easy, cut-and-dried way to build community—which is probably why most practices don’t put resources into the effort. But there are a myriad of small ways that you can start thinking about how your practice affects your patients’ sense of belonging. The kindness of a front desk employee can be the turning point in a patient’s really horrible day—and that person will remember that interaction. Sponsoring local Little League or AYSO teams may seem insignificant, but it tells your community that you’re there and you care. It reminds them that you’re part of their lives. And they will respond.
Start thinking about the small ways you can build community with your practice. Here's one: once a year, host a FREE dental day. It's a great way to get everyone to rally around a cause, both in-person and on social media, and also an amazing service to your community.
Building this sense within your practice can give you lifelong patients. And those patients will gladly and voluntarily convert their friends and relatives into lifelong patients. And it may also help remind you of why you went into practice in the first place: to help your community.