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.  

gen z

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.

gen z

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!


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