Two Types of Dental Patients

When planning for the future of your dental practice, one of the most important considerations is what type of patients you want to serve. According to Paul Homoly, dental patients generally fall into two categories, modest-care patients and complex-care patients.

Understanding the distinction between modest-care patients and complex-care patients is important because each type wants different things from a dental practice. They need different levels of care. They require different types of communication. They face different challenges.

Moreover, what works to attract and build relationships with modest-care patients will not work with complex-care patients.

Your marketing must match the type of patient you want to focus on.

Thus, it’s critical to make a choice about what type of patient you want to have as the core type of patient for your practice and build your practice around works with that type of patient.

Here are the key distinctions between modest- and complex-care patients to help you make informed and intentional decisions about the direction of your practice.

The Modest-Care Dental Patient

Modest-care patients are those whose primary needs are routine services, such as fillings, crowns, and preventative care. Their overall mouth health is average or better and the cost of services they require mostly fits within their budgets.

While certain areas may have high competition, modest-care patients generally choose based on convenience and reputation. Modest-care patients generally prefer practices close to their house or office who are in-network providers for their insurance plan. They’re also influenced by referrals and online reviews. You don’t need to build a tremendous amount of trust to earn their business.

Benefits of Building a Practice Focused on Modest-Care Dental Patients

Modest-care patients are good “bread and butter” patients for your practice. Their overall mouth health is average or better and the cost of services they require mostly fits within their budgets.

The pool of potential patients is big and they’ll come back on a regular basis for routine procedures. Modest-care patients may need complex care in the future but the main reason they become a patient is for more modest and routine services.

If you decide to add dental implants to your practice, there may also be a time to place an implant or two. When it comes time for any of your modest-care patients them to need a dental implant, you will have already developed a strong relationship with them, thus making it much more likely that they will move forward with the care they need.

Having a large pool of modest-care patients can help you generate reliable income while you build a dental implant practice.

Challenges of Building a Practice Focused on Modest-Care Dental Patients

Some dentists prefer to serve mostly modest-care patients because it provides a steady flow of patients.

While that’s true, focusing only on modest-care patients is a lot of work. You earn much less for your time than more complex and higher-fee services. You’re also much more likely to rely on dental insurance patients, which requires quite a bit of management.

Finally, the impact you have on patients’ lives is minimal. While you may end up placing an implant or two, which can transform their lives, your day-to-day practice will be much less impactful on their lives… (pun intended).

If you’re looking for a way to make a bigger impact on people’s lives while making your practice more profitable and your life much more enjoyable, focusing your practice on complex-care patients, such as dental implant patients, might be a good choice for you.

The Complex-Care Dental Patient

The complex-care dental implant patient is someone who comes to your office primarily for more complex services. With our clients, that generally means they come in specifically for teeth replacement options such as dental implants.

Unlike modest-care patients, fees for the care needed by complex care patients generally start at $3,500 and go up from there. Some patients need more than $50,000 in care to get their mouths to optimal health.

Benefits of Building a Practice Focused on Complex-Care Dental Patients

Building a practice focused on serving complex-care patients has many benefits. With dental implants, for example, your care is life-changing to them. Additionally, you can earn much higher fees for your practice, allowing you to do less–but often more meaningful–work.

Specifically, most complex-care patients don’t get to that level of need overnight. Some of them have a more complex health history and have struggled with mouth health for decades. Others have a history of not caring for their teeth, many times because they had a lack of financial means to afford dental care.

Finally, complex-care patients generally come to a practice with an immediate need for help. If you can build trust and help them afford their care, you can up the chances that they will move forward with the care they need.

Challenges of Building a Practice Focused on Complex-Care Dental Patients

Complex-care patients have a greater need for immediate, life-changing, and high-revenue care. Their biggest challenge, however, is affording their care. They have the desire to move forward. They want the full look, feel, and function of their mouth back.

But if their dentist doesn’t provide options to make treatment affordable, finances become a barrier to treatment and they simply can’t move forward. The easiest way to help them move forward is to provide flexible and affordable payment options for them to fit their care into their budget. The responsibility lies with the dental practice to do offer flexible payment options.

The most successful dental implant practices will be the ones that offer ways for any patients to afford to say yes to move forward with their treatment.

In addition to helping patients afford their care, complex-care patients are often new patients to your practice. Thus, they require more attention and a different type of communication than modest-care patients.

You don’t have the level of familiarity with these patients that you do with modest-care patients. They also don’t often appreciate how much dental implants cost but also that you can help them fit their care into their budgets.

It’s critical that you and your team understand and overcome the affordability obstacle and communicate with complex care patients in a way that builds trust with them and doesn’t make them feel like they’re just a number to you. For example, this means handling phones in your practice differently. It means handling case presentations differently, too.

Be willing to take more time to help complex-care patients understand their options. They may need more time to move forward with your treatment plan. In fact, according to Paul Homoly, fewer than 5% are likely to be ready to move forward on the first visit. You can improve your odds by building trust and helping them afford their care easier.

What type of dental practice is right for you?

Deciding what type of patient you want to serve is one of the most important steps in building a successful practice. Do you want to serve modest-care patients? Focus your clinical training, marketing, and team training around serving their unique needs.

Do you want to serve more complex-care patients? Focus your clinical training, marketing, and team training around serving complex-care patients’ unique needs.

Do you want a mix? Make sure you and your team understand each type of patients’ unique needs and have the right mix of training, marketing, and customer service in place.

What type of dental practice do you want to build? Let us know in the comments or by sharing this post on social media! Be sure to tag us so we can thank you in public on Twitter, @DrivenDental, or on our Facebook page.

Nick Pavlidis

Nick Pavlidis is a recognized author for several dental implant articles.

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