Let’s face it: most people don’t like going to the dentist. Seeing as you can’t turn around your patients’ feelings overnight, the next best thing you can do is to make them feel more comfortable each time they visit your office; they may even gradually like coming to your office for their appointments.
There are many changes you can make to your office like upgrading your clinic equipment to the latest technology or training your staff on patient communication skills. However, the first change you should make is refreshing your physical dental office space. People are easily affected by their surroundings and it’s often the feeling they get on their first glimpse of a place that determines whether they’ll make an effort to like it or not. For a dental office, the feeling you want to go for is a state-of-the-art modern look that’s balanced by a warm, friendly atmosphere. This balance reassures patients that they’ll be safe in the care of the latest technology, but with a personal touch in a non-clinical setting that values people first.
Here are some changes you can make to set your patients at ease right from the moment they enter your office:
Cozy, personable reception area
This is the first impression that patients get of your office so it’s especially important that you make it warm and inviting. First, have the reception desk designed to seamlessly merge with the seating area. You’d be amazed at how stressful it is for patients to step up to the desk even with a small but distinct gap from the seating area. You want your staff to be approachable so that means taking away as many obstacles as you can. Also, children often visit your office, add a separate playroom to keep them occupied while their parents can kick back on comfy couches in the seating area next door, watching TV or reading.
Open-concept clinical area
One of the causes for patient discomfort at the dental office is a small sense of claustrophobia, which is understandable because they’re stuck on the dentist chair for at least an hour at a time not being able to move. To help minimise that discomfort, knock down the walls in between and open up the clinical area. You can still put up dividers or privacy screens, but at least there’s space from the top of the dividers to the ceiling and that’ll make a big difference in removing that trapped feeling.
Relaxation waiting room
There are times when patients need to take a break in the middle of a long appointment. Rather than have them go back to the reception area – or worse, leave them in the dentist chair – give patients the luxury of waiting in a separate and quiet relaxation room. Set up reclining chairs or even self-massage chairs. You can then give patients a tablet and headphones to stream music or news without disturbing others. The importance of this room is for patients to have their own peace and quiet so that they can de-stress for the rest of their appointment.
Warm, indirect lighting
Get rid of the bright, fluorescent ceiling light panels and install warm, indirect lighting throughout the office. It’ll be less harsh on everyone’s eyes and would help patients relax; harsh, glaring lights have too much of a clinical feel and that’s what you want to get away from.
Patient-friendly décor and furniture
Think about who the majority of your patient market are: if they’re mostly children, include more vibrant colours and whimsical designs; if they’re mostly seniors, invest in comfortable chairs with lumbar support. For the patient demographics in between, you can even send out a quick patient survey to get their opinions on what décor they’d like to see more of.
At the end of the day, of course, it’s you and your staff who take the final step to lay out the welcome mat for your patients. By taking the time to renovate your dental office first though, you’re essentially extending that welcome mat into the rest of your office and making your patients feel comfortable throughout their entire visit.