You already know that your dental office is one of the lowest-risk environments for patients during this pandemic. Here’s how to make sure patients are getting that message.
Patients largely came roaring back to their dentists after the 2020 shutdown ended—especially those with urgent needs. Unfortunately, as of January 2021, the world is enduring another severe outbreak, with the added threat of a COVID-19 mutation that is being reported in the media as potentially faster and easier spreading. Some practices are seeing a new round of cancellations from uneasy patients, even though dentistry is far better equipped in terms of safety than we were at the pandemic’s outset.
Patients should not be putting off dental healthcare due to fears caused by a lack of information. Together, we all need to help get the message out that dental offices have long been one of the most risk-mitigated environments for patients to be in, and exactly why that is the case. Ask yourself: Are you 100% confident your patients know everything you’re doing to keep patients and your team safe? If not, here are some things to think about.
Dentistry confronted the pandemic from an existing position of safety
“The safest place to be during an infectious disease outbreak is the dental office, where infection control has been standard protocol for years,” said one Florida dentist at the very beginning of the COVID-19 threat. While the general public may have considered that a bold statement back then, look at where we’re at months later. There have been no widespread or large-scale transmissions linked to U.S. dental offices, and the infection rate among dental staffers is very low according to researchers. This is information you could be sharing on your website, social media (and on phone calls to patients who express concerns). More importantly, it’s all easily backed up by links to news reports and research results.
A trip to the supermarket vs. your practice
Let’s consider the nature of a dental visit. It’s not a mass gathering like the events getting cancelled—NBA games, festivals, parades—where thousands or tens of thousands of people converge in a crowded area. Heck, it’s not even comparable to the regular trips most people are still taking to big box stores and markets, without thinking twice.
Your welcoming area—assuming you’re still using it—probably houses a few people at a time, for a very short period each. When they move to your treatment areas, those are separated by walls or significant distance. Even big practices don’t have a giant staff, and your team members are smart enough to stay home when they’re sick. By now, you have Plexiglas barriers in place, advanced air filtration and maybe even extraoral suction units. Have you shown this to patients? If not, now might be a great time to host a video walkthrough on social media showing exactly what patients can expect on their next visit…and pointing out all the new protections in place on top of the thorough precautions you’ve always taken. Speaking of which….
It’s time to talk about infection control again
Not long ago, dental offices proudly showed off their steri-centers and detailed all their infection control efforts. Then, we started getting lax about it. Patients took for granted how stringent dental practices are, and dentists took for granted that patients knew all the details. Well, it’s time to get back to being proactive. Now is the time to get the word out to patients via email, social media, phone calls or whatever it takes. Show off that steri-center. Explain your infection control processes. Take photos, make videos, write social posts.
Turn cancellations into opportunities for open, honest conversation
One final thing: make sure your front desk knows how to communicate to patients who call with concerns, or to cancel. It’s important they have a conversation instead of just cancelling the appointment, because if they don’t, your schedule could start seeing empty blocks that could easily be prevented. They should also be looking at which procedures are scheduled if a patient calls to cancel. Don’t assume every patient understands that a simple filling that would take a few minutes of treatment today could turn into a tooth that needs a costly crown, or endo and a crown, if they postpone too long.
If you have any doubts about your current protocols, now is the time re-check them. As a support network, reach out to the experts at Benco Dental for help.
Patients are everyone’s top priority, and all of us work hard at removing barriers to care. Our patient populations are at risk nationwide due to misconceptions or lack of information, but a simple email or social post right now is a big step in the right direction to ensure everyone gets the treatment they need without delay. The more practices that do it, and the sooner, the better it will be for the health of patient populations nationwide.