The Smile Diet: How Eating Impacts Dental Health

It’s no secret that if you care about dental health, you need to watch what you eat. How many of us remember being told by our parents that candy will rot our teeth or that too much soda leads to cavities?

While it is definitely true that eating too much sugar wreaks havoc on teeth, it isn’t just sweets that we need to watch out for. There are a whole host of other foods that can negatively impact our dental health even if we brush and floss regularly.

In this article, I outline some tips for developing a dental-friendly diet and explore how regular dental care can reduce anxiety about visiting the dentist by boosting a person’s confidence in their dental health. We invite you to share this article with patients, friends and family via your practice website using this link.

Foods to Avoid

The most important rule to follow when eating for dental health is to avoid sugars and starches – or at least to not consume too much of them. This is because these foods feed harmful bacteria that produce acid in your mouth. As the ph level in your mouth drops, these acids will start eating into the enamel protecting your teeth.

If this process goes on long enough, you will get tooth decay to that leads to cavities or even lose teeth altogether. Here is a short list of foods that should only be indulged in sparingly (and if you do, brush as soon as possible afterwards):

  • Sugary drinks (including energy drinks)
  • Hard candy
  • White bread
  • Dried fruits
  • Potato chips
  • Alcohol

Foods that Boost Dental Health

Health isn’t just about avoiding the bad – it is also about increasing your intake of healthy foods that will have a positive impact on your dental health. As Dr. Andrew Greenberger explains in the following video, this means eating more vegetables and fruits that are rich in fibre and vitamin C. Fibre rich foods help to clean your teeth and vitamin C strengthens your gums, making you more resistant to gum disease. 

Many people simply aren’t aware of the right foods to choose. Foods high in fibre and/or vitamins include:

  • Avocado – This super food is different from most other fruits as it is loaded with healthy fats instead of carbs. Avocados are very high in fibre, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E as well as various B vitamins.
  • Raspberries – Raspberries are a highly nutritious fruit and they are positively loaded with both vitamin C and manganese as well as fibre.
  • Bananas – Bananas are an incredible source of source of nutrients across the board, including vitamin C, vitamin B6 as well as potassium.
  • Broccoli – A type of cruciferous vegetable and one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, broccoli is jam-packed antioxidants and powerful cancer-fighting nutrients, as well as vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, B vitamins, iron and potassium. Broccoli also packs a lot more protein, compared to other vegetables.
  • Chia Seeds – Chia seeds are very tiny black seeds that are quite popular in the natural health community and they pack a ton of fibre, along with magnesium, phosphorus and calcium.
  • Sweet Potatoes – This popular tuber that is very filling and happens to have a delicious sweet flavor. On top of providing some fibre, it’s also very high in beta-carotene, B vitamins and various minerals.

Overall, one of the most important minerals to include in your diet is calcium. Calcium helps keep your teeth strong and their enamel resistant to the acids that weaken them and lead to cavities.

But as always, it is important to keep the cardinal rule of dental health in mind – avoid too much sugar when making food choices. Sweetened orange juices or flavoured yoghurts may be a great source of vitamin C or calcium but if they contain added sugar these benefits will be neutralized. 

The Importance of Regular Check Ups

Eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones is a great way to keep your mouth healthy but they are no substitute for regular dental care.

Many people – especially young people – are sometimes reluctant to visit the dentist in part because they are worried that it will hurt or that they will find out they have a cavity.

But the truth is that eating well and maintaining good dental health through diet will only be effective if you are getting regular feedback from your dentist about your overall dental health and what you can do to improve it.

A regular check up will help you catch any potential health issues before they escalate into serious problems and help you stay honest about your diet and how it is impacting your oral health. And, many dental offices are now making it much easier to request or confirm an appointment via text messaging or email so inconvenience is no longer an excuse!

By focusing on eating healthy, vitamin and mineral rich foods that build strong teeth and gums and by scheduling regular dental check ups, you can help ensure that your teeth stay in great shape for years to come.

Appointment Scheduling: The Key to Dental Office Productivity

I recently wrote two blogs that highlight specific practice management software features and how to evaluate them for your practice. First, I talked about the importance of having a robust financial ledger system for efficiently managing transactions. Second, I reviewed the need to efficiently identify and manage outstanding treatment that leads to increased productivity and revenues.

Today, I will follow with appointment scheduling and show how it can help ensure that revenue results from the outstanding work identified. Let’s examine the key features to look for and scheduling protocols (best practices) that are important to consider.

Features to look for include:

  • Links to other administrative functions: Direct links from the patient’s appointment in the schedule to other administrative tasks for fast, efficient workflows.
  • Multiple scheduling views: The ability to configure the number of columns, number of days, grouping of providers, and number of simultaneous appointment book displays.
  • Customizable settings: A range of capabilities for setting appointment time units, colour coding appointment types, setting appointment flags, etc.
  • Openings: The capacity to find openings based on specific selection criteria and also drag and drop appointments into new openings.
  • Appointment flags: Warning flags when scheduling, appointment status tracking (confirmed, arrived, in progress, billed, etc.)
  • Cancellation and missed appointment tracking: Tracking of unfulfilled appointments to ensure rebooking happens (or recommended treatment is sufficiently dealt with)
  • Appointment Request Tracking: The ability to identify when new openings match a patient’s preferred appointment day/time.
Image updated to ABELDent’s current appointment scheduler on June 21, 2021.

Scheduling Protocols

Operational smoothness, the ability to provide optimum care for your patients, and the desire to produce the preferred mix of dentistry each day depends not only on the schedule features identified above but also on implementing one or more of the following scheduling strategies.

1. Schedule toward a specific daily/monthly production goal

Divide the production goal for the month by the number of available provider days per month to determine the daily production goal for scheduling. The daily production goal should then be split between dentist and hygiene (according to desired industry standards, typical split falls within the 70/30 range respectively) so that the optimum mix of the two is scheduled on average over the course of a month.

Defining the daily goal gives the scheduling coordinator guidelines for scheduling the days accordingly based on the fees that various procedures attract. The idea is to have roughly 12 equally productive months to minimize cash flow issues, ensure revenue goals are met and allow for adjustments before it’s too late to react.

2. Determine doctor time and assistant time by procedure then schedule each provider

Rather than simply schedule a dental chair for a specific amount of time depending on procedure, the human resources required to complete the procedure should be considered.

A breakdown of time required for each major procedure by operatory prep time, doctor time, assistant time, and decontamination time is required. By separately scheduling all the resources necessary to complete a procedure rather than just chair time, resources can be used most efficiently. The down side is that defining initial treatment protocols takes time and is not always consistent depending on the patient and scheduling on a regular basis becomes more complex without a well-automated scheduling system.

3. Optimize Appointment Schedule Configuration

It is generally agreed that an appointment book broken down into 10-minute units is preferred to allow for the most efficient scheduling of resources. Using one column per active chair also allows for potential increases in efficiency; similar to the doctor/assistant /chair time model, it becomes much clearer where each provider is/should be during the day. Non-available time for the day should also be reserved for lunch and to accommodate patient emergencies. Colour coding linked to procedures can also be used to easily determine at a glance how the day/week is shaping up compared to appointment goals.

4. Block Availability by Category/Procedure

The simplest way to classify dental procedures is to divide them into two types: Category I for high income or potentially high income-producing procedures and Category II for procedures that generate less income. In general, Category I procedures include crown preps/seats, restorative work, removable dentures, comprehensive and initial exams, and large case consultations. Category II procedures (such as exams, bleaching, toothache relief and bite adjustments) while necessary, are difficult to charge at a very high fee and in some cases are done at no charge. Simply increase the number of categories if using only two categories is too limiting.

Once the categories are defined, determine the preferred daily/weekly mix that will meet your revenue goals and use colour coding on the schedule (if available) as a guide for where a certain type of procedure should be booked in the schedule. If these pre-blocked appointments are not filled within a predetermined period, they can be put back into a general appointments pool.

5. Reduce Cancellations/Missed Appointments

While cancellations and no-shows are a given, there are preventive measures that help a dental practice to reduce them. Patients need to hear that the time is being “reserved” specifically for them. Stress the importance of the procedure so they are left with a feeling of urgency to reserve and keep appointments.

It is also important to communicate that 48-72 hours’ cancellation notice is expected so that someone else can be scheduled in the time slot and that, without adequate notice, a missed appointment fee may be charged. Another effective preventive measure for lessening cancellations and no-shows is confirming appointments with the assistance of automated patient communication tools.

6. Keep a Shortlist to Fill Sudden Openings

Downtime hurts productivity however the impact can be minimized by maintaining a list of patients that are available on short notice. When there is no way to fill a last minute opening dental providers can choose to spend the freed-up time providing services to the patients who do come in or use that time to complete administrative duties.

In summary, a number of scheduling strategies can be employed to reduce downtime, optimize resource utilization, improve productivity, and support revenue targets. The key is to choose the scheduling methodologies that best match your practice philosophy and profile and then ensure your practice management software is capable of implementing the strategies that you want to employ.  

How Your Dental Clinic Can Benefit from Reputation Management

If you’ve never heard of “reputation management” before it probably sounds like something from the entertainment industry – the kind of job done by someone working for a major film studio or record label.

But while the entertainment industry certainly has its fair share of people whose jobs consist of burnishing and protecting the reputations of the biggest stars, you might be surprised to learn that reputation management should also be a concern for dental clinics.

As a dental healthcare provider, your good reputation is a priceless asset – one that will be a natural draw for new patients. And in the age of online reviews, managing that reputation and making sure that it isn’t tarnished unfairly is something every dental clinic should take seriously.

While I have written before about the importance of online reviews for dental businesses of all sizes, in this post I specifically discuss the role of review management software – a key tool to help you bring your reputation management into the twenty-first century.

To that end, I’ll answer three of the most common questions that I get from healthcare providers who want to know more about reputation management services in general and review management software in particular.

1. What is Review Management Software?

Review management software is designed to help businesses of all kinds effectively handle their online reviews. According to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, negative online reviews can sometimes cause doctors to see significant drops in patient enrolment, which can snowball into catastrophe if left unchecked. 

Most review management software offers a variety of tools that help you acquire a greater volume of reviews on social media as well as industry-specific websites. It also helps you curate the reviews you receive from your dental patients and highlight the most positive ones.

Review management software usually doesn’t interfere with negative reviews but it does provide response options that allow you to manage reviews from unsatisfied patients to minimize the negative impact and ensure that the issues they raise are dealt with productively.

Perhaps most importantly, review management software takes a lot of the uncertainty out of review management and gives you the opportunity to easily oversee how your dental clinic is being talked about online.

2. How Does Review Management Software Work?

Review management software for dentists works on four distinct fronts by:

  • Increasing review volume
  • Highlighting the best reviews
  • Responding to negative reviews
  • Optimizing the placement of reviews

For example, this software helps you solicit more reviews by automating review acquisition campaigns via email and text, which means that you don’t have to organize your own campaigns every month or every two months. It also sends you and your team alerts every time a review is posted, which puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to responding to negative reviews and helps you mark up positive ones so that they will be more SEO-friendly, and consequently more likely to be seen by potential patients.

Finally, this software lets you track your performance over time, so you can get a bird’s eye view of how your patients are evaluating the service your clinic provides.

3. What Difference Does it Make?

While most dental clinic managers and owners intuitively understand that a good reputation is essential for growing their patient base, I often hear people ask whether review management software really makes a difference. After all, if you already have good word-of-mouth promotion, will a few reviews whether positive or negative, really make a difference to your business?

The truth is that as the Internet becomes a more and more integral part of how we gather information and make decisions, word-of-mouth is no longer enough – you also need strong online reviews.

According to recent data, 90% of consumers consult online reviews before visiting any business, while 88% of consumers value online reviews as highly as the recommendations of their friends and family. This doesn’t mean that a few mean-spirited reviews online can cancel out the testimonies of satisfied patients, as long as your positive reviews sound genuine and speak to the same positive experiences. 

One thing to remember is that bad reviews come easily, while good reviews don’t, so it pays to invest in software that encourages your patients to do the latter.

Patients, like any type of consumer, are more likely to actually take time out of their day to write a review if they had a bad experience. Essentially, these reviews act as a warning to others. The good news is that people who seek out online reviews are savvy and if they see one negative review stacked up against 20 positive ones, they will be able to read the numbers and understand that one bad review likely doesn’t speak to the overall service provided by a dental practice.

With a growing number of patients making decisions about which healthcare providers to choose based on what they read online, ensuring that your online reviews reflect the best service you provide is essential. And, the best way to garner positive reviews is to simply ask for them.

If you want to grow your business and attract new patients to your dental clinic, building a strong reputation, cultivating good reviews, and ensuring that negative reviews are not prominently displayed needs to be part of your strategy. Review management software is by far the best tool for making this strategy work.   

Gen Z At The Dentist: Challenges and Opportunities

How do I engage young people?

It’s a question I hear often and it can be a difficult one to answer. Usually the person asking works for a clinic that is seeing declining numbers and wants to find ways to draw in Gen Z patients who are starting new careers and trying to find healthcare providers.

While there is no one guaranteed method for attracting young patients, there are a few things you can do to make your clinic more attractive to them both as patients and employees. It all starts with understanding how this cohort differs from previous generations.

Who is Gen Z?

If you’ve only just gotten used to the fact that Millennials are about to replace the Boomers as the largest generation, hold on – a whole new generation is now reaching adulthood and understanding their needs is going to be essential if you want your clinic to grow.

According to most demographic researchers, Generation Z consists of those who were born between the mid-nineties and the mid-two-thousands. While most Millennials were shaped by the experience of spending the first years of their lives in a largely analog world, the Internet and the rise of social media was nevertheless a formative experience.

Gen Z, on the other hand, largely doesn’t remember a world before computers and the Internet. They are the first generation that can be considered true “digital natives“. Digital connection is the natural state of things for Gen Z and influences much of how they see and interact with the world.

As Dr. Jean Twenge explains in this video for Time Magazine, this key difference is having a profound effect on how Gen Z engages with the world.

Generally speaking, members of Gen Z share a set of distinct qualities. They tend to be:

  • Entrepreneurial
  • Digitally savvy
  • Plugged in
  • Independent
  • Hard-working
  • Interested in connection

If you want to attract young people as patients and as employees, you are going to need to understand how they think, what they value and where to most effectively make contact.  

How to Connect With Gen Z Patients

One of the key challenges any dental clinic will face when trying to connect with Gen Z patients is the fact that young people are not always as careful about their health as their older peers might be.

Having just started to live independent lives, many are too busy or too disorganized to book regular healthcare appointments. And if they are going to school away from home, they might not have a regular healthcare provider.

This means that dental clinics need to be more intentional about connecting with Gen Z patients and reminding them to make and follow up on appointments. For this reason, getting the right dental patient communication software can really increase follow through and help you meet your Gen Z patients where they are. Strong patient communication that results in reliable scheduling will go a long way in attracting and retaining Gen Z patients.

Making Gen Z Part of Your Team

Bringing in Gen Z patients is important, but if you want to serve Gen Z well as patients, it helps if you hire them as employees.

So how do you reach out to this key demographic and how can you make sure you are hiring the best candidates for the job? Here are just a few things that can help bring in more resumes from hard-working Gen Z applicants.    

  • Connect with them early: If you want to get the top talent working at your dental clinic, reach out to them while they are still finishing up a dental program. Many Gen Z students are applying for jobs before they are out of college, so making connections early on is important. 
  • Emphasize cross-training: One of the well-documented facts about Gen Z is that multi-tasking comes naturally to them.  Keeping them engaged and interested in how your clinic runs by giving them opportunities for cross training is an effective strategy. 
  • Find out what they want: More than previous generations, Gen Z knows it has options. Discovering what young candidates are looking for and what their expectations are is a great way to make sure your Gen Z hires are a good fit.
  • Be Decisive: Your Gen Z candidate is probably applying to dozens of jobs, so once you decide to hire them, let them know right away!

Gen Z is particularly competitive and they are focused on being the best, doing their best, and receiving the best incentives in return. Patience is not a strong suit with Gen Zers and they are used to having everything at their fingertips.

Whether you’re trying to land a Gen Z as a patient or as an employee, you need to act quickly as Gen Zers will move on to new opportunities if they don’t see immediate results and rewards.

As I have written before in this space, tailoring your marketing to the demographics you are hoping to reach is essential if you want to have a concrete impact and bring in new patients and employees.  

Whether you are trying to attract Millennials or the emerging Generation Z, appealing to new patients and new employees will come down to demonstrating that you care about their needs and are willing to adjust your dental practice to meet them. Remember, the younger generations are the future of healthcare and building a dental clinic that works for them is a great way to guarantee future growth!


Why They Stay and Why They Go: A Guide to Keeping Patients

It’s a situation most dentists can unfortunately relate to: a patient who has been coming to you for years calls to cancel their upcoming appointment or doesn’t show up for it at all.

At first you think it’s just a scheduling issue, but then you find out they’ve transferred to another dentist a few blocks away. Clearly they didn’t move out of the city and they obviously still need care – so what happened?

Why, after years of coming to your dental clinic, did they decide to switch? Many of the dentists I talk to can’t help but admit that they often feel hurt in these situations. While that feeling is natural, the reason usually is not personal.

Patients come to your practice for the service you provide so instead of wondering what is wrong with you, it’s better to treat it as a learning experience that can help you improve the level of care you offer.

Why do Patients Leave?

If you want to improve patient retention, you need to understand why patients decide to switch service providers in the first place. While you can’t control all the factors that lead a patient to leave, you can make it easier for them to stay.

Here are the top reasons, according to one leading industry magazine, why patients leave dental service providers:

  • Bad experiences at the front desk
  • Long wait times
  • Difficulties getting timely appointments or changing appointments
  • Insurance problems
  • Perception of unnecessary discomfort during care

From my own experience, and from the experience of dental professionals I work with, I would add a few others:

  • Concerns over prices
  • Outdated methods of patient communication
  • Perception the practice is not “modern” and keeping up with the latest technologies
  • Better service available elsewhere

Switching healthcare providers is not very convenient, which is why people generally only do it if they are legitimately unhappy with the service they’ve experienced.

The good news is that there are strategies clinics can employ to keep their patients, such as investing in better dental software or making the patient experience more enjoyable. If you want to improve patient retention here are four things you should start doing immediately: 

1. Hire A Secret Shopper

A lot of work is involved in setting up your own practice and once things are running smoothly it can be easy to fall into routines. While routines are not bad in and of themselves (in fact can be very useful in the workplace!) routines can make it easy to become complacent. And, when you spend every day working in your clinic it can be difficult to know how a patient seeing it for the first time experiences it.

One way to get a first-time patient’s honest take is by hiring someone to act as a patient and then report on their experience at your clinic. This can help you see your clinic through fresh eyes and give you an opportunity to learn what kind of treatment your patients are getting from your receptionists and hygienists.  

2. Get Patient Feedback – And Act On It

There are lots of tools that can help you get feedback from your patients about how your clinic is doing but none of it is worth much if you aren’t able to act on it.

While dentists and healthcare service providers around the world are investing lots of resources in getting customer feedback, implementing the insights that feedback provides is often significantly more difficult.

Listening to what patients tell you is one of the most essential aspects of improving care. For example, if they say:

3. Manage Your Reputation

It’s easy to imagine that reputation management only matters for bringing in new patients. Yet the truth is that a patient’s view of the care they receive can be shaped by the views they are exposed to.

If you heard someone complaining about the food they ate at a restaurant you frequent wouldn’t it make you think twice about your own experience?

Being intentional about how your brand is perceived online can also help with patient retention, which is why you should consider making dental reputation management software part of your patient retention strategy asap.

Because reputation is something that you can mold over time, you can expect quantifiable results that will actively grow and improve your business so long as you’re willing to put in a little time and effort.

There are numerous benefits to maintaining a solid online reputation, but here are the ones I think are the most valuable:

  • Higher trust – People’s trust in a brand rises alongside its reputation.
  • Increased profits – Companies with better ratings and reviews get more business.
  • Better talent – Brands that boast a positive reputation will ultimately attract better employees.
  • Less risk – People move with crowds and reputation management is a way to attract that crowd.

4. Know Your Competition

In the healthcare industry we don’t often like to think of ourselves as being in competition with each other. But the reality is that when patients have options for care, they will inevitably compare your dental practice to others.

Knowing which dental clinics are in your area and how your service stacks up to theirs is essential if you are to stay competitive, so do your research and find out where your practice is falling behind other clinics in your area.

Losing patients can certainly be a demoralizing experience. Rather than taking it personally, it’s wise to treat it as an opportunity to figure out what you can do to minimize this type of setback in the future!