How Do You Show Your Patients You Care?

Pediatric dentist and patient

Your pediatric dental practice wouldn’t exist if not for the patients and parents that trust you with their care and that of their children. Day to day, it’s easy to lose sight of this as you work on case after case, getting lost in the routine of it all. So how do you show your appreciation to your patients, potentially turning them from satisfied to loyal?

There’s a secret to a successful pediatric dental practice, one that receives positive reviews, retains patients, and has a high case acceptance rate. It’s not just about skill level, your technology, or your marketing. While those areas are very important, few factors weigh more heavily than how much a patient likes you, particularly in pediatric dentistry.

This point is demonstrated when we look at research regarding malpractice insurance for medical doctors. When determining the amount of risk to lawsuits any particular doctor poses, it has little to do with training level or the amount of mistakes made, and everything to do with how they treat their patients (in the social sense).

Wendy Levinson, a medical researcher, recorded hundreds of conversations between doctors and their patients. One half of the group had never been sued by a patient, while the other half had been sued twice or more. Based on nothing other than their conversations with patients, Levinson’s researchers were able to accurately predict which doctors get sued and which did not.

It goes even further. While most of the visits that were monitored lasted 15-20 minutes, researchers were able to still accurately predict which doctors get sued by listening to just 40 seconds of them speaking to patients! Pretty crazy, huh?

There wasn’t a difference in training, quality of information, or the treatment of their patients (medically speaking); the difference was entirely due to how they talked to their patients.

Doctors that express warmth and empathy aren’t likely to be sued, even if they make mistakes. Doctors that demonstrate dominance, coldness, or social anxiety are more likely to get sued, even if they don’t make mistakes.

I think it’s safe to extrapolate here and say that the way dentists interact with their patients can have a drastic impact on retention. Patients aren’t just looking for technically correct treatment; they want you to show that you care for them. If you do, they are more likely to accept your case recommendations, you’ll retain them as a patient, and they will be less likely to leave you a sour review (or a lawsuit).

Ways you can show a pediatric dental patient you care

Have the dentist call

New patients are more likely to cancel or no-show, as they haven’t yet established rapport with your pediatric practice. In a perfect, ideal world, I recommend that the pediatric dentist makes the reminder call themselves for new patients, taking the chance to introduce themselves to the parents.

In most offices though, the doctor doesn’t have the time to take out of his or her busy day to call every new patient. Instead, consider using the doctor’s voice on the automated call reminder, mentioning something along the lines of, ‘…and I can’t wait to meet you (and your child(ren)) at your first appointment!’

I also recommend the dentist make a personal call following any serious procedures to check on the patient and how recovery is going.

Make extra time for new patients

One of the big differences between the two groups in Levinson’s research was that doctors that are well liked spend an average of three extra minutes for new patients.

Children and their parents may need more time than that. Spending an extra few minutes with a new patient and their parent/guardian to get to know them, answer questions, and help them be comfortable with you could have a significant return on investment for you and the practice.

Be Friendly and Smile

It takes a special person to be a pediatric dentist, as children need to find you approachable and caring, while still showing the professionalism and training needed to also do the job right. Discuss the parent’s particular needs and concerns, and remember to smile when appropriate. It’s contagious, especially around little ones!

Keep Track of Milestones

What will set you apart from other dentists is your personal touch. Recognize patients who have been with you for a while, send flowers or personalized cards for special occasions, or congratulate them when there is a new addition to the family. Demonstrating to a patient and/or parent that they are more than just a patient to you will help them stick around for the long term.

Pay Attention to Their Needs

When a parent brings a child in for something relatively minor, they might be surprised when they find that there is some major work that needs to be done. If they don’t seem ready to move forward, schedule a follow-up. Help them explore their options and see to their concerns.


As you and your team build a relationship with them and gain their trust, they will be more likely to follow through with your recommendations.

If you or your team need a little extra help making personal connections with patients, consider joining the PDTA! We have on-demand training modules available to help with instances just like this.  

And don’t forget about our practice profitability guide! It’s free to download and chock-full of helpful ideas.

Practice profitability guide button



~ Dr. Rhea Haugseth